What’s So Funny? Your Guide to Live Comedy in Michigan

What’s So Funny? Your Guide to Live Comedy in Michigan

Tim Allen, Dave Coulier, Kristen Bell, Madonna, Keegan-Michael Key, James Earl Jones…what do all of these actors have in common? They were all either born or raised in Michigan! From movie stars to musicians and so much more, the entertainment world is full of Michiganders. And for those of us still living in the Mitten State, we get to see the incredible acts of tomorrow, today, by being surrounded with a thriving live comedy scene.

Whenever my friends would talk about the live comedy scene, I always thought of Aziz Ansari or Dave Chappell specials on Netflix. I didn’t think of live comedy as something we could engage with in-person, until the questions started rattling around in my mind… How many famous comedians have performed in Michigan? How many live comedy clubs are nearby? And how many Michiganders, like me, have never been to a live comedy show?

A performer entertains guests of all ages at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle. Photo courtesy of Magic for a Cause
A performer entertains guests of all ages at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. Photo courtesy of Magic for a Cause

The answer to all of them is likely “several,” and after a little research I decided to visit Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, the first live comedy club opened in Michigan. I caught the Late Night show with Mike Bonner, which is a monthly show on the last Friday. The Late Show has a relatively simple format with a variety of comedians, each with their own flavor, and a comedian host that keeps the show running on track and provides a couple laughs between acts.

The crowd included people of all ages and backgrounds, some regulars and some newbies, some celebrating birthdays, some anniversaries and some just looking for a good laugh. That’s the beautiful thing about local comedy: there is something for everyone!

Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle was opened in 1979 by, no surprise here, a comedian named Mark Ridley. In a phone conversation, Mark explained that live comedy didn’t always have a space in our state. At the time when he opened his club, he said there were only 10 live comedy clubs in the United States, most of which were on the East Coast or West Coast. Mark realized the need for opportunities for local comedians to get on the mic and decided to open his club to help them out.

Comedy Hall of Fame at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle. Photo courtesy of Detroit A List
Comedy Hall of Fame at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. Photo courtesy of Detroit A List

When I asked Mark if the comedy acts he books have changed over time, he said “What’s hot and what’s not doesn’t change much in the comedy world. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, ‘What’s funny is funny,’ and I just go with that.”

Live comedy is not just a Metro Detroit thing — there are comedy clubs all over Michigan! Here are five more live comedy venues to check out in our state:

  1. Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase (Ann Arbor)
  2. Holly Hotel Comedy Club (Holly)
  3. Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club at the B.O.B. (Grand Rapids)
  4. Back Alley Comedy Club (Muskegon)
  5. The Comedy Zone (Charlotte)

And if you are an aspiring comedian yourself, you will want to consider attending the “Failing Your Way to Success” seminar, hosted by Dave Coulier from Full House on July 9th at the Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. At this seminar, Dave will sit down with budding comedians and talk them through how he made it big, as well as answer any and all questions. The event is $25 to attend. You can learn more on the Comedy Castle website.

Where do you go for a good laugh? Let us know in the comments!