Zara Patterson talks to Steve Barry, founder of the Guinness Laughter Lounge Comedy Club which is celebrating 10 years of international stand-up comedy in Barcelona.
Guinness Laughter Lounge has been running in Barcelona for ten years now! Congratulations. How did it all begin?
I used to run a bar and cultural hub called The Dubliner in Gracia. We hosted jazz nights and drama workshops, even Irish language classes for expats. Once a month we put on a theatre production, which evolved into bringing four comedians over from the UK and Ireland for a special comedy production (among those were then-rising-stars Jon Richardson and Josie Long). This had a massive response from Barcelona’s international residents; the shows were sold out. Since then, Guinness Laughter Lounge has become a regular stand-up comedy event in venues across Barcelona.
You have used several venues in Barcelona over the years to host the comedy night. What have been your favourite places?
The Dubliner was my bar and the starting point for Guinness Laughter Lounge, so I have very fond memories of our first gigs there. Another favourite was the Teatre Riereta in Raval, having lots of old character and a kind of theatre cellar vibe. Our current venue 7Sins Bar really fits the bill for comedy, thanks to the cosy lounge layout and its central setting near Plaça Universitat. The staff are also excellent; very attentive and professional when it comes to sound and lighting for the gig.
What’s it like working with comedians in general?
Comedians are in a class of their own, very stimulating, intellectual types who require a lot of information for their active minds. It has been a lot of fun to work with many different stars over the years. I started from scratch and have built up a good rapport with acts in the UK, Ireland and internationally, so I get to meet new acts through word-of-mouth alone. The job stays interesting, attracting new comedians and audience alike to ensure that everyone has a smashing time!
The Barcelona audience must be pretty diverse, how would you explain your success over the years?
It’s true that comedy in Barcelona is a very niche product. While there is amateur open mic comedy readily available, we appeal to our crowd with quality over quantity i.e. one special event every month, bringing over top acts that are not to be missed. It’s literally a “get what you pay for” scenario which has worked pretty well over the years. In terms of comedy content, good audience interaction is key and we pick our acts based on what we think the international audience will like or understand.
And finally, what are the 10th anniversary plans for this season?
We have a very special lineup for next season, a compilation of the best acts as seen at the Edinburgh Fringe. The opening show for our OFF-FRINGE Barcelona season is September 5th, a great comedian coming directly in from the Fringe called Conor Drum, from Dublin. Then October 3rd we have Paul T Eyres and November 21st will be a cracker with Carl Donnelly. There are many more hot new acts in the pipeline, my advice is to stay tuned on the Guinness Laughter Lounge facebook page, for updates and also free ticket giveaways. Thanks and I hope to see you at the next show!