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The Funny Side of Harvard Square

By David Boegaard

Cambridge, MA is known for many things - Harvard University, a lovely downtown area with a glorious public park, good schools, a diverse community, serious discussions. But there are still some hidden secrets. One of these is that Cambridge has long had a great comedy scene. And at the center of Cambridge comedy today is The Comedy Studio, located above the Hong Kong restaurant in Harvard Square.

The Comedy Studio opened in 1996 after the close of "Catch a Rising Star" in Harvard Square. Area comics were left to fend for themselves. Rick Jenkins, current owner and host of the Comedy Studio, tells us that the club had a romantic start. Co-founder and comedian Thom Brown had his eye on a waitress working at the Hong Kong restaurant, and so he insisted that his comedy friends meet him at there. Soon, the restaurant became a de facto gathering place for local comedians. It wasn't long, says Jenkins, before the Hong Kong "let us do an early show before the dance club." From there, the club took off, and they soon formed The Comedy Studio above the Hong Kong. Things turned out well for Brown and the waitress, too. "Thom and Lynn have been married for 15," Jenkins reports.

(left to right) Rick Jenkins, Joe List, Gary Gulman, and Colin Quinn at the Comedy Studio

In the nearly 20 years since it was founded, The Comedy Studio has hosted most of the big names in comedy. It has come to be known as an essential stop on the circuit and a place to try out cutting edge comedy - and maybe get noticed. "Louie CK, David Spade, Maria Bamford," have all done shows there, says Jenkins. "Sandra Bullock came to watch a show."

But Jenkins' favorite comedians from the Studio are the ones who cut their teeth at the club and went on to fame. Comedy is a small world, and these folks are like siblings who grew up in the same house. Jenkins' mentions stars such as Eugene Mirman from Bob's Burgers and Joe Wong who has a successful nightly show in China. "At least a half dozen writers for late night TV started with us."

The Comedy Studio is open from Tuesday through Sunday, with shows starting at 8pm. So which night should you choose for your first experience? "Every night really is different," says Jenkins. "It's like picking a favorite child." Ultimately, though, Jenkins picks his favorite child -- Wednesday. "That's when new comics get a chance, pros stop by, I get to host, and our comedy nerd audience is at their comedy nerdiest."

Cambridge has many charms, but it's the rich mix of different kinds of people in the city that makes The Comedy Studio feel right at home. "Most of our audience is everything. International, young professionals, academics, hipster," says Jenkins. "A really smart, diverse cross section."

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