Penguins Comedy Club survived for three decades in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A mainstay of Midwest comedy, comedians from Larry the Cable Guy to Saturday Night Live’s Chris Katan took to its stage. Penguins withstood the great recession that began in 2007, as well as the insane Iowa floods of 2008.
Sadly, the COVID pandemic finally felled the institution.
With its closing, Cedar Rapids was left without a comedy club for the first time in over a generation.
Fortunately, nature abhors a vacuum.
My previous article, Part 1, I discussed the idea of comedy clubs thriving inside other businesses. Cedar Rapids is adding a twist to that angle: the established business that will shift gears to become a comedy club.
Haley Flenker founded Thew Brewery in 2018.
For two years, things were running smoothly, and then…well, you know.
Pandemic. Masks. Shutdowns. Limited seating…
When the world started slowly reopening, it looked like Penguins wouldn’t be returning, so local comedians set out to find a stage to stand on wherever they could. At the same time, Haley needed to let people know Thew was open.
“We were looking at different ways to bring people back into the taproom in the post-pandemic world,” Haley explained. “I’m a huge fan of comedy, and to host a show in our space was a dream come true.”
It was a perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment: comedians needed stage time, and Thew Brewery needed customers.
Thus, comedian Mike Lucas worked with Haley to establish a weekly open microphone. Comics could pop in for a beer while trying their newest jokes on stage, and customers could receive free giggles on a weeknight.
Over the course of a few months, Haley discovered she really enjoyed the energy and atmosphere the comedians brought to her business.
After hosting the local open microphone for two years—as well as having quarterly shows featuring comedians such as Brent Terhune—Haley decided to go all in.
Thus, Thew Brewery is becoming Lucky Cat Comedy & Events.
Lucky Cat will still offer microbrews, and remain open during the week. Then, on the weekend, comedy shows will be offered.
They’ll also have (of all things) Sunday yoga—with Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas, naturally— weekly trivia, and Improv classes.
It’s akin to the discussion in the previous article: it’s difficult (if not impossible) to pay the bills off two business days a week. Remaining open on non-comedy nights lessens the burden of those weekend shows.
Also, by rebranding as an “Event Center,” Haley is making it known the location is available to rent.
They’ve a stage and a showroom and can host bachelor parties, office outings, or anything dreamed up by someone needing a place for a presentation.
The competition hasn’t gone away, though. Penguins as a stand-alone comedy club might be gone, but a series of autumn shows are already planned at a local theater, and who knows what the future holds?
Would Cedar Rapids be large enough for two comedy clubs?
Time will tell…
Do you know of a venue or person doing their best to keep comedy alive? Please, reach out or leave a comment. Thanks!
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