Crackhouse Comedy Club (Crackhouse) is home to local stand-up comedians, including Dr. Jason Leonga, Joanne Kam, Hannah Azlan and Kavin Jay. It also houses international comics, giving Malaysians a way to access this entertainment scene.
For seven years, the existence of the club was based on the sale of tickets for live shows, which amounted to 80% of revenue. The other 20% came from their snacks and drinks at the bar in addition to performances in the space.
“During the lockout, the entire revenue channel was deleted,” Rizal Van Geyzel, the club’s co-founder, told the Vulcan Post. So to stay afloat in the middle of MCO 3.0, they started selling pizzas for delivery and to take away from their club.
Turning over the internet was difficult
Rizalu herself is no stranger to stand-up comedy. Being a full-time performer, he opened Crackhouse in 2014 as a practice for upcoming local comedians to help them hone their skills. It would also help grow a local community that appreciated such deeds.
He shared that during the first and second MCOs, the team tried many ways to stay afloat and experimented with selling tickets for live shows via Zoom. “But people generally preferred to wait until they could come to the live physical show,” Rizal explained.
Not to mention, few comedians were open to the idea of performing online because the technical equipment was too expensive.
The team then diversified by running a course called “Introduction to Stand-Up Comedy” with 8 participants per cohort at Zoom. He included lessons on creating a personality, writing comedies, performing and mitigating disasters, and was mentored by Crackhouse’s own comics.
Dictionary time: Disaster mitigation refers to preparing for the worst, whether it is technical problems with the sound system or hackers (interruptions from the crowd).
Rizal Van Geyzel, co-founder of the Crackhouse Comedy Club.
Participants who joined did not necessarily want to become stand-up comedians. It was just to teach the ropes how to become better communicators and exhibitors in their fields.
Directing to F&B
Through the MCO, Crackhouse did not make money from food deliveries, as they mostly sold snacks such as hot dogs, nachos, chips, sandwiches and drinks. He just didn’t have a unique enough offer worth the buyer’s money.
“People came to Crackhouse for comedy, not food,” he said.
But hit by a drop in club income, Rizal turned to another passion: his love of pizza, especially crispy, with a thin crust.
Rizal then spent 3 months researching and developing pizzas to make them special to Crackhouse. He learned how to make a pizza base from scratch, along with the necessary sauces, toppings, etc.
Using fresh ingredients, do not use shortcuts for anything that enters the pizza. “Apart from cheese, we don’t own a cow. For that, we buy imported, quality, mozzarella cheese “, joked Rizal.
Now with the finished products, Rizal devised a new club menu one morning at 4am, using a cheeky word game for pizza names.
“That” I have beef! “The pizza was supposed to be called ‘Frisky brisket’ because it’s so good you’ll get horny. We thought it was too far, plus the pizza should be family-friendly,” the comedian said enthusiastically. Pizzas can cost between RM15-RM30, depending about accessories.
Pizzas were also launched at the perfect time; in March 2021, live events were allowed to continue. He gave Crackhouse a short window to place his dish on the table, not to mention repeated shows.
Rizal reported that customer responses were positive and helped the club make regular and new customers aware of their offer. Diners also provided invaluable feedback that helped them refine recipes for improvement.
After the complete lock of MCO 3.0, Crackhouse was now armed with pizza deliveries as revenue. Money was still coming out of their pockets.
As the team uses a professional pizza oven, the electricity bills at the club have skyrocketed. They also experimented with many different packaging options, as they needed one that would not damage the planet or pizza during delivery.
“Once you add staff costs, delivery partner processing fees and everything else needed to run our business, there are some orders where we only bring RM1 per pie,” Rizal admitted.
However, he is grateful that pizzas are not a one-time purchase of Malaysians and has seen customers buy more pizzas, several times a month. Higher margins were also placed on side orders and drinks to compensate for the low margins for pizza.
The first time we received a repeat Grab order from a customer was our deciding moment to sell these pizzas. We knew that comics and fans who were loyal to us would try it once, but the hardest thing is to make them come back, and that can only be done if we offer a really great product.
Rizal Van Geyzel, co-founder of the Crackhouse Comedy Club
With every pizza order from Crackhouse comes a QR code containing comic clips provided by past headliners. The pizza comes with heating instructions printed on the box seal.
The comedian added that whenever lunches and live shows are allowed again, they are fully equipped and ready to serve their pizzas at the club. “You could even say we’re desperate because the cut from the delivery partner is really hurting our margin,” he shared.
“We will always take care of our food and we will make sure that it is in the service of our live shows. We just want to have surprisingly good food for a comedy club, not surprisingly good comedy for a pizzeria! “
- You can find out more about Crackhouse Comedy Club here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we have written here.
Credits for featured paintings: Rizal Van Geyzel, co-founder of Crackhouse Comedy Club