Crackhouse Comedy Club (Crackhouse) has been home to local comedians, including Dr. Jason Leong, Joanne Kam, Hannah Azlan, and Kavin Jay. It has also hosted international comics, giving Malaysians a way to access this entertainment scene.
For 7 years, the club’s livelihood was based on the sale of tickets for live shows, which represented 80% of its income. The other 20% came from snacks and drinks from its bar to complement the performances on site.
“During the shutdown, the entire revenue channel was eliminated,” Rizal Van Geyzel, founder of the club, told Vulcan Post. So to stay afloat in the middle of MCO 3.0, they started selling pizza for delivery and takeout from their club.
Turning in line was difficult
Rizal is no stranger to stand-up comedy. Being a full-time entertainer, he opened Crackhouse in 2014 as a practice setting for emerging local comedians to help them hone their skills. It would also help grow the local community that appreciates such acts.
He shared that during the first and second MCOs, the team tried many ways to stay afloat and experimented with selling tickets to live shows through Zoom. “But the majority of people preferred to wait until they could attend a physical live show,” Rizal explained.
Not to mention, few comedians were open to the idea of acting online as a technical crew, as it was too expensive.
Then the team diversified by running a training course called “Introduction to stand-up comedy” with 8 participants per group on Zoom. He covered lessons on character creation, comedy writing, acting, and disaster mitigation, and was guided by Crackhouse’s own comics.
Dictionary time: Disaster mitigation is about preparing for the worst, be it technical problems with the sound system or interlocutors (crowd interruptions).
Rizal Van Geyzel, founder of the Crackhouse Comedy Club.
The participants who joined did not necessarily want to become comedians. It was simply to learn how to be better communicators and presenters in their respective fields.
With the MCOs, Crackhouse did not earn income through food deliveries, as they mostly sold snacks such as hot dogs, nachos, fries, sandwiches, and drinks. I just didn’t have a unique enough proposition that was worth a client’s money.
“People came to Crackhouse for the comedy, not for the food,” he said.
But hard hit by the club’s falling revenue, Rizal turned to another passion: his love of pizzas, especially crispy and thin-crusted ones.
Then Rizal spent 3 months R&D on the pizzas to make them special for Crackhouse. He learned how to make the pizza base from scratch, along with the necessary sauces, toppings, etc.
Using fresh ingredients, he takes no shortcuts with anything that goes into the pizzas. “Except for cheese, we don’t have a cow. For that we buy quality imported mozzarella cheese ”, joked Rizal.
Now, with the finished products, Rizal conceptualized the club’s new menu one morning at 4 a.m. M., Using bold puns for the names of the pizzas.
“The ‘I have meat!’ The pizza was supposed to be called ‘Playful Breast’ because it is so good it will make you horny. We thought that was going too far, plus pizza is supposed to be family-friendly, ”the comedian enthused. Pizzas can cost between RM15-RM30, depending on the ingredients.
The pizzas were also launched at a perfect time; in March 2021, live events were allowed to resume. It gave Crackhouse a short window to market its menu to a crowd of people dining on site, not to mention putting on shows again.
Rizal reported that customer responses were positive and helped the club raise awareness of its offerings among regular and new customers. Diners also provided invaluable feedback that helped them modify the recipes to improve them.
Back in the confinement
Following the total crash of MCO 3.0, Crackhouse was now armed with pizza deliveries as a source of income. But money was still coming out of their pockets.
Since the team uses a professional pizza oven, electricity bills at the club have skyrocketed. They also experimented with many different packaging options as they needed one that would not harm the planet or the pizzas during deliveries.
“Once you’ve added in personnel costs, delivery partner processing fees, and everything else needed to run our business, there are some orders where we were making as low as RM1 per pie,” Rizal admitted.
However, he is thankful that pizzas are not one-time purchases for Malaysians and has seen customers buy multiple pizzas, several times a month. Higher margins have also been placed on orders and beverages to help offset low margins for pizzas.
The first time we received a repeat Grab order from a customer it was our defining moment to sell these pizzas. We knew that comics and fans who are loyal to us would give it a try once, but the hardest part is getting them to come back, and that can only be done if we offer a really great product.
Rizal Van Geyzel, founder of the Crackhouse Comedy Club
Every Crackhouse pizza order comes with a QR code containing comedy clips provided by previous headliners. The pizzas also come with reheating instructions printed on the box seal.
The comedian added that whenever dinners and live shows are allowed again, they are fully equipped and ready to serve their pizzas at the club. “You could even say that we are desperate because cutting delivery partners is really hurting our profit margins,” he shared.
“We will always continue to worry about our food and make sure it is at the service of our live shows. We just want to have surprisingly good food for a comedy club, rather than surprisingly good comedy for a pizzeria! “
- You can learn more about Crackhouse Comedy Club here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups that we have written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Rizal Van Geyzel, Founder of Crackhouse Comedy Club