BLOOMINGTON — The darkness is penetrated only by the spotlight on the stage and an Upland Brewing Company neon sign hanging on the back wall. Dozens of small, round tables with drink menus and electronic candles are packed closely together with barely enough room for chairs.
The Comedy Attic of downtown Bloomington is not for those suffering of extreme claustrophobia. The comedy club is, however, a place for a lot of laughs in an intimate setting.
Located on the corner of Fourth Street and Walnut, the Comedy Attic has been bringing in acts of hysterical proportions since September of 2008. The shows are held in a literal attic, which probably inspired the name.
The story of the opening of the club is “uneventful,” according to owner Jared Thompson.
He and his wife, Dayna, had just moved to Bloomington, and when his job required him to move to Fishers, he sought an alternative. The idea to open the club was the obvious solution and they began the search for a venue in which to start the dream.
Comedians from near and far come to perform every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the club, with two shows on the weekend nights. An open mic night is also operating weekly on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. for up and coming acts to try out material, and it is only five dollars to sit and watch the show.
Notable comedians such as Fortune Feimster, Dana Gould, Jen Kirkman, Geoff Tate and most recently Todd Glass have all split the sides of audiences over the past few months.
These acts not only attract Bloomington residents and Indiana University students, but also others who love to laugh from across the Midwest. Sold out shows happen on occasion at the venue, which is unsurprising when the tickets are relatively inexpensive and well worth the money. Most performances are less than 20 bucks.
To maintain such an extensive and talented lineup of comedians at uncommonly cheap ticket prices, the Comedy Attic does have a two-item policy during the performances. This can include drinks from the full bar, or a multitude of appetizers and sandwiches.
The ticket sales and drinks do not equal much of a profit, however.
“We barely break even,” said Thompson. He says Dayna still works at a separate job, and he thinks they could be doing at least 30 percent better in sales.
“The hardest part is just getting people to come out for shows,” he laments before the open mic night this month.
The job does have its upsides though, both for Jared and the comedians he works with. He has watched the comedy scene evolve in the college town of Bloomington.
“It’s gone from non-existent to being one of the best in the country,” he says. Two professional comedians perform regularly in Bloomington, while four or five others have left for opportunities in larger cities.
And Thompson is not just blowing steam.
In early 2013, USA Today named the Comedy Attic as “one of the ten best places to see stand-up comedy in the nation.”
Thompson values the comedians’ success most in terms of the personal achievements of his business. This includes previously undiscovered local talent that has been on display at the annual Limestone Comedy Festival created by Thompson and Mat Alano-Martin.
The three-day festival takes place at multiple venues and has a variety of sponsors from the Bloomington area. This year’s festival takes place on May 29 through the 31, featuring a kick-off performance with the famed Patton Oswalt who recently acted in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, among his other roles.
What attracts big names like Oswalt’s to a Midwestern town like Bloomington has to be the relationship the Comedy Attic fosters between audiences and entertainers. Policies like “no heckling” and no tolerance for homophobic, racist, or rape jokes make a show at the club an enjoyable experience for all.
The Comedy Attic is also one of the few places that allow people 17 and up into every show. Thompson wanted Indiana University students to be able to attend, and even offers a student discount.
To the naked eye and the loyal patrons, the club would be an indispensable source of wealth. In reality however, it is another small business struggling to make ends meat.
What it lacks in finances the Comedy Attic makes up for in a sincere love of laughter, and a friendly atmosphere that keeps the place up and running.
To see upcoming acts or to order tickets please visit the Comedy Attic’s website, comedyattic.com, or call 812-336-LAFF.