The Laff Stop is closed ... forever. On Saturday, the legendary club -- that gave rise to national names such as Sean Rouse, Brett Butler and Ralphie May -- ended it's nearly-three-decade run of comedy in Houston. In other words, it's now The Laff Stopped. (What? Too soon?) But seriously folks ...
"It's sad to see it go, because it's 28 years that club has been around," says Rob Mungle, a comedian who started his career around the same time the Stop opened. Mungle says the Laff Stop, known for having one of the best open-mike nights in the country, was a starting point for many comedians. "There are people who weren't even born when it [opened], who were doing open mike [there], you know?"
In 2006, the Stop moved to the corner of Alley Parkway and Waugh from it's original (26-year) location in the River Oaks shopping center on West Gray. The club's business started to go south and it was eventually sold to Don Learned, who also owns The Laff Spot in Willowbrook. (Note: That's not the "Laff Stop in Willowbrook"; it's the Laff Spot in Willowbrook.) Learned was determined to turn the club around and keep the legendary venue afloat, but Saturday a manager delivered the news to the staff that the Stop would be closing the doors for good after the night's performance.
Learned did not return Hair Balls requests for comment.
The club was full of Houston comedians on Saturday night, including Mungle, who came to bid farewell to the club that held so many memories (and laughs). Local comedian Barrett Goldsmith -- who got his start at the original location -- was the host of Saturday's show. As he closed the night's performance he bid a subtle adieu (per the manager's request):
"I'd like to propose a toast: To 26 years of the best comedy in Texas, for all those who have been on this stage, however fleetingly, and made their own contributions to the greatness of this room. This place is, and shall ever be, our home club."
Mungle and other local comedians are hosting a Christmas Wake for the Laff Stop at its original location at 1952-A West Gray, which is now Sherlock's Baker St. Pub. It's tonight at 8.
"It's people pretty much just getting together for like a little celebration of what it was, tell stories and have a few drinks and toast it goodbye," Mungle says. "It's sad to see it go."
As of yet, there has been no official word on when, where and if an open-mike night like the Laff Stop's will continue.
"That remains to be seen," says Mungle. "There's other places that are planning to do one -- it won't be the same as it was. Everything changes, but I think for those people who want to do it, who are committed to the scene and committed to doing comedy and doing good comedy, they're going to find a way to keep that going."