John Buss, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, is the new owner of the world-famous Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena.
The sale was finalized on Nov. 1, according to venuesnow.com, a website that claims to be the world’s leading publication for venue and event professionals. No other media outlet has reported on the sale. The site posted a picture of Buss and former club owner Bob Fisher with a key in a picture frame.
The venue has a 200-seat main room and a second stage.
“It’s time for me to move on,” Fisher, who has owned the club since 1978. “I’m at peace with it and I feel like the club is going into really good hands.”
According to the online magazine, Fisher received several offers since he decided to sell the club two years ago. At least two groups made serious but unsuccessful bids.
After he spoke to Buss, Fisher realized that the Lakers vice president enjoyed comedy and wanted to preserve the club’s legacy. Fisher will serve as a consultant for one year. Currently, the club employs 43 people.
The two sides negotiated for seven months. In the end, Fisher retained ownership of the building. Other financial details of the deal were not immediately known.
Buss is the oldest son of former Lakers owner Jerry Buss. According to a 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times, John Buss was accompanying his father when Jack Kent Cooke sold him the Lakers, the Kings and the Great Western Forum, along with a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County.
After the elder Buss died in 2013, his 66 percent controlling interest in the famed NBA franchise was divided equally amongst John and his five siblings.
John Buss has previously held positions as president of the Los Angeles Lazers professional indoor soccer team and the Los Angeles Sparks professional women’s basketball team. He’s also a racing enthusiast and has competed in several off-road racing events.
The Ice House opened in 1960 as a showcase for folk music, although some comedians appeared at the venue at the time. Pat Paulson, a deadpan TV comic who came to fame on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and ran as a satirical presidential candidate in 1968 and 1996, was the first comedian to perform at the venue. His performance that night included laughing upside down and creating art with paint–soaked hair.
The group Steeltown Two headlined the show that night, and stayed there for the next three months.
At that time, the Ice House was co-owned by Bob Stane, who currently owns Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.
In 1978, the original owners were bought out by a trio of investors led by Fisher who changed the format of the club to stand-up comedy.
“The Ice House is America’s longest-running comedy club, and is so acoustically perfect that more comedy albums have been recorded there than anywhere on the planet,” said local comedian and former Pasadena Weekly Arts Editor Carl Kozlowski. “Bob Fisher has been an incredibly good and friendly owner, always providing a class-A experience to his customers.”
Over the decades some of the most famous comics in the world have performed at the club, including Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, David Letterman, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld.
Tomlin recorded two albums at the Ice House. Bob Newhart and the Smothers Brothers also recorded albums there. All told, more than 50 live albums have been recorded at the Ice House.
In a 2010 Los Angeles Times article, Steve Martin recalled an incident in which he bombed at the Ice House in the early 1960s. According to Martin, after 20 minutes of a 30-minute set he had not received one laugh. But instead of panicking and trying harder to get laughs, Martin decided to bomb completely and stopped trying to get laughs.
“The Ice House was known as a place where comedians could make missteps and still be invited back, because the staff was so supportive and nurturing,” Martin was quoted as saying in the article.
“This is not retirement,” Fisher said. “I’ve been working for 53 years straight, and I’m going to take a break and I’ll see what interests me next,” he told venuesnow.com.