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October 27, 2010

Review: Magooby's Joke House in Timonium

magoobyalt.jpgYour standard comedy club doesn’t need many frills — just a microphone, an exposed-brick wall, and a schlubby comic parsing the day’s events.

Magooby’s Joke House, which moved from Parkville to Timonium last month, doesn’t alter the formula. Its new location is a former auditorium, almost big enough to host a high school production of “Oklahoma!” But it’s as sparsely decorated as an Elks’ Club.

Just two shades of paint — red and blue — and a few posters with one-liners like  “How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The club hasn’t piled on the glitz because it doesn’t need to.

Baltimore has few comedy clubs to begin with, and certainly none as big as this one. And owners have fortified themselves against failure by smartly selecting a spot amid Timonium’s hotel area. If locals don’t trek out here to see the club’s comics, tourists and conventioneers certainly will.

On a recent Thursday, when the club hosted a political round-table featuring with 98Rock’s Mickey Cucchiella, Rain Pryor, bartender and comic Mike Tee and comic Marc Unger, among others, tables were full except for the last two rows.

Magooby’s first opened three years ago in Parkville, replacing Tracy’s Comedy Club. It’s still the only place in the area other than the Baltimore Comedy Factory that is strictly for comics. Other venues — like The Hippodrome Theatre, which hosted Demetri Martin recently, and The Ottobar — host only occasional comedy nights.

But Magooby’s even has an open mike night.

At the new location, the owners’ idea of decoration consists of two images of Richard Pryor and George Carlin spray-painted above the platform stage, overlooking the comics like two spectral ghosts. Or maybe like Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppets.”

The other hints of color are the red mantelpieces covering dozens of cocktail tables.Not that what’s on the wall matters. Magooby’s knows comedy seekers don’t go to a club for the decor but for what’s on stage. Comedy clubs are slightly seedy by nature.

The classic image is of a lone comic on stage, enveloped in darkness, except for the spotlight and the cigarette in his hand.

Magooby’s old location, in the basement of Bowman Restaurant, was along those lines. But the new place is more inviting than that. From the second row, where I was sitting, the crowd and all seven comics on stage were clearly seen and heard.

The lights might have even been too bright for some of them, exposing some faces that were clearly made for radio.

Cucchiella, sporting a peroxide blond hairdo that recalled a chubby Billy Idol*, took on Mike Tee, a Neanderthal by his own admission, over the legalization of marijuana.

“I would much rather deal with a pot head than Mike Tee,” he said. “With a pot head it might take a minute to get the sentence out, but when it’s out, at least you know what the sentence is. With Mike Tee, you need a cryptologist.”

Comics on stage also riffed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and illegal immigration. “You give the Israelis Southern Arizona, you will not get one Mexican across the border,” said Marc Unger, whose brother Andrew is a co-owner of the club. Comedian Mike Storck added, “The Jews will start building settlements down into Mexico.”

Cucchiella then chimed in, “It’ll be like Baltimore’s bed bug problem but with Jews.”

Though arranged like one of the round tables on “Real Time Bill Maher” — several comics taking jabs at politicians, from Barack Obama to Governor Martin O’Malley — towards the end of the night it had taken on a much more casual attitude. The seven comics were just lazily sitting on stage, taking questions from the audience and occasionally passing the mike to each other.

Cucchiella and Unger dominated the conversation. Pryor, on the other hand, tweeted from stage.

Informality suits the club just fine, though. Magooby’s hasn’t so far attracted big headliners — the most famous face on its picture wall was Hal Hall Sparks, the VH1 personality.

But with it’s cheap cover by club standards ($14) and reasonable dining offers — $4.75 for a Yuengling and $6 for a bucket of onion rings — it won’t scare off any of the nearby suburbanites.

Even then, tourists from the Holiday Inn and Extended Stay American Hotel down the road are likely to also keep Magooby’s in business even when it’s just a comic from Timonium on stage.

On Thursday, the crowd — mainly white, as the comics pointed out — had a good time. When the performers were asked how marijuana should be stopped, it was an audience member who got the laugh, screaming: “You smoke it!”

Magooby's Joke House is at 9603 Deereco Road, Timonium. Cover is $14. Beer starts at $4.75 and food at $6. Call 410-252-2727 or go to

Photo: Andrew Unger at the new Magooby's/Chris Lewis, Baltimore Sun

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*I incorrectly described Cucchiella's hair color; it is not peroxide blond, but brown. He would also prefer that I call him "portly" rather than chubby, but that's wishful thinking, not a correction.

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Posted by Erik Maza at 11:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Dude your first language may not be English but there's a simple distinct difference between "on" & "in"

It's Hal Sparks. Not Hall Sparks.

OK you changed one change the other. The only thing that can be on a basement is another floor

Your review makes the place sound a bit better than the hack name. That name alone will keep me out.

The description of the decor doesn't do much to pique my interest, either: Just two shades of paint — red and blue — and a few posters with one-liners like “How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The club hasn’t piled on the glitz because it doesn’t need to.

sounds like "trouble" wouldnt go anywhere without gold handrails, rainbow wall coloring and a name that suites such a high class comedy establishment. im wondering if you know what magoobys means? its kind of sad that the name will keep you out. ever had a skittle or ridden on a duck-boat?

@concerned: it's a combination of the names of andrew unger's sons

I love this place. My family and i used to visit to smaller bowman location and have since frequented the new spot. the newer menu is great and the service is just as good. definitely would recomend magoobys to anyone looking for a new way to enjoy a friday or saturday evening.

I could bite my tongue and say nothing OR clarify the name "Magooby's Joke House". Think I'll clarify... The name is Magooby is derived from Andrew's (the owner) two kid who when they were little were nicknamed Mr. B and Mr. Magoo. Mostly though, that name was decided precisely because it was such a silly name. As someone who's been a comic for a long time, one of the things comics joke about with each other backstage is some of the clubs we play and their embarrassing names- "Uncle Funny's Chuckle Hut", "Guffaws" or whatever. I thought it would be great to make some of my dark, angry comic friends like Nick Dipaolo and Pete Correale have to tell people they're working a place called "Magooby's Joke House". Point was to be so over the top with the name, it almost has a hipness.


First off, Skittles are delightful. Duck Boats, not so much. I'd rather hovercrafts. Now that we've got that established. Let's move on.

To answer your question, no. I had no idea of the meaning behind Magooby's Joke House... and now that you explain it, I still don't find it funny. To me, that name is hack. Period.

Marc stated that his goal was to make the name so over the top that it would be funny. Didn't work on me. To me it's just hack. I can see the bit about the posters on the walls a bit more clearly now, with the whole, "it's so hack, it goes 360, back to funny" concept, but as Homer Simpson said, "Jokes are funny when you explain them."

Sorry... Don't know why it didn't take, but Posted by: Anonymous | October 29, 2010 7:05 AM

that was me.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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