Giggles Comedy Club owner Mike Clarke has seen a lot of changes in the business in the 25 years his club has been open. Venues have come and gone, and stand-up has exploded on television and the Internet. The club, part of Prince Pizzeria in Saugus, celebrates its anniversary with four shows featuring Wendy Liebman, Tony V, and Matt D Thursday through Saturday. We spoke with Clarke about Giggles, his well-known brother, Lenny, and the heyday of Boston comedy.
Q. I feel like your 20th anniversary was just a year ago.
A. I know. The unique thing about this, really, is we’ve got Wendy Liebman, and she was one of my first acts 25 years ago with Lenny. I’m bringing her back as our featured performer. I’ll probably have a few people stop in. Twenty-five years ago when I opened there, I really wasn’t sure how it would work. Twenty-five years later, we’re still standing. I have no complaints.
Q. Did you ever expect to be doing this for 25 years when you first started the club?
A. I knew I had a good thing, because a relatively inexpensive restaurant and comedy, it’s a good night out. Plus there’s no fee to pay to park. There’s six, seven hundred thousand people on the North Shore that would rather not go into Boston.
Q. Why do you think you’ve survived when other clubs haven’t?
A. We have a good formula. I do try to bring in some people that are affordable. We got Rocky Laporte coming in, I had Bobby Slayton. Yes, Lenny is a big part of that. Lenny works pretty much exclusively for me when he’s in town. And the drawing power that he has has not subsided whatsoever. Every time he’s on TV, I get this influx of new people who still want to come out and see him. And I try to make the rounds. I went to the [Comedy] Studio last night and looked at Danielle Soto. She’s someone that I think is going to be pretty good. There’s another guy, Jeff Young. He’s only been doing it a year. And he was so funny.
Q. What kind of comics work best in the club?
A. Believe it or not, the cleaner acts. I cater to an older audience. People who do observational humor, middle-of-the-road stuff. You’ve got to cater to your age group. We’re a 30-plus club.
Q. You have had the nights with Bobby Slayton and Otto & George, as well.
A. Yes, and those work real well, because we promoted them that way: “Not for the meek and mild.” The power of the Internet and having people go out and look at a sample clip has been huge for me. Because I don’t want to horrify people.
We’re trying to do more theme things, like maybe an all-female night again, a magic night. Your customers that come regularly, they want to see different things. They don’t want to see the same old things. But there are some guys that I have exclusively that continually draw for me. Paul D’Angelo, Dave Russo, Tony V, Lenny. They’re all great acts.
Q. Has your audience changed over the years?
A. Other than getting a little older, you know what I mean? As I’ve gotten older, they have. It’s a family restaurant, so every now and then you get new customers who have been coming in as kids and now they’re adults and they want to experience the comedy end of it.
Q. What was the scene like when you first started?
A. It was wild. It was seven nights a week. And there were clubs everywhere for guys to work. You had Play It Again Sams, you had Stitches, both within a half-mile of each other. Then you had the Comedy Connection and Nick’s on the same street, both selling out, both thriving. Everywhere you went there was a comedy club.