*Ask around about places to go for entertainment in the city of Inglewood, C.A, and you’ll likely be directed to “The J Spot.”
Open at 7pm all week long, the cozy, pocket-sized comedy club hovers above a Metro PCS and Yoshinoya Beef Bowl and overlooks Manchester Blvd., one of the city’s most frequently traveled streets. In other words, “the spot” is fairly low-key despite the heavy flow of traffic nearby.
Blink while you’re driving past the near-hidden establishment and you might miss it, which would be a shame if you’re a lover of country-style chicken and waffles and gut-busting comedy. Home to appreciable amateur talent, and the occasional big name, The J Spot is a little more than your average hole in the wall, and little less than the “Laugh Factory” or “The Comedy Store” in Hollywood.
As it happens, the name of the game is status here in Tinseltown. For that reason, it’s been a toss up for club owner J. Anthony Brown when he reaches out to prominent comics for them to perform during one of his comedy nights. Couple this with the notion that black clubs don’t pay top dollar and it’s a recipe for disappointment.
The majority of Brown’s customers are black, some Latino, and rarely otherwise. With that in mind, he consciously features minorities on stage, a decision that has its ups and downs.
“The hardest thing to do for a black Man sometimes is to work for another black man,” Brown declared in reference to recruiting established talent. “That’s just it in a nutshell.”
He continued, “One of the excuses I’ve heard is that you can’t make enough money at your club. But some of the clubs in Los Angeles that have what I call “Negro Night,” “College Night,” “Chocolate Night,” Brown People Night,”—those nights are packed and those comics go in those clubs and work for free, but they won’t come work for me. I’m not mad about it. It is what it is.”
Before opening “The J Spot,” Brown had already built a solid career in stand up, appearing on radio, television, and the big screen (you might remember him as Mr. Wade in the percussion based-film, “Drumline”). However, despite his successes, Brown says convincing star comics to work for him is a constant struggle and ongoing financial letdown.
“I’m not the only one [owner] confused,” Brown assured. “You can go around this country and [other owners] will talk about stars that won’t even set foot in black owned comedy clubs. We’re struggling out here and have been for a long time.”
“They just won’t come, he went on to say. “And the bad part about it is a lot of them live in LA. Why would you pass by my club to go work for the white clubs? They say it’s in the hood and other stupid excuses. But if you’re a black club owner, that’s the nature of the beast.”
In producer Dr. Dre’s “California Love,” he makes a claim that “Inglewood is always up to no good.” This is partially true for some areas of the city, but not all. Lack of star power, and skewed public perception, are the reasons Brown says his club isn’t thriving.
“I do this for the love of comedy,” he explained. “I see these up and coming comedians and I want to help them. But you open a business to make money, and it hasn’t made any money.”
Nevertheless, Brown insists that his joint is on par with any other, particularly when the BET Awards comes to town. During this festive evening affair, the biggest and brightest stars in black entertainment converge with fans to celebrate multiple genres of music. This year’s venue is the ever-eventful Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, only a stone’s throw from the 110 freeway.
Over the weekend, locals and out-of-towners will flood the downtown area and scour the streets of nearby cities for additional amusement until the Awards ceremony this coming Sunday, June 30.
Brown, a shrewd businessman, plans to strike while the iron is hot. For three consecutive days (June 28-30), “The J Spot Experience” will provide guests with non-stop laughs, delicious vittles, and round-the-clock alcohol (for a nominal fee, of course). The festivities include Brown’s appropriately named, “Drink Tank,” which features a panel of comedians who will elaborate on topics provided by guests in the audience.
“We’re trying to go all out and get some of those people who are coming to town in terms of entertainment,” Brown said eagerly. “Everybody can’t go to the BET parties. So we’re offering something here at ‘The J spot.’
He concluded, “I still believe that it can work in spite of the comics that won’t come. People come here and they say, ‘Oh, this is a nice club.’”