For the founder of a comedy club, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada’s stories tend toward the sentimental rather than the hilarious. When he talks about the inspiration for his annual free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, he’s far from a bucket of laughs.
“I heard about an actor-comedian in town in 1979 who wanted to be an actor,” Masada said. “He found out how hard it is, and he didn’t want to go back home for a holiday, and he killed himself. I heard about it, and I said why don’t I have a little dinner for everybody, like a family?”
Now in its 35th year, Masada’s Laugh Factory welcomes anyone and everyone looking for a warm Thanksgiving dinner, served up by some of standup comedy’s most famous faces. Past servers include Tim Allen, Dane Cook and Paul Mooney, among many others. Masada doesn’t ask for their help, but the talent shows up, he says.
Starting at 1 p.m., with seatings at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Masada and friends will dish out food to anyone who needs a meal, with a free standup show thrown in. Masada expects more than 2,500 visitors, and won’t accept a dime from any of them.
There’s no need to be an aspiring comedian or actor to sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some.
Masada says some of the starving artists to come through the line over the years have gone on to reach the highest points of Hollywood success, though he wouldn’t name names; that’s not the point.
“You give them a little bit of energy, positive energy, so they can do what they want to do,” Masada says. “That’s the most important thing.”