The Laff House Brings Positivity, Laughter, and Joy
By Ayana Jones
The world is full of artistic and creative genres such as music, theatre, visual arts, literature, and more, including the genre of comedy. Within the genre of comedy, there is a subcategory called Stand-up comedians, and within that division there is the wonderful and uniquely different category called Urban Comedy.
A major player within the genre of Urban Comedy is Rod Millwood, the founder and proprietor of the Laff House, the Original Comedy Club, internationally renowned and previously located on South St., in Philadelphia, PA for over thirty years.Mr. Rod and the Laff House played a major part in the foundation of Urban comedy, both locally in Philly and worldwide.
Initially, the doors of the venue located on South Street opened to the public as Funny Bone, eventually changing to Catch A Rising Star, David Brenner's Laff House, then Laff House, the Original Comedy Club, managed by the dynamic duo, Rod Millwood and his wife, Mona Wilkerson.
The LaffHouse has been the happening place where many comedians came in the beginning of their careers, to develop and hone in their skills before they went on to become well known. The list includes Kevin Hart, Mike Blackson, Bill Burr, Lisa Lampanelli, Gary Owens, Mike Epps, Deon Coles, and J. B. Smoove. There were many others who are not as well known, but who were very talented. It gave them much needed professional support, as well as the “Mr. Rod push.” Mr. Rod and Mona took many of the artists under their wings like adoptive children. “Mama Mona” became her name of endearment; the general milieu of the Laff House was that of a large family.
In 2010, Mona was diagnosed with a terminal illness and by 2011, she could no longer go to the club. Mr. Rod realized that comedy is more than just laughter and a good time; itis also for healing. He recorded the live shows and took them home to share with Mona. She would laugh and laugh, and during those times, she was in a place outside of her discomfort. There is a Bible verse that actually affirms this principle in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…”
Following Mona’s death, the club closed its doors in July 2013 and Mr. Rod took a hiatus. He’s now backwith exciting ideas on revitalizing Philly’s comedy scene.
PULL OUT “The Laff House was one of the only clubs where you could go from the pavement to a career. Most big comedians come from a Mom-and-Pop club where they can hone their skills.Places like this are needed because they give opportunities based on ‘talent’; while the big clubs give opportunities based on your ability to ‘draw an audience’. You can’t draw an audience until you can hone your talent.” …Kevin Hart (Laff House comic turned celebrity).
The Laff House has dynamic projects and events coming up soon in exciting collaboration with FunTimes Magazine, represented by its publisher Mr. Eric Nzeribe, including a house of laughter connecting globally via YouTube, Facebook, and other video streaming platforms.
Quality comedy is a timeless art and as technology evolves, so do greater opportunities for the Laff House to bring multiple platforms for comic artists to deliver the “right dose of funny.” Mr. Rod sees Urban Comedy as the art of storytelling from the basis of true personal, family and community experiences. This differs from much of traditional comedy, which often uses fictionalized characters and scenarios.
Storytelling has a long-standing history for Black people everywhere based in our heritage and roots of Mother Africa. The highly revered African story teller played an integral part of our people as they told the stories of our families, traditions, history, wisdom and culture. Urban Comedy does the same using the vehicle of humor. For example, every family has at least one member who is the life of the party, with a natural gift of gab, which has everyone screaming with laughter.
Urban comedy is often marginalized by larger clubs and investors who improperly fail to recognize it as a viable form of creative art, with the possibility of any real financial profitability. However, Mr. Rod feels that qualified comicand artists should be granted the same credibility as artists from other genres, like music and literature, etc. Mr. Rod and the Laff House give positivity back to the community, along with laughter and joy.
Laff House, in collaboration with Fun Times Magazine, is charting a new direction of comedy through ventures such as The Fresh Faces of Comedy, showcasing comic artists of all ages and gender, both unknown and experienced, with a cleaner language.
The Laff House Presents the Introduction, is a TV show currently running on Philadelphia local TV every week at 12:30 A.M., Friday night. The stations include Comcast channels 66/966 HD, Verizon 29/30 HD, and Roku; also view on phillycam.org/watch.
Live comedy shows began with Welcome to the Fellowship on August 25, and Clean Explosion on September 15. Get tickets online at thelaffhouse.com. Shows are being held bi-weekly through September, and then weekly. In November, the Philadelphia Comedy Festival will be sponsored by the Laff House, the Original Comedy ClubandFun Times Magazine.