BY PETER DORFMAN
Keeping the doors of a comedy club open in a small city for a decade could be seen as reason enough to celebrate, but Jared Thompson, owner of The Comedy Attic, says it’s more than longevity that makes his club special. He places the stand-up venue among the elite comedy clubs in the country and plans to be around for the foreseeable future. “I won’t retire any time soon,” Thompson, 41, says. “It does well enough that I haven’t had to make a lot of compromises.”
The 164-seat stand-up venue celebrated a quiet 10th anniversary in September, marking the occasion with its annual benefit show, which featured headliner Emo Philips. Proceeds benefitted Teachers Warehouse.
Thompson owns the club with his wife, Dayna, who worked there for a time and is now an Alzheimer’s disease counselor at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. “When we first opened, she waited tables every show,” Thompson says.
Before opening The Comedy Attic, Thompson worked as a regional sales manager for Insight Cable. However, he did have some showbiz experience—he’d been booking punk rock shows since ninth grade, in venues ranging from friends’ homes to a storage shed. Looking around, he saw an opening for comedy targeting Bloomington’s college-age audience.
Comedians love the club’s low ceilings and its intimate feel, Thompson says. “But that was by chance,” he says. “When we took over the space at 4th Street and Walnut, we found rain damage to the cathedral ceiling. We installed our drop ceiling because we couldn’t afford to fix it.”
One of Thompson’s few regrets is the lack of diversity among the comedians during the club’s early years. “The first few classes of comedians at The Comedy Attic were practically all straight white males,” he says. “We didn’t do a good enough job making the club attractive to more diverse talent.” That has changed dramatically in recent years. So much so that at the Limestone Comedy Festival, which Thompson started in 2013 with Bloomington comedian Mat Alano-Martin, about half of the performers are women.
Thompson says that while Bloomington may be a small market, its sophisticated audience is an asset. “Our audience understands comedy as art, not just entertainment,” Thompson asserts. “If we were in Chicago, we could never get Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, or Hannibal Buress,” he says. “They would do the Chicago Theatre or a basketball arena, never The Comedy Attic.”