Get ready to laugh out loud at yourself senseless, because the laughter is back in South LA. Leimert Park, reputed to be the mecca of black culture once again hosts The Comedy Act Theater under the new name of The Comedy Act Planet.
The brainchild of visionary Michael Williams, this home on the road to success for black comedians recently celebrated its 'reopening reunion,' bringing back memories and paying homage to Robin Harris, one of the funniest men to ever hit the stage, who was host of the weekly comedy showcase for over four years.
It wasn't just a night of memories, it was also a night of new faces, male and female, new stories from very funny points of view. To many in the audience, it felt like home with comedians telling familiar stories that could have been about you, or one of your crazy family members. Fears, doubts and anger all wrapped up in laughter that had folks throwing their heads back, grabbing their stomachs as if to keep their insides from spilling out.
For one to appreciate and anticipate the good times to come at The Comedy Act Theater (Planet)...old habits die hard, you have to understand the significance of such a club 'back in the day' and the results that we, as an audience are still benefiting from.
Sinbad, Mike Epps, Martin Lawrence, D.L. Hughley, Robert Townsend, Joe Torry and Chris Tucker made it to the stage of the Comedy Act Theater which branched out to Atlanta and Chicago during its heyday.
In 1985 Michael Williams gave birth to The Comedy Act Theater after seeking to unwind one evening at a comedy club. Williams, a former concert promoter, told EUR's Lee Bailey, that after watching stand-up after stand-up on that fateful night, he was unimpressed. He noted that all the performers were white, until the last comic, a black man, hit the stage. Williams said that even though the black comedian was rather dull, he found him to have more potential than the others. "That's when I said, 'Wow, this would be great if it was all black,' and that's what gave me the idea to start the first organized black comedy club in the country."
You had to pay your dues to make it to the stage at the Comedy Act Theater, but it was well worth it. Every Thursday the comedy club was packed. Robin Harris brought them in. And Harris didn't miss a trick, if you were unfortunate enough to sit up front and made the slightest move, and he noticed you...your tiniest flaw or your best asset came under fire. No one ever used the rest room while Harris performed, and for good reason.
He was never insulting like some comedians; he was simply down right funny.
Indeed Harris was a rising star but more than that he was a good friend and a great mentor to the young comedians that graced the stage 'back in the day.' At the recent reunion comedian after comedian paid tribute to Harris who made us laugh until we cried. His untimely death of a heart attack in March 1990 at age 36, sent shockwaves throughout the comedy, film and television community. Harris was on the verge of making it big, really big. But his legacy lives on thanks to the comedians that took advantage of his advice and professionalism.
The Comedy Act Theater closed its doors in 1997 after Williams was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. His parents cared for him but while he was getting better their health deteriorated, with the roles now reversed; Williams cared for his parents until their death.
Going from strength to strength, Michael Williams is back and so is The Comedy Act Theater (Planet). There is a whole new generation of comedians, and seasoned comedians wishing to connect with audiences. And it's our opportunity to laugh at ourselves, help build careers and have quality entertainment in a warm, friendly environment.
For more information check out the web site at www.myspace.com/comedyactplanet.
The Comedy Act Planet; it's time to get our laugh on!
- Gail Choice can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.