Irvine Improv still packs a punch(line) and the house
BY TRACY CHILDS
Craig Shoemaker had the Irvine Improv audience members right where he wanted them — nearly doubled over from wave after wave of laughter. They were enjoying every minute of his act, and Shoemaker made it clear he was, too.
“I feel at home here. I’ve been coming here for 25 years,” Shoemaker told the sold-out Saturday night crowd. “You’re not even Irvine anymore. You’re just ‘Irv.’”
Thirty-two years after welcoming its first audience — who laughed to an up-and-comer named Jerry Seinfeld — the Improv at Irvine Spectrum Center continues to attract nationally acclaimed acts and sold-out crowds.
We asked Alireza Ghaemian, CEO of Levity Live, whose parent company owns The Improv, to explain the local club’s enduring popularity.
Big names, sold-out crowds, non-stop laughter. What’s the secret to the Irvine Improv’s success?
The chain as a whole remains successful because we always strive to bring in existing stars as well as utilizing the clubs to find that next generation of talent. Irvine in particular attracts big-name comics (and thus audiences), because it’s close enough to Los Angeles that comics don’t have to travel far to try out new material. Irvine audiences better represent American audiences as a whole, so comics can determine what material truly works.
In our digital age of 24/7 instant-access, what’s the appeal of listening to a comic in person?
I actually think the digital age has helped the industry, as comics are able to find their niche audiences. Comic voices represent the social commentary of what is happening in our society — the unfiltered truth. Because we spend so much time looking at screens, I also believe what our population looks for now is a genuine experience. Seeing that person live in an intimate club space is unforgettable.
How does the Irvine Improv decide which talent to showcase?
We have a team of people who collectively have nearly 100 years’ experience doing this. Those millions of hours allow them to find those unique, original voices and match them to our audiences. Hands down, my booking department has the most educated eye in the industry.
Who’s your favorite comic… and why?
I can’t possibly answer this; it’s like asking a parent which child is their favorite. I love the massive range of voices and points of view in the comedy industry. My taste varies with my mood, and honestly, I think our audiences are the same. That’s why we offer such a huge spectrum of comedy styles.