You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Laugh Factory Gives Back With Meals and Programs

They say that everyone has a story to tell. It’s become Jamie Masada’s mission to help some people learn how to tell theirs.

For 35 years, the founder of the Laugh Factory has made his main location on Sunset Boulevard home to a comedy camp for kids ages 9 to 16. While all are welcome to audition to be a part of the action, he’s particularly interested in helping those who have faced hardships.

More than 1,000 disadvantaged tweens and teens have benefitted from the program, which brings in A-listers like Jim Carrey and Dave Chappelle to offer expert coaching. And Masada says he’s considering expanding the camp to his Chicago club.

“All we do with the comedy camp is we give them enough confidence … that, anywhere they go, they can be able to communicate with people,” says Masada, who came up with the idea for the camp after he met a shy, emotionally broken kid after a performance in Compton and gave him a job at his club. There is no expectation that all graduates will end up with a career in comedy — one became an oil executive.

Comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish frequently tells the story that she ended up at the Comedy Camp while in foster system and was advised by her social worker that “you have two choices: You can either go the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp or you can go to psychiatric therapy.”

Popular on Variety

She chose the former and says that “from then on out, it’s like, I always had a safe place” with Masada taking on a father figure role of encouraging her “buddy, buddy, buddy, buddy, you can do better; I know this. You can be a big star.”

He also respects the emotional and physical exhaustion it takes to do the job of a comedian. After the 2007 suicide of comic Richard Jeni, Masada began bringing in psychiatrists to offer therapy. He also has a reputation for watching performances and offering constructive criticism, although this has lessened as he has a wife and two small children.

But it is by no means the only way that Masada gives back to the community. He offers meals for those in need during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and free religious services during the Jewish High Holy Days, encouraging his friends and regular performers to get involved (Tim Allen has been known to dress as Santa Claus during the winter and hand out $100 bills.)

While it’s almost expected for business owners of a certain ilk to offer these services now, journalist William Knoedelseder, who has covered the L.A. comedy scene through articles and his book “I’m Dying Up Here,” says: “Nightclub owners weren’t in the business of doing that back then” during the Laugh Factory’s early days.

“He likes to do things that aren’t dedicated to making a profit and I applaud anybody who does that,” Knoedelseder says. “He’s making the life of comics a lot easier.”

And, fittingly for someone working in an industry that thrives on performers’ needs for self-expression, he’s been actively involved with organizations that protect and promote it. He was given the ACLU Freedom of Speech Award and the NAACP Freedom Award.

“Freedom of speech is freedom of everything,” Masada says. “I think you need to have people like that be there to help you … ACLU’s got to be the voice for underprivileged people [or] people who have been put in jail for no reason … that’s what the ACLU’s about.”

Allen says: “The most fruitful part of Jamie is the stuff he does that you don’t even know he does.

“I love when you do stuff without expecting anything in return. And he does a lot of that,” he adds before laughing, “I wish I didn’t have to say nice things him about because, generally, I like busting his balls.”

More Legit

  • The Thin Place review

    'The Thin Place': Theater Review

    I can’t resist: “The Thin Place” is a thin play. But before it drifts away into the eternal empyrean, this slender drama by Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Hillary and Clinton”) tells a beguiling ghost story. Well, not exactly a ghost story, but the story of a beguiling haunting that may or may [...]

  • The Ocean at the End of

    'The Ocean at the End of the Lane': Theater Review

    Is Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” a story of childhood for adults or an adult view of the world for children? As director Katy Rudd’s astonishingly theatrical production of Joel Horwood’s adaptation resoundingly proves, the answer is: Both. Although wisely recommended for audiences above the age of twelve – the [...]

  • Warner Bros. Pictures trailer launch event

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu Tease 'In the Heights' Movie

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos took the train to the top of the world to offer a sneak peek of “In the Heights,” Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Miranda’s (other) hit musical. “I’m thrilled we’re here, and I’m thrilled we’re uptown,” Miranda rhapsodized to a packed crowd at a cozy [...]

  • Lucas Hnath

    Listen: Lucas Hnath's Own Play Gives Him Nightmares

    Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”) has two shows in New York this season: a monologue based on the real-life experiences of his mother, and a ghost story. One of them gave him nightmares — but it wasn’t the ghost story. Listen to this week’s podcast below: He explained why on the [...]

  • Greater Clements review

    'Greater Clements': Theater Review

    The American Dream and all of its values have taken quite a beating lately. Director and screenwriter Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Bruce Springsteen’s recent “Western Stars” album, even Ralph Lauren in the documentary “Very Ralph” show us how this country and all of its totems and merits have gone asunder. No dreams are more crushed, [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr Walk of Fame

    Harry Connick Jr. on Returning to Broadway

    Harry Connick Jr. is headed back to Broadway with a three-week limited engagement celebration of legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The actor and musician came up with the concept for the show and is also directing. “I love Broadway and if I had two careers one of them would be only Broadway just because I love [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content