Laughing Matters

Standup comedy club opens in downtown Eugene

Comedian Billy Bonnell performing at Olsen Run Comedy Club on Jan. 19.

Olsen Run Comedy Club and Lounge, a professional standup comedy club, has opened in the remodeled bar and lounge of what was formerly Sessions Music Hall. Club founder Joe Sinclitico, a professional comic from Southern California, says plans are underway to produce larger-capacity comedy shows on the big stage. Many venues host live comedy performances in Oregon. Outside Portland, however, Olsen Run is the only full-time comedy club in the state. 

Sinclitico moved to Oregon in 2020 to work at Olsen Run Winery, his wife’s family business in the Harrisburg area. In a phone call with Eugene Weekly, Sinclitico says during the pandemic, Olsen Run’s crew threw special outdoor events at their Harrisburg food cart about 20 miles north of Eugene. According to Sinclitico, standup comedy did well, and many shows featured comics from Eugene, and much of the audience came from Lane County — so why not open a club in town?

Sinclitico says Eugene is a big enough market for a comedy club and is a market that likes live entertainment. “There are comedy shows in Eugene,” he adds, “but there’s nothing like seeing it in an actual club setting.” 

“When you come into a comedy room,” Sinclitico continues, “and it’s hot, and the audience is excited, it’s not a bar; there’s not TVs going — a dark room with a stage and the audience is ready to laugh, that’s when you can learn to ‘murder’” — an expression standups use when set goes well. 

Leigh Anne Jasheway, an experienced Eugene comedian who won EW’s 2023 Best of Eugene Best Comedian category, agrees.

In a bar, Jasheway says, “People are there for many different reasons, which may or may not include comedy.” In situations like that, comedians have to win over the audience. “It may also be easier for comedy producers to get bigger name acts into a comedy club as opposed to a bar with a regular comedy night,” Jasheway adds. 

The Olsen Run venue is a welcome new addition to an active open mic circuit in Eugene and many local comedy shows at other venues. Big-name comics also perform at venues like the Hult Center and McDonald Theatre. Sinclitico, who books the new venue, says he plans to integrate the local comedy scene and host an open mic on Wednesday nights. 

“If Eugene didn’t already have the comedy scene that it does, I don’t know that I would be able to do what I’m doing,” he says. Meanwhile, he adds, featuring diverse local and touring comedians is also a priority.

“I think any comedy club that’s not cultivating as many diverse voices or even styles as possible, you’re going to limit yourself in terms of your audience,” Sinclitico explains. “Standup comedy is booming,” he adds, because there has been a push to provide as many voices as possible. “It’s not just dudes doing jokes. I think that’s critical.”

In the future, Sinclitico says he hopes to host headliners at the club on weekends and have comedy on weeknights as much as possible, with occasional music. The club and lounge serve the wine and food menu as the Harrisburg food cart. 

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