For the past decade, Liquid Laughs has been the epicenter of Boise’s comedy scene, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Owner Jeremy Aevermann has had to abandon comedy in order to stay afloat.
“It really has been probably the best 10 years of my life. I've enjoyed it a lot,” Aevermann said about his years in the business. “I'm very sad to not be doing it anymore, but you just gotta roll with what the world gives you, and I have to survive. Liquid and Solid have to go on, so I have to do what I gotta do to keep them going.”
Up until March, everything seemed to be going well for Liquid. The venue was hosting big name acts like Kyle Kinane, Pauly Shore, Bobcat Goldthwait and many others; and was the home to local favorites like 208 Comedy Fest, Boise’s Funniest Person and Comedyfort. But the economic shutdown, followed by mandatory social distancing guidelines, caused the venue to struggle financially.
Aevermann said bringing in comedians to a half empty-room proved not to be sustainable, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. For a venue that only seats 250 people a show, it was just too much.
“I just put so much energy into building it,” Aevermann said. “And then to see it all go away and have to know that I have to rebuild it all again from the ground up—this kind of seems like an uphill battle that I'm not really willing to do right now.”
Now, pool tables and arcade games fill a room where tables, chairs and a stage once stood. Liquid and it’s next door neighbor Solid have reverted back to much of what they were when Aevermann first opened. But Boise’s comedy scene hasn’t died off; it merely found a new home in the Lounge at the End of the Universe, which is located in Gem Center for the Arts.
“My goal with this place was to open the club I always wished I could have worked at,” said Owner Jen Adams.
In an effort to pass off Boise’s comedy torch, Aevermann reached out to Adams, offering up the furniture Liquid used for its comedy nights. Adams said it is important to keep the comedy scene in Boise alive because she thinks stand-up comedy is one of the last true forms of free speech.
“It is the one place that an entertainer and performer can get up and say exactly what they think and isn't going to be punished for it,” Adams said. “Part of that, I think, comes along with having the skill of humor to soften the blow a little bit. I have often said that comedy is like ranch dressing. People don't like salads, but they're good for you. So you force ranch dressing on it and you eat it, and are able to assimilate it in one way or another.”
Since the lockdown, LEU has started live-streaming its shows, which also include magic shows, music performances and movies. After Central District Health downgraded the Boise area to Stage III of its reopening plan, the lounge started allowing groups of 30 back into the venue, while also continuing to stream shows online.
But Adams said she can’t wait until COVID-19 is completely over so they can begin fully using LEU’s unique multiple floor space again. Two of the floors inside the Gem Center for the Arts are rented artist studios, and in the basement there is a space where HomeGrown Theatre company stages its productions. Adams said on LEU show nights, the center will open up for people to explore the exhibits and sometimes there is even live music.
Beyond the unique building space, LEU focuses on being unique as far as a social and work environment goes, too.
“We pride ourselves on being a safe space—for not just women—but also for the pride community, for people of color, and anybody that's marginalized,” Adams said. “And we make it a huge priority to make sure that there's representation here to make sure that people feel safe when they come in… so that they know that who they are and what they were born with is not an obstacle for them to be able to do their art.”
Adams said a big drive for that inclusive mindset stems from the fact that the lounge is a women-and-LGBTQ-owned-and operated venue. She said she hopes that LEU will not just be known for its inclusivity, but also for its community-minded approach and outreach.