Showtime Continues Black History Month Celebration With 'Phunny Business: A Black Comedy'
SHOWTIME continues its month-long celebration of Black History Month with a new docu-comedy PHUNNY BUSINESS: A BLACK COMEDY chronicling the rise and fall of Chicago's All Jokes Aside, one of the preeminent Comedy Clubs in the country which gave early exposure to many of the nation's most important young comedians. For a decade, All Jokes Aside was the most influential Black comic showcase in America. With no Comedy Clubs booking minority acts on a regular basis at the time, the 300-seat venue in Chicago's South Loop filled a void by showcasing Black talent and entertaining Black audiences in an upscale setting.
This mostly unheralded "star factory" introduced audiences to household name talent such as StEve Harvey, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, MoNique, Bernie Mac, Carlos Mencia, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Adele Givens, Melanie Comarcho, Mike Epps, JB Smoove, Ali LeRoi, Aries Spears, George Willborn, Sheryl Underwood, Laura Hayes, Bill Bellamy, Craig Robinson, Deon Cole, Earthquake and Tommy Davidson, who recall their experiences working gigs at the club. Celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tommy Hearns, Barry Sanders, Boyz II Men, Maxwell, MC Lyte, Vivica A. Fox, Doug Banks and others could be found laughing it up in the audience... but one rule stood, no comps. No exceptions!
All Jokes Aside was the brainchild of 29-year-old Delaware native and Morehouse College graduate Raymond Lambert. After a fateful visit to The Improv in Los Angeles, Lambert decided to open his own "phunny" business. Thus began a journey that would put Lambert, a showbiz neophyte, in business with some of the biggest names in comedy and eventually, in conflict with a city known for its racial politics. Eventually, All Jokes Aside closed, but the artists and entertainers never forgot, "... the best little club no one ever heard of," and nostalgically share memories and re-live the glory days. Using stills, archival performance footage and interviews, PHUNNY BUSINESS: A BLACK COMEDY salutes the legendary showcase for its unsung contribution to comedy history.