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Funny Farm finds new laugh factory in Niles

For the last few years, Funny Farm Comedy Club owner Dave Robich has been a lot like the comedians he hires, traveling from place to place.

Robich doesn’t plan to abandon the satellite locations he has been using in the Mahoning Valley and western Pennsylvania, but he envisions his new space below Margarita King, 1201 Youngstown Warren Road, Niles, as a permanent location for standup comedy.

Comedian Chris Barnes, who Robich has been booking since the Funny Farm was based at the former Holiday Inn Metroplex in Liberty, will open the new venue on Saturday.

“Even if we keep using the satellite locations — and we will — the idea was to find that one permanent location where we could keep doing shows at on a regular basis,” Robich said. “We’ll have this permanent home where soon we’ll be doing shows every Friday and Saturday and hoping to add Thursday and maybe even Sunday shows by fall.”

Robich said he’s thought for a couple years that the building, once home to Alberini’s Restaurant, would be a great location, but he didn’t reach out to the owners of Margarita King until earlier this year.

“It happened kind of quick,” he said. “The first time he talked was about a month ago.”

On Tuesday, Robich was experimenting with seat configurations, getting the stage area ready and waiting to install a neon sign in the space, but he believes the space will work great for live comedy.

“The lower ceilings are perfect for comedy,” he said. “It’s already painted black, the intimacy, the brick wall. There’s something very comedy club-like about this room. I’ve been running the speakers to see what it sounds like in here acoustically. For comedy, for laughter, it’s just what we’re looking for.

“The location is great, parking is great. Honestly, I haven’t found a downside to this room yet.”

Right now he has about 80 seats in the club. He thinks he can expand that capacity to 100, maybe 110. That’s about half the capacity of the old Metroplex location, but it’s about 50 percent bigger than the satellite setups at places like Bull & Bear Tavern in Liberty, Urban Tap in Warren, Riser Tavern on the Links in Columbiana and The Clark House in Hermitage, Pa.

“With 50, 60 seats (at the satellites), there are certain acts we just can’t bring to town,” Robich said. “It’s not the Metroplex, but with 100 seats if we can do three, four shows in a weekend, we can bring in some bigger acts, and most have been willing to work with us over the years.”

Barnes already was booked for this weekend before Robich realized the new location would be ready to open, but his proven success in the area made him a good choice for the venue’s debut.

“He has a written act, but he just has fun with the audience. Nowadays, people like that, a comedian working with the audience. Maybe it’s because of YouTube and Tik Tok, but Chris has been doing that crowd work thing for 30 years. He’s just so good at it, and he’s developed a local following because of it.”

If you go …

WHO: Chris Barnes

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Funny Farm Comedy Club at Margarita King, 1201 Youngstown Warren Road, Niles

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $22.50 and are available online at funnyfarmcomedyclub.com and by calling 330-759-4242.

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