Producer Nichelle Murdock and her long-standing commitment to cultivating Black comedy spaces

Nichelle Murdock’s Crack’Em Up Comedy Show in the Belly Room at The Comedy Store, which takes place every Thursday night. Photo by Nichelle Murdock.

In Los Angeles, it’s safe to say that residents and visitors who are seeking laughs are quite spoiled when it comes to the probability of landing in an above-average comedy room on a Friday night, or any other night. The excitement of live comedy lives all throughout this city; theaters, big rooms, small rooms, hidden rooms, after-hours in the back of a barbershop, parking lots– the list goes on. In the most unexpected places, one can find their favorite comics on display.

But in this entertainment-powerhouse city, there’s a specific type of comedy space that tends to fall between the cracks: “Work-out rooms”, or shows that can serve as a safe space for comics to work out their new material in front of an audience.  

Since 2003, producer Nichelle Murdock has been hand-crafting the “work-out room” environment, with her shows pulling in some of the most well-respected and up-and-coming comedians in the industry.

Her weekly stand-up show, which she created and produces, “Crack’Em Up Comedy”, is a Thursday night staple in the Belly Room at the world-renowned Comedy Store in West Hollywood.

Murdock launched Crack’Em Up Comedy shortly after arriving to Los Angeles, relocating from Washington D.C., and Atlanta before that, where she attended Clark Atlanta University, majoring in Mass Media Arts: Radio/TV/Film Production.

She always knew producing was in her future, and she had been working entertainment industry jobs since graduating college, holding positions at major networks such as MTV, Oxygen Media, and BET. And as the story goes for most young professionals– especially in the entertainment industry– Murdock remained patient, paying her dues and soaking up as much experience and knowledge as possible before spreading her wings into her own business ventures.

It was a 2003 visit to The Comedy Store that enticed her to take action toward producing her own stand-up show. Murdock recalls reading in an article that Pauly Shore, son of The Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore, was seeking promotors and creators to bring more shows to the venue. Murdock quickly began connecting the dots. “This is my time”, she remembers thinking. “When I came in, it was during a period where there were no Black shows. I knew I wanted to uplift the space of Black comedians. The Comedy Store welcomed me with open arms, and I’ve been there ever since.”

To this very day, nearly two decades later, the Crack’Em Up Comedy show residency remains in the Belly Room at The Comedy Store every Thursday night.

And while the Crack’Em Up shows began in the early 2000s as a work-out room for the crafting and molding of a comic’s latest material, it’s now far deeper than that. The Thursday night show, over the years, has grown into a treasured, safe space for Black comedy and its fans.

Next up, Nichelle Murdock’s Crack’Em Up Comedy shows are set to occupy the Inglewood Miracle Theater. In fact, the first two Inglewood shows have recently come and gone, but more are on the way. December 11 will be the third show at the Miracle Theater, holiday-themed. And as pandemic tensions continue to alleviate, Murdock looks forward to filling in more and more seats at the Miracle Theater.

“The Miracle Theater embracing us is such a blessing. We’re building this for the culture and for the community, and now we are in the community. I’m looking forward to building the brand here in Inglewood,” said Murdock.


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