Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's all about the bar

A few words from iO West bar czar Brian James O'Connell -

The absolute best part about bar managing at an improv theater is the collection of people, though that can also be the most difficult.

Unlike any other bar I’ve managed (and I’ve been working in bars since before I could legally drink. What?! I’m Irish. This is surprising?) the clientele at iOWest is 85% “regulars.” Most of our patrons are fellow performers, students, alumni, improv junkies or some combination thereof.

The crowd is our best asset – our best form of advertising.

No other bar has the advantage I have in that the overwhelming majority of patrons are the funniest, nicest people you could ever meet – people who have literally been trained to take care of the person directly across from them.

Our people have been trained to listen, actively be interested in what you are saying and then further the conversation so it traverses down a path that is not only revealing but is also rewarding to the person who brought up the subject in the first place.

And no other bar has the advantage that I have in that the “regulars” have a vested interest in the bar doing well.

Firstly, they need the place to do well. They want everyone to come back because they have shows they want others to see because they are proud of their shows and have put a lot of effort into them.

Our crowd wants the new visitor to tell their friends what a great time they had and suggest that they do the same.

Secondly, our crowd wants the new visitors to become repeat visitors simply because our crowd is part of a great community, and we want to share that great community.

Have you ever read a great book or seen a terrific film and then gushed about it to someone who hasn’t yet read or seen it?

People gush that way about the iO West bar.

Our crowd treats the iO West bar like a clubhouse – a playground where everyone can get together and actually enjoy each other’s company.

We KNOW how awesome this place is, and we want to share that knowledge with someone who is new to the scene.

No other bar in L. A. that I know of has the advantage that I have in that the bar patrons consider themselves a tight community – a “family” complete with crazy uncles, a doting mother and a kooky patriarch who we all miss and reminisce about fondly (even those of us who never met him, and I am speaking of Del Close).

The vibe in the room is palatable.

Our crowd is protective of the “clubhouse” and wants to keep the good times rollin.’

New visitors may not pick up on this vibe initially, but I can usually tell as I overhear their exit. They are amazed at how nice everyone is. How they didn’t see one fight break out. How no one tried to steal their purse or their coat.

It makes my job enormously easy if the entire crowd has my and everyone else's back.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "It's all about the bar" and visit the Philadelphia venue where Brian initially wrote about his experience managing the iO West bar.

Also visit Brian James O'Connell at the iO West bar and see him perform with Dr. God, Top Story! Weekly in addition to other great teams and shows.

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