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Jamestown is quickly becoming a destination in comedy. There has always been the Lucy Desi Museum and Playhouse, but with the opening of the National Comedy Center just last summer, it was time for another place in town for new up-and-coming comedians to strut their stuff. That’s why Michelle and Craig Benson, two locals, born and raised Jamestowners, decided to open up their own comedy center, Two and a Half Laughs.
“We’ve always been in the restaurant business,” Craig Benson said with a grin. “And we decided that Jamestown needed a comedy club.” He offered a tour of the club, which had fancy lighting and the familiar brick wall backdrop that accompanies all comedic stages. Big, cursive letters read “Pearl City.” He was more than excited to show off how the stage was almost literally made in a garage, stating that the brick wall for the stage had been around for about a hundred and fifty years. The entire room gave an overall classy feel.
Two and a Half Laughs has already garnered success, and has brought in quite the crowd. Michelle and Craig have managed to book national comedians on tour and will even invite locals take the stage. But that’s not all that they want to do to give back to the community.
Starting on the 22nd of this month, the 10 o’clock show on Friday nights will be dedicated to a charity. “Every two weeks, we’ll designate a charity, and half of the ticket sales will be donated to that charity,” Craig said. He anticipated generating around six hundred dollars that will be going to different charities. “It doesn’t seem like a lot,” he said with a chuckle. “But if someone hands you a check for six hundred dollars, you’re not going to say no.”
The first charity to benefit? The first responders. Free tickets are being offered to those who work with first responders, while half of the revenue will be coming their way. The couple are hoping to help out a lot of different charities this way, including St. Jude’s and the Humane Society.
“The WCA and their cancer research is very close to my heart,” Craig added. “By adding charity nights, we can hopefully increase attendance and get more comedy out there.”
The couple doesn’t just run the comedy club, but Michelle also owns her own clothing store right next door. “Technically, I don’t own this place,” Craig laughed, sitting back in his chair. “Back then, they used to call someone a ‘boss’s wife.’ Well, I’m the boss’s husband!”
They’re kept busy with looking after two places, but they’re happy. They have Two and a Half Laughs open three days a week, and despite both it and the clothing store being relatively new, they are both doing well. They still make money while still being able to have time to themselves.
“At some point, you get tired for working for other people and you just want to work for yourself,” Benson said. And you can’t get much better than Two and a Half Laughs. “I came up with the name…because we’re in between 2nd and 3rd street. People will think that I got the name from that show, Two and a Half men, but I didn’t.”
The audience has been varied, with twenty-two-year olds and seventy-year olds in the room at the same time. The comedians booked have given it their all as well, no matter if the room is half-filled or sold out.
“I think just the best part about running a comedy center is seeing all the people who come in,” Craig said. “From the audience to the comedians, they’re all interesting people.”
Michelle and Craig invite Gazette readers to visit their Facebook page where they can find the address and phone number of the business, and check them out Thursday through Saturday.