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Laugh it Up, Baltimore

Andrew Unger, Owner of Magooby's Joke House in Timonium - Arianne Teeple
Andrew Unger, Owner of Magooby's Joke House in Timonium - Arianne Teeple
Sometimes, you just need a good laugh. Luckily, Baltimoreans have the Unger brothers to help out with that.

After three years of calling Parkville's Bowman Restaurant the home of Magooby's Joke House, owner Andrew Unger and his comedian brother Marc have taken their brand of comedy to the next level on Deereco Road in the space that used to house the Timonium Dinner Theatre.

If their names sound familiar it may be because the "Fighting Ungers" previously shared their thoughts and opinions regularly, first on WNST 1570 and later on Fox 1370. The brothers took to the airwaves to remind long-suffering Orioles fans and tense Ravens fans that "sports is funny."

While performing in the Parkville location before his brother took over, Marc Unger noticed an opportunity for comedy club success. He took the idea to his brother, who has since brought the club exponential growth.

"[Andrew] took advantage of the opportunity, built up a pretty significant business there with a lot of aggressive marketing and bringing in national acts," said Marc Unger. "He really made the place a real gem of a comedy venue."

The newest incarnation of Magooby's Joke House boasts almost 400 tiered seats, high ceilings, and a 240-square foot stage. It's currently one of the largest freestanding comedy venues on the East Coast.

With a light fare menu, themed specialty drinks, national and local comedians, and an accessible central location, Magooby's is positioning itself as the answer for Marylanders' demand for comedic entertainment.

The combined namesake of Andrew Unger's sons' nicknames (Mr. Magoo and Mr. B), the club reopened in Timonium the weekend of September 10. The new location has ample free parking to complement its large number of seats, cutting down on the stress of looking for parking on a crowded city street or paying for pricey cab fare. It also provides new opportunities for the growing, independent business.

"We're bringing in true national headliners, some that are very recognizable," said Andrew Unger. "And now that we have this space we can bring in some true celebrity comedians."

"I don't think Seinfeld will stop by anytime soon, I think he's done doing clubs. But some of the bigger comics that are still doing clubs, in order to do that, you need to have a minimum of 300 seats. We can now get that and I think that's what makes us stand out."

Comedy stars like Hal Sparks, a regular on VH1's "I Love the 90s" series, and Nick DiPaolo, one of Comedy Central's most active "roasters," have made appearances at Magooby's in the past.  The club also hosts local talent on a regular basis, such as Baltimore standup comedian Mike Storck and 98 Rock's Mickey Cucchiella.

The new venue, adorned with portraits of comedy legends George Carlin and Richard Pryor, will host headliners like Donnell Rawlings from "Chappelle's Show" and JB Smoove from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in the coming weeks.

"It's the only club here that's able to bring in national acts on a regular basis," said Marc Unger. "As a comic who's been working in the industry for years, you're not going to find a club as nice a place to work at as Magooby's."

But apart from the spacious seating and the big-name performers, both Ungers note that there's a personal touch to Magooby's that makes it stand out.

Marc Unger says his brother's personality and managerial style make him a popular owner among performers. And the owner himself makes it a priority to make guests feel at home.

"I always stand at the door and talk to all the customers," he said. "So I'm the face of the club and if there's a problem, or you're not enjoying something, or you're not getting perfect customer service, you can talk to me, and I'll get it straightened out for you."

The Timonium location will allow Magooby's to host five shows a week beginning in October � one on Thursday night, and two each on Friday and Saturday nights. Regular ticket prices for the 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. shows are $14, and seating reservations are encouraged.

In addition to the comedy, the new space allows Andrew Unger to offer a venue for corporate events and private parties. He says he also plans to schedule karaoke nights and monthly Kids Comedy Sundays. And to cater to the clientele of the former Timonium Dinner Theatre, he plans to offer matinee performances.

"My goal is to bring joy and laughter to everyone in Maryland as far as the types of shows that we have," Andrew Unger said. "We'll continue to bring the best comedians that there are. We're a full-time comedy club; that's what we do."

Staci Wolfson is a freelance writer in Baltimore, MD

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Photos by Arianne Teeple

1. Magooby's Joke House Owner, Andrew Unger
2. The audience laughs during open mic night at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
3. Comedian Tiny Tim during open mic night at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
4. Specialty drinks at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
5. The stage at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
6. Comedian Andrea Ruggeri during open mic night at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
7. A comedian during open mic night at Magooby's Joke House in Timonium
8. Magooby's Joke House Owner, Andrew Unger
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