When people open a business, they generally start with a business plan. Mike Edlavitch tried that, but quickly abandoned the business plan: It kept telling him he wouldn’t make any money.
“I gave up on it and decided we’d figure it out,” Edlavitch said.
So far, he has. Edlavitch opened Royal Comedy Theatre in downtown Hopkins on Mainstreet in May 2016, in an unassuming spot wedged between a creative agency and a knife sharpening shop.
“There’s lots of parking on Mainstreet,” he said. ” And I could afford the building so I bought the building. It’s pretty good for a comedy club to make it a year and a half. You’d think I’d have more Jewish customers.”
The 38-year-old Edlavitch was himself a standup performer from 2000-01. As far as he remembers, anyway. He finished college, got his teaching degree and taught math in Minneapolis Public Schools. He created a website called Hooda Math.
“The website took off so I left teaching to work it,” he said of the now nine-year-old website. “It pays for everything we do. Including the comedy club.”
Where did comedy come from?
“I’m Jewish,” he said. Two of the comedic influences he named are both MOTs: Jackie Mason and Woody Allen.
“When I was at Camp Ramah, we were listening to Bill Cosby as an example clean comedy,” he said.
“My older style of comedy, my influence would be Woody Allen, but I’m older and married so I don’t do those kinds of jokes,” he said. “I listened to a lot of Jackie Mason as a kid, which is interesting because of all the millennials opinions on microaggression. If you listen to Jackie Mason’s most famous album (Jackie Mason: The World According to Me!) it’s all microaggression.”
Edlavitch arguably has the most well-known comedian taking the stage in mid-November when Shuli Egar – Shalom Shuli of the Howard Stern Show – comes to play three nights.
“Right now we’re getting 50 people at $20 per ticket, including taxes and fees,” Edlavitch said. “If it’s filled for three nights, it’ll pay for almost anyone.”
The small capacity could eventually be doubled, but still is far smaller than some of the bigger-name clubs in the Twin Cities.
“We do have parking, which helps,” he said. “We have a more intimate feel that’s managed by the owner being here. I take tickets and I bounce if I need to.”
Edlavitch built the bar with the help of his neighbor, installed the mini chandeliers throughout the building. He takes the tickets at the door and charges less for drinks than other places, though he doesn’t have the classic comedy-club trope of a two-drink minimum.
He had hired a manager when he first opened but saw not every detail being attended to the way he wanted.
“As a new place, I want it going right,” he said. “I told him he had to wear a bow tie. We wear bow ties, dress shirts and suspenders here. That’s the look I wanted. We’re classier. They’re coming to a theater. We’re Royal Comedy Theatre.”
Edlavitch said that self-pride is what drives him to keep his business open.
“I could make a lot more money renting,” he said. “It would suck to close already.”