Theatre over exotic club hosts comedians Saturdays
While much of what some of us might think of as Old Vancouver is being bulldozed, let us pause to consider what’s left — places like the historic Penthouse Nightclub.
The Penthouse opened in 1947, and though in recent years it’s become known for its exotic stage shows (read: naked ladies), it was once a celebrated jazz club and gathering place for out-of-town entertainers. Among them: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Louis Armstrong (as detailed in Aaron Chapman’s 2012 history of the venue, Liquor, Lust and the Law).
Lately, the Seymour Street locale has been reclaiming some of its less risqué history. In February, Seven Tyrants Theatre mounted its production of the noirish play A Steady Rain in the club’s secondfloor theatre. This was followed in April by a 10-night stand by rejuvenated local rock group Slow.
Beginning at the end of May, Seven Tyrants reclaimed the space as Tyrant Studios. Since then, it’s been presenting its Summer Lounge Series — weekend evening events that include live jazz (Friday Jazz) and comedy (The Comic Strip, on Saturdays).
“I was shocked the first time I went there,” said Vancouver comedian Kyle Bottom. “I didn’t know this existed, this funky old jazz lounge up above the Penthouse.
It’s out of the way, secluded. Even though there’s a nightclub below, you can’t hear anything going on. It’s a beautiful space.”
The July 21 Saturday night show promises to be a memorable one. Bottom and New York comic Andrew Steiner will perform, along with fellow Vancouver comic Ivan Decker, who makes his second appearance at The Comic Strip. Decker, who won a Juno this year for his comedy album I Wanted to Be a Dinosaur, will be in town to hone new material for an upcoming Netflix special. The special will be shot at this summer’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.
“All the spots I’m doing in Vancouver when I fly home are going to be in preparation for the special,” said Decker. “They wanted some new material. I’ve written it but I need to work on it live. There’s a lot more stage time for me in Vancouver.
“And the Penthouse is so cool, because it’s central and it’s close to the other comedy clubs. It’s a neat space I really enjoyed the last time I performed there.”
Decker, who lives half the year in Los Angeles, says he works harder when he comes back to Vancouver.
“People there, especially the other comics, kind of know me,” he said. “They hold me to a higher standard than the people in L.A. In L.A. nobody knows who I am, so I can bomb and people are like, ‘Yeah, that’s what we expected to happen.’ But in Vancouver, there’s this expectation for me to do well.”
As one might expect when a comedy show is happening over a strip club, there is some overlap (no pun intended).
“Occasionally, someone from downstairs will wander up,” Bottom said. He recalls a recent show when Vancouver comedian Graham Clark was performing.
“Some random guy wandered upstairs, calling ‘Where’s Cobra?’ I guess that’s the nickname of the bartender who was working upstairs. (Cobra Ramone, the bartender, is also the leader of a local three-piece rock band of the same name.) So that kind of stopped the show. And she was so embarrassed. And Graham was like, (imitating Clark’s higher-pitched voice), ‘Wait wait wait a moment. Is your name Cobra?’ It just created this great comedy moment.”