First published in the Feb. 23 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
It was quite a comeback last weekend in Pasadena.
For nearly three full years, the Ice House Comedy Club had been shuttered due to the pandemic.
Until Thursday night arrived.
A new owner who knows the value of entertainment — combined with a remarkable overhaul of the 63-year-old club — attracted sellout crowds and plenty of laughs.
“It’s an iconic building. It’s an iconic comedy club,” new Ice House owner Johnny Buss told KCBS Los Angeles.
His family name is familiar to many Southern Californians; he is the son of the late Jerry Buss, who owned the Lakers for four decades.
Buss, who is co-owner of the NBA franchise, seemed to have brought that Lakers “showtime” feel that his father made so famous to the Ice House, which is the oldest comedy club in the nation.
With Buss at the helm, there have been a number of significant improvements to the Ice House, likely running into the millions of dollars. And the patrons will love them.
Remember when the club seemingly had one or two bathrooms? There are now more than 10.
The main entrance has also been changed. It no longer is down a dark alley. Instead, it has been moved to Mentor Avenue, directly across the street from a parking garage. A large polar bear greets attendees (perfect for photo ops) on their way to the ticketing area.
The main showroom has — like much of the venue — become more “fan friendly.” New seating areas and furniture grace the room. A second comedy room has also been greatly enhanced.
There’s a brand-new, enlarged kitchen with top-quality food. The bar area offers comfortable seating.
The VIP room offers a stunning, high-end atmosphere with couches and barstools under a chandelier, along with private food/drink service behind darkened glass. Perhaps a perfect spot for LeBron James to enjoy an evening of laughs.
The Ice House has been graced by some of the greatest comedians to hit the stage, including legends such as George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Jay Leno and Rosie O’Donnell.
After successful opening weekend appearances from Arsenio Hall and Margaret Cho, the Ice House will welcome a star that it helped build years ago — Gabriel Iglesias — in late March. He will be among the most high-profile acts thus far in the Buss era.
The Ice House is not a one-man show and, in this case, the woman behind the man is the accomplished Penny Toler. Buss has known her for decades. She was a former women’s basketball star for the Los Angeles Sparks when Buss owned the WNBA team. She eventually became its general manager and the one-two punch of Buss and Toler. They are now taking their act to the comedy arena, where there will likely be plenty of laughs to go around.
Tickets for shows in March are ON-SALE NOW!
Photo by Staci Moraza