It’s been a tough year for Los Angeles comedians, along with the many would-be comedy fans who've had to postpone evenings at live venues shuttered during the pandemic.

Still, the jokes keep coming at Laugh Lounge Inc., the maker of a mobile app that allows users to stream live and on-
demand comedy shows.

“Our mission is that wherever you are, whenever you are, you can find laughter,” said Chief Operating Officer Barbara Duker. “We’ve found that’s really what people want to do during this time period. There’s certainly big things to make you cry — it’s better to laugh.”


The app launched in 2017 but underwent a major redesign toward the end of 2019. A revamped website with content available for streaming is slated to launch this month.
Company founder and standup comedy veteran Claude Shires said the pandemic has forced many in the industry to begin considering the idea of staging virtual shows for the first time.


“We’ve had tremendous acceptance from comedians,” he said. “They really see the relevance of this, and the pandemic has pushed us five-or-so years forward in the digital streaming world.”


Shires called the company “the culmination of my work in and love of standup comedy.” The intent of the app, he said, was to create a new opportunity for comedians to promote themselves and earn a living.


“It was really hard for a comedian to make a living before Covid, and even more so after,” he said.


The startup gained visibility earlier this year when it oversaw production of Laugh Aid, an eight-hour comedy webcast and fundraiser for comedians temporarily put out of work by the pandemic.


“I had my entire team in a television studio wrapped in plastic,” Shires said. “Everybody’s in PPE, everyone’s keeping 6 feet apart.”


Since then, Laugh Lounge has also hosted other live events, including a “captive audience” show in which comedians performed in a makeshift venue in front of audiences tuned in via Zoom. The company also produces “open mic nights,” featuring previously recorded sets from amateur comedians spliced together with introductions from Shires.


The company, which is backed by Santa Monica-based incubator Science Inc., offers a variable pricing model in which users can view shorter clips for free or subscribe to gain access to longer shows on demand.


Live events are offered on a pay-per-view model but are eventually added to the library of subscription content.


According to Shires, subscriptions have increased 13-fold in the last year, and the app has been downloaded more than 15,000 times.


Duker said interest has been high from comedians looking both to keep audiences laughing and to keep money in their bank accounts. The company offers performers 20% of subscription revenue they bring in for two years, she said.


“People come to us with shows that are done, and they just want a distribution point,” Duker said. “We have people who know they want to do a show and they want to make it digital; and then we have things that we do ourselves.”


The pandemic has raised the company’s visibility, but Shires said the importance of a digital streaming option for comedians and their fans is unlikely to diminish once opportunities to perform for live audiences return. He suggests that it could even benefit event venues as they strive to draw back customers.


“Clubs that are struggling, join us,” he said. “If you need help setting up a stream and you don’t know production, I’m your huckleberry.”


Duker said the company is planning to embark on a funding round in January to expand its operations and market itself to new users.

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