Comic Strip celebrates three decades of laughter

Bart Reed's Comic Strip in El Paso, Texas (KFOX14)

It's a microphone and a stage. Those are the basic elements of standup comedy - an art form that Bart Reed loves.

“This is the hardest form of entertainment," Reed said. "People can say any other form they want, but a guy up here on stage, he’s either going to eat it or do well.”

Reed owns The Comic Strip and this year, his comedy club celebrated its 30th anniversary.

“About four years ago, we became the longest running comedy club in Texas," he said. "That was pretty neat. But I don’t know that I ever thought 30. I guess once we hit 20, I thought, man, this is going to last for a while.”

In the 1980s, Reed was a transplant from the Midwest who had arrived in El Paso as a young man. He saw a need for a live entertainment venue and comedy was in his blood.

“El Paso people seem to be really appreciative of comics when they come in, and that makes a real difference,” he said.

Over the past three decades, Bart Reed's Comic Strip has helped foster the careers of several comedic superstars, young talents who were just starting out when they hit his stage.

“I mean, there are some guys who amaze you when they are on stage," he said. "The way the get the crowd up and down and take them with them on their journey that they’re going on."

Reed also saw a need to help develop Latino comedy, helping to lend notoriety to comics such as Gabriel Iglesias, Carlos Mencia and George Lopez.

“In about the mid-90s, it just exploded," he said. "Guys like Carlos and his HBO specials. Pablo Francisco opened here for years. Gabriel Iglesias, his first road gig was here and then he used to come here all the time.”

As part of the official anniversary celebration earlier this year, Reed brought in comedian Rob Schneider, who was a young upstart when he played the club a few weeks after it opened.

“You could tell he was gonna be a star. He just had that thing. You see it in them when they’re doing their show.”

The popularity of stand-up comedy has risen and fallen and risen again over the past several decades. Regardless - Reed says he's proud of the fact that his club continues to provide a steady stream of top talent.

“I could debate this with anyone that we’ve brought in more top national talent of any kind to El Paso than probably anyone in history over 30 years -for 52 weeks a year, basically,” he said.

Over the years, the club has moved to different parts of town. These days, it's located in a shopping center off of Airway Boulevard. Reed isn't sure if he's got another 30 years in him. But he's not going anywhere anytime soon - not as long as the audiences are still willing to laugh.

“Everybody has always made the comic feel like we’re happy you’re here, so we get a lot of props from out-of-town comics,” he said.

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