Sometimes as comics we get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t consider the other people involved in the business. I can name numerous examples of people who opened up comedy clubs only for the club to eventually fail and they are left broke-ass. Just like any small business, some owners deserve to go belly up because they are incompetent, but others have things happen that are out of their control.
One of the most passionate people I have ever met about comedy is Gary Fields. Gary was one of the initial owners of comedy clubs in the Midwest, with comedy clubs in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. I always appreciated when I performed at his clubs that Gary was a completely active owner. He hosted the shows and had his own comedy museum because he had a real passion for the business. He ended up building his dream club in Battle Creek, MI and it was a great set-up for comedy, with stadium seating.
Now I don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened, but I do know that being a comedy club owner in Michigan at the time when the economy is crumbling around you can’t help the bottom line. After almost 25 years in the biz, Gary’s doors shut in 2009. Just like how the comedy world is in the blood of many of us, Gary didn’t just walk away at this point, though, as he connected with the Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek and has been running 2 shows every Wednesday there.
Don’t get me wrong, I have dealt with all kinds of sleazy comedy club owners during my 2 decades in the biz. I have enough bounced checks, bounced weeks, and bounced memories to fill this site with foul remembrances. I try not to be a bitterman like so many comics who’ve been doing it as long as I have, so instead I try to celebrate the people I’ve met like Gary Fields. The comedy world could use more owners like him.