While changing audience habits and trends in the business have weeded out city comedy clubs, when comic Marc Unger started, he recalled Baltimore had "a booming comedy scene." Here's a short history:
The 80s: The Factory opened in 1985, then under different management from today, when it's run by Matt Weber and managed by Chip Cucchiella. Back then, Unger recalls there was the Factory, Winchester's, Charm City Comedy Club and Slapstix.
Of these, the Charm City Comedy Club, which was in Harborplace, was the first to go. While it stayed open from 1983 to 1989 it booked some major talents, like Roseanne Barr.
In Parkville, Tracy's Comedy Club was at The Bowman's basement for most of the restaurant's 30-year tenure.
The 90s: The next club to disappear was Slapstix. Located where the Factory is now, at what used to be called the Brokerage, the club stayed open until the mid-90s when that mall complex failed.
Winchester's closed sometime between 2002 and 2003; it's hard to tell from the clips. The club, located across the street from the Factory's old location above Burke's restaurant downtown, was unique in being one of the only clubs in the city to have open mic nights for amateur comics, recalled comic Mike Storck.
The 00s: When Slapstix closed, The Improv took over its location December 2001. The club was part of The Improv's string of franchise clubs throughout the country. It lasted for five years by booking major acts.
Rascals Comedy Club followed in the Spring of 2006 and closed that Fall, in December. Chip Cucchiella called it "a management debacle."
Tracy's closed in 2007 and was taken over by Magooby's, run by Unger's brother Andrew. The club lasted there until last September, when it moved to a bigger location in Timonium and where it remains. Outside the city, there was also Laurel's Jokes on Us; at one point it hosted D.L. Hughley. That club closed in 2005.
2011: The only remaining comedy clubs in the area are the Factory, Magooby's, reviewed in October, and Sully's Comedy Cellar, which took over for Magooby's at the Bowman.
That attrition is due to changing attitudes and a shift in the business.
Touring comedians now prefer to perform at proper theaters. When Jerry Seinfeld came to town, he performed at the Meyerhoff Symphony. Demetri Martin performed at the Hippodrome. When Aziz Ansari announced a June show in D.C. it wasn't at any of the city's
And alternative comics, don't play comedy clubs, but instead music clubs or restaurants. Brian Posehn and Neil Hamburger have both played the Ottobar recently.
Instead of comedy clubs, what Baltimore has are comedy nights.