Thanks to Roy Johnson and The Loony Bin Comedy Club, Tulsa is getting serious about joking around and serving up Lobotomies.
The Yankees are his religion. Comedy is his specialty. Bob Dylan is his third love.
And as much as he loves Bob Dylan, appreciates his archives and enjoys Tulsa’s colorful sound, the man running the shows at The Loony Bin Comedy Club wants to direct your attention to other entertainment options native and unique to this town.
“Tulsa is a funny city,” says Roy Johnson, general manager of The Loony Bin Comedy Club in Tulsa. Comedy as an artform has roots in our city.
“Will Rogers was doing stand-up before there was stand-up,” he says. “Sam Kinison is buried in Tulsa.”
Johnson retired from his own run of touring stand-up nine years ago. Once he was back in town, he started Be Funny Tulsa, a comedy school, which offers classes for beginners, more advanced comics, adults and kids. He took over operations at The Loony Bin in October 2017, and since then, he’s kept plenty busy with updates and future plans.
The lobby has been renovated to be cleaner and more modern. “It’s not just 8 x 10s on the wall,” he says. The club has added selfie walls — TVs to highlight photos that visitors tag the club in on social media.
“We’re also looking to expand the bar,” Johnson says. “We are working with many local wine people about the best way to improve our wine list.”
The drinks at Loony Bin are already pretty serious. One is called The Lobotomy, and it comes with a T-shirt. It includes vodka, rum, gin, tequila, cranberry, Sprite and grenadine. And it’s served in a mini pitcher.
“Let’s just say our drinks get Uber a lot of business,” says Johnson, who mostly sticks to coffee and Coke Zero.
Since Johnson’s management, the club has redone the way they kick off nights, as well. Now, a dramatic video launches before a show. The entrance feels as if you’re watching something at the movie theaters. It even uses Johnson’s voice, albeit edited to sound more like a movie narrator, to give a big intro for the night.
“We want it to be an event for people,” says Johnson. He also wants the south Tulsa club to be a one-stop date night for couples.
“We’re trying to make the food more than just theater snacks. More sandwiches, wraps, healthier options,” he says. “You still need a reason to call the sitter that’s not to go to a PTA meeting or a church meeting or something like that. So come out and see a comedy show.”
The club is open Wednesday through Saturday nights. Johnson says people might not be ready to go to a comedy club on a Wednesday night. “Thursday they’re starting to ramp into the weekend, but Wednesday night — sometimes it’s the best night to come.”
Plus, Wednesdays are “wing therapy” nights. You can have all the wings you can eat for $16.95.
“We’re The Loony Bin, so you come to us for therapy,” Johnson says. “People rave about our wings. When I got there in October, I ate all the food, and the best thing we had on our menu was the wings.”
The team he has assembled to run the Loony Bin is made up of local comics, all of whom, Johnson says, are extremely entertaining and talented — like his right-hand, Lacey Hunt, who updates the website calendar and other materials for The Loony Bin among other things.
“Lacey Hunt is a raw talent, soon-to-be one of the best female comics in the country,” says Johnson.
You might see Hilton Price hanging around local open mic nights. Price is a comic who works as a sort of scout for The Loony Bin.
“He basically goes out to the open nights and he picks people who will get a spot onstage on a Wednesday night; people who are ready to take that step from playing VFW to playing paid gigs,” says Johnson.
Price has a podcast network with comics Ryan Green and Landry Miller called Channel 4 ½ that works in conjunction with The Loony Bin. The club plans on launching a podcast that’s an interview-style show featuring local comics and bigger comics coming to town.
Miller has written for Conan O’Brien, as well as Netflix. He works in the ticket booth and is the one behind The Loony Bin’s social media.
One way the club connects with the local community is through events like Comedy Survivors.
“It gives these people a chance to be competitive, win a little money, and it’s a fun concept … The audience is the one that votes [on who wins],” says Johnson.
As far as the local scene of comics, Johnson says they all add value to the community, no matter how big-time they may become — or not.
“Not everybody gets to be Derek Jeter,” he says. “For every guitar god like Eric Clapton who’s out there, there’s like 70 guys who are just as good if not better who are playing in their basement. There are so many amazing, talented artists out there.
“Some of the guys who come through the club — you might not know their name, the feature acts … some of those guys are absolutely brilliant. I mean, we had Dusty Slay come through as a feature.”
Slay just performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in January.
“That guy is going to be a star in two years. He’s going to be huge,” says Johnson.
As exciting as it is to watch people from your scene make it big, Johnson says some of the best shows are put on by local comics who don’t do comedy full time.
“C.R. Parsons is an attorney and an amazing comic,” Johnson says. “Jeff Thomas is a school teacher and a funny guy. T.J. Clark is a legendary storyteller in Tulsa, and he’s getting into the comedy scene.
“Tulsa is a funny city. I mean we’ve got a river with no water in it. And we’re totally OK with that. People still go to the river. That’s pretty funny.”
The Loony Bin Comedy Club
6808 S. Memorial Dr. | Tulsa
Wednesday-Thursday: 6:30-10 p.m.
Friday: 6:30 p.m.-Midnight
Saturday: 6 p.m.-Midnight
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