After 41 Years, Pasadena Ice House Comedy Club Owner Sells to Johnny Buss

Ex-owner will stay on as a consultant through club remodel and upgrade

Published : Friday, November 22, 2019 | 5:44 AM

Former Pasadena Ice House Comedy Club owner Bob Fisher never expected he would sell off his beloved comedy business, but changed his mind when he found an enthusiastic buyer in new owner Johnny Buss.

“It’s time to pass the torch and I found the right person who wants to continue the legacy of The Ice House,” Fisher said. “The club is in good hands.”

Buss is part of the Buss family well-known as the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Johnny loves comedy, he loves comedians,” said Fisher said, who had owned the club since 1978. “He’s been coming to the Ice House for years unbeknownst to me.”

Fisher will stay on as a consultant for a year. Buss officially became the new owner of the Ice House as of November 1.

“This is new for him as well,” he said. “He’s an accomplished businessman. He’s run the LA Sparks. He’s kept me on as a consultant and I’m glad to lend any expertise I have.”

The venue has two stages with a 200-seat main room, in addition to a smaller, second stage. There will likely be a redesign of the venue, Fisher said.

“I know there’s going to be some remodeling, but that hasn’t been disclosed yet,” Fisher said.

Buss is the oldest son of former Lakers owner Jerry Buss. When his father died in 2013, John along with five siblings split ownership of Jerry’s 66 percent controlling interest in the Lakers.

Buss previously held positions as president of the Los Angeles Lazers indoor soccer, and the Los Angeles Sparks pro women’s basketball team. He has also been involved in off-road racing.

Buss is used to running businesses with many employees. Fewer than 50 people are employed at The Ice House.

The Ice House opened in 1960, originally as a folk music room, but a wide range of now-famous comedians got their start there. The original owner was Bob Stane. Today, Stane operates the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.

David Letterman, Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres and Robin Williams are among the performers who played The Ice House. The venue has such great acoustics that many live comedy albums were recorded on the premises over the years.

Fisher said he’s had a remarkable run. He’s hosted some unbelievable acts over the year and the club has given plenty of young people and newbies a break.

Among those who made their debut at the Ice House are Pat Paulsen, Steve Martin and many others.

Fisher was among a group of three investors who came in and bought the venue in 1978.

Today the live comedy business is up against increased competition for the consumer dollar and it’s not easy running an entertainment venue, Fisher said.

“When people come out they want to laugh and reduce tension,” Fisher said. “So you have to do a good job of putting together a great show. The Ice House is celebrating its 59th anniversary and over 5 million people have been here. Even being located on a one-way street in an alley. So it’s about the quality of the entertainment.”

It’s inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the new owner and that brings new energy into the business, Fisher said.

“‘I can’t tell you how thrilled I am,’ is what Johnny said,” Fisher told Pasadena Now. “He feels honored to own The Ice House. Johnny is going to keep it going for at least a few months before he makes changes.”

Fisher has his own take on the competition.

“I don’t see other comedy clubs as our competition,” Fisher said. “I see other forms of entertainment as the competition. Most people are going to the movies, 99 percent of them, while 5 percent are going to comedy club. I think we want to go after that kind of an audience. We’re kind of a friendly group in general.”

But above all, Fisher said, the live entertainment must go on.

“Comedy is more important than ever because free speech is being challenged,” Fisher said. “Comedians have to keep the door open and not be hindered by political correctness. They’re taking it on the chin for all of us.”

Fisher will retain ownership of the historic brick building.

The Ice House Comedy Club is located at 24 N Mentor Ave, Pasadena. For more information visit

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