This is the story of how an impulsive, colossal book purchase led to the creation of Glendale’s first dedicated live comedy performance space, The Glendale Room.
Glendale resident and comedy enthusiast, Sean Casey, like many of us, went on a bit of an online shopping bender during the pandemic lockdown and won the bid on a listing with the simple description: “multitudes and multitudes of books.” As an avid reader, Casey thought this would be an opportunity to delve into some vintage literature.
He didn’t know it then, but this enormous purchase would soon serve as the inspiration for a unique comedy environment, fusing a traditional, homey backdrop with a playful, spunky entertainment hub.
“What I thought was just going to be the fun remnants of a private collection turned out to be an entire shipping container worth of books that were the retired volumes of eight decades worth of a school system,” Casey said in an interview with the News-Press.
For two weeks, Casey traveled back and forth to the desert — 80 miles each way — filling his minivan to the brim with books from this shipping container. He said that if the seller hadn’t given him a two-week deadline to pick up the books, he would probably still be going back and forth picking them up today.
While Casey enjoys operating other comedy clubs in Southern California like West Side Comedy in Santa Monica and The Lyric Hyperion in Silverlake, he wanted to open something more local to Glendale. When he found out the city wanted to revamp the Artsakh Paseo, he was eager to partner with Glendale’s Economic Development Division and Glendale’s Arts and Culture Commission on their Artsakh Creative Pilot Program.
“They were interested in seeding this arts and entertainment district concept, something to be more of a cultural focused center that featured cool and artsy stuff,” Casey said. “I was like, ‘Yes, please.’”
Casey knew that when he arrived in 2021 with “a Minecraft level landscape of boxes, which were all full of unknown antique books,” at what is now The Glendale Room, but at the time was still in the groundworks, that the EDD and ACC might think he was insane.
While the original vision for the venue had been something modern and trendy, Casey had another vision.
“How about we do something that feels like maybe it’s been here a little bit longer, maybe it has a lot of stories to tell,” Casey suggested back in 2021, envisioning a “living room/salon vibe.”
And that’s exactly what he accomplished. Pink spotlights work to illuminate the room, reminding folks that despite a library-esque background, The Glendale Room is still, above all else, a place of fun.
With the weight of the pandemic looming over the world at the time, Casey wanted to create an environment built to make people feel comfortable to put themselves back out there. The Glendale Room originally opened in November 2021 but quickly had to shut down with the onset of the omicron variant of COVID-19; they reopened in January 2022 and have been operating fully ever since.
“Many of us in 2021 were feeling very untethered and a little out to sea,” Casey said.
Casey is grateful The Glendale Room has been able to bring the community together after a long period of isolation.
“It’s a really good positive force,” Casey said. “L.A. is such a big, lonely city so to have those small connections happen organically and just because somebody got excited for somebody else’s show, that’s so dope. And I love that it’s happening here.”
Operating six nights a week, The Glendale Room keeps their calendar booked with fan-favorite weekly events as well as special events. On Sundays, they host an improv class with TV actress Jaime Moyer as well an open mic. Tuesdays, Cara Connors hosts her comedy act, “Straight For Pay.” There are more opportunities for open mic on Wednesdays with host duo Alina Konon and Bethany Michaels. Thursday welcomes an improv jam where participants are thrown into the mix when their name is drawn from a bowl. “Flagship Comedy” premieres on Fridays which features “a roundup of some of the best standup that’s active in L.A.,” according to Casey.
Creating events dedicated to learning and experimenting — in addition to hosting world-class comedians like Nicole Byer of “Nailed It!” on Netflix and new SNL cast member Molly Kearney — allows for The Glendale Room to feel like a safe space. On Wednesday open mic nights, Konon and Michaels encourage participants to try out new content without fear of judgment.
When Konon and Michaels first moved to L.A. to pursue comedy, they both felt a sort of loneliness when attending various open mics and stand-up events. They didn’t always feel safe entering into the male-dominated industry.
“A lot of times, I found myself being the only woman in the room,” Michaels said in an interview with the News-Press. “It felt like I was going back in time with all the racist, sexist and homophobic jokes that were being told by predominantly white, male comics.” Konon agreed, adding that “many open mics are not safe for women.”
After meeting at an open mic night a little over a year ago, Konon and Michaels decided to stick together, which eventually led them to The Glendale Room, where they went from audience members to hosting open mics every Wednesday. After many negative experiences at comedy events across L.A., the two found The Glendale Room to be a positive, welcoming environment for all types of people.
“We facilitate a space that’s safe for everybody,” Michaels said. “People want a supportive environment and there are only a few pockets in the L.A. area where you can find that.”
As for working with Casey, Konon spoke highly of his leadership style, emphasizing his willingness to step back and give the duo creative freedom to create the kind of show they want. Michaels agreed, adding that an important part of their working relationship is trust.
“We’re fostering new voices in Glendale. I think people have a lot of ideas and strong opinions on the identity of Glendale and what everything is like in Glendale,” Casey said. “And I think a weird, kooky little space like this is a great way to shine a light that there are all types of voices in this 200,000 person size city of Glendale.”
First published in the July 8 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.