'We're not a chain. We're an independent business, supporting independent artists." Joe Tuccitto refers to the Corner Comedy Club, a hip hole-in the-wall spot for stand-up comedy he's recently opened. We spoke to him this week, about local comedians, famous imports and laughter at $10 a head.
What do you think was missing on the Toronto comedy scene, and how are you going to fill the gap?
For four years, I produced and promoted shows here, using various theatres and rooms. When I would look at local listings, the names of my favourite acts from L.A. and New York weren't playing here. So I brought in Duncan Trussell. Once we brought him in, I realized there was a strong following for comedians out of Los Angeles and New York. So I produced 15 or so shows, and, of course, we needed local comedians as hosts and opening acts. It wasn't long before I realized that most of the Toronto comedians here brought the same level of intensity and comedy to the stage as the acts I was bringing in. And I realized there weren't enough venues here for those local comedians.
Your club has a different vibe than, say, Yuk Yuk's. It's funky enough to be a place to pop in for a drink, even without the comedy.
Definitely. We're all looking for a hot new place to hang out. You're looking for environment, which is sight and sound. It's [engaging] your senses. I studied comedy clubs across North America, and the one that stood out was the Comedy Store in L.A. I noticed a magic there, with comedians hanging out – inside, outside, having a drink, mingling. I realized that if you can create a space where the comedians want to spend time, then, naturally, the fans of comedy will follow.
I saw the American actor-comedian David Koechner at your club. He seemed very comfortable there, hanging out and whatnot.
He just loves comedy. While he was filming a movie in town, he dropped into a number of clubs. He stumbled in here on a Friday night, and ended up coming back five nights in a row. He asked me if he could do an hour-long set, and I said of course. I asked him how much he wanted to sell tickets for, and he said: "Well, how much do you usually charge?" I said 10 bucks a head, and he said: "Well, let's charge $10 then. It's comedy. It's a small room. We're having fun." David saw what we're doing here.
So, it's a laid-back atmosphere, with local talent as well as bigger names maybe dropping in, right?
We want to be known as that kind of place, where you never know what might happen or who might drop in. But keeping in mind that the main goal is to make Torontonians realize the comedians working in town right now are offering the same level of comedy as someone like David Koechner. That's the goal: a spotlight on local comedians. Because I know – I know in my heart – that it's not going to be long before you see someone on television or in a movie, and the people who come here will look back and say: "O my god, I used to watch that girl or guy in that small little room."
The Corner Comedy Club, open 6 p.m., seven nights a week, 163 John St., 416-989-0899, thecornercomedy.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed.