For almost 30 years, Comedy Caravan has stood as a temple, holding in its walls the history of stand-up comedy from the industry’s heyday on through to the present. But Jan. 21 marked a new chapter in the club’s history. Sold to comedians Steve Hofstetter and Jamie Utley (along with a few partners), the club is officially under new management and is preparing for $100,000 in renovations. The club has a new moniker, too — it’s now called the Laughing Derby.
Hofstetter has been a touring comedian for the better part of two decades. He recorded three comedy albums at Comedy Caravan (which he considers his home club) and owns clubs in Indianapolis, Atlanta and New York. Hofstetter has a proven track record and a vision that just might save the landmark club that has been on rocky financial terrain for the past several years. The day he officially took over the keys to building, Hofstetter found time to talk about how he sees the future of the Laughing Derby and the Louisville comedy scene.
LEO: How is everything going over there?
Steve Hofstetter: It’s going well. We’ve got a whole bunch of comics downstairs painting; there’s probably two-dozen people hanging around helping out. It’s been pretty incredible.
LEO: With plans for a $100,000 renovation to the club, can we expect it to be closed for any length of time?
SH: Nope, we’re working around it. For example, we’re extending the bar in the lounge, so Thursday night we’re knocking out the old bar, in the morning contractors are putting up the new bar, and on Saturday we’ll probably paint it.
LEO: You’re expanding the kitchen?
SH: Yeah, it’s going to be really interesting bar food. For instance, we’re working on a very eclectic hot dog menu.
LEO: Will there be a two-drink minimum?
SH: It will be a two-item menu. But the key for us is that it’s affordable. Two items might be $6 — we’re not going the Improv route where it’s a two-drink minimum and drinks start at $7 a piece.
LEO: How is the comedy market in Louisville different than in the markets where your other clubs are?
SH: Oh, this is so much better. First of all, we’re the only club in town. For a town relatively the size of Indy, there are three other clubs in Indy. We’re the only club in Louisville. Also, here there is a weirdness and a quirkiness to Louisville that is wonderful, and that gives us such a wide variety of different comics we will be able to bring in.
LEO: Are you trying to preserve the Caravan’s legacy, or is the Laughing Derby something else entirely?
SH: It’s new and different, but it still throws back to the history. We definitely want to pay tribute to the history of comedy in Louisville and the Caravan and everything that came before us. We will be painting a timeline of the history of comedy in this city. But as far as the club goes, there will be some things that are recognizable, but it’s a whole new place.
Comedian Danny Browning headlines this weekend. For more info, go to laughingderby.com.