No Laughing Matter 

Comedians say they saw Funny Bone problems coming

After a bankruptcy filing, claims of non-payment and outstanding debt, no one is seeing much humor in the Funny Bone Comedy Club situation.

Word came last week that the club had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had been threatened with eviction for failing to make lease payments and is at risk of losing its liquor license.

But the club remains open, and the drinks are still flowing, although general manager Pat Mac said there was a 40 percent drop in business over weekend following a story in the Idaho Statesman.

While many were surprised by the announcement, it's just the latest in a tangled series of financial red flags going back several years. The problems for comedian Peter Berman began in Boise two years ago when a check he was given for a performance bounced. He was finally able to secure payment after two months, but said he chalked the experience up to a one-time mistake.

Because of this, he signed on to perform in the now-closed Reno Funny Bone, also owned by Boise club owner Michael Kohn. But when his $1,300 check failed to clear, he began a personal campaign to get his money.

What followed is a long and twisting tale, covering multiple states, and all leading back to the simple fact that owners of the club have continually failed to pay Berman.

He said he tried to handle the issue privately, but the repeated broken promises prompted Berman to write extensively about it on his MySpace Web page.

"Bouncing checks to comedians is very 1980s," Berman told BW from his home in Los Angeles. "That stuff doesn't happen in this day and age."

The response to Berman's Web site has been extensive. According to Berman, rumors of Boise's problems have been rampant among comedians for weeks, and he's not surprised to hear of the bankruptcy declaration.

"I feel bad for the local comedians in Boise," Berman said. "It's a great comedy scene."

While he doesn't blame the local management, he does worry that the actions of the owners may threaten the future of a promising comedy scene.

"It's such a great comedy club with a very unique local base of comedians that was growing and strong," Berman said. "It was a really cool place that comedians wanted to come and perform at, and they've gone and ruined it. It's a shame, but they don't care."

But Mac said business will go on as usual in Boise while the bankruptcy proceedings continue over the next four to five months.

While 8th Street Two has filed its intention to transfer the liquor license with the Idaho State Police's Alcohol and Beverage Control division, the ABC said no action has been taken and declined to comment further. Mac said he feels confident the club will not lose its liquor license before the matter is concluded. He added that the Boise club has had no payment problems with comedians, and that all performers are paid in cash.

"No matter what, comedy is not leaving Boise," Mac promised.

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