Margie Coyle: Queen of Cap City

April 6, 2017

It’s a Thurs­day after­noon and I could­n’t be more excit­ed to sit down with Margie Coyle at an Austin insti­tu­tion, Enchi­ladas Y Mas, and learn about her sto­ry, as well as anoth­er Austin insti­tu­tion: Cap City Com­e­dy Club.

Born and raised in Gar­land, Texas, Margie Coyle moved to Austin in 1983 to attend the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas. She had ini­tial­ly dropped her class­es while work­ing at Paine Web­ber as an assis­tant. Regard­less, she passed the Series 7 Exam, a very long and dif­fi­cult test, to become a stock­bro­ker. Being denied a license because she did not have a degree, was the moti­va­tion she need­ed to go back and com­plete her stud­ies. I had to know, giv­en that deter­mi­na­tion and inter­est to pur­sue finance, how did she get into the com­e­dy business?

In The Begin­ning, There Was Laff Stop

(Source: Austin Chron­i­cle)

Coyle got her start while wait­ing tables at, what was then, The Laff Stop. Her hus­band, then boyfriend, was bar­tend­ing down­town and was offered tick­ets to see hyp­no­tist Richard De La Font (they were all the rage in the 80’s), at The Laff Stop. A friend told her the club was hir­ing servers and she applied as a way to earn extra mon­ey. She grad­u­at­ed UT with a finance degree in 1987 and con­tin­ued work­ing at Paine Web­ber by day, and wait­ing tables at The Laff Stop at night. Like any young col­lege grad, Coyle did­n’t real­ly care for the ear­ly hours Paine Web­ber required. As luck would have it, in 1989, Angela Davis, the pro­mo­tions per­son at Laff Stop, decid­ed to move to LA. Ross Jack­son, Laff Stop’s man­ag­er, offered Coyle the pro­mo­tions job. For a time, she con­tin­ued to work pro­mo­tions for the club by day and wait tables at night. Not long after, she became man­ag­er of the club.

In 1995, Bruce and Colleen Barshop bought the club and changed the name to Cap City Com­e­dy Club. They were the own­ers until New Year’s Eve of 2002, when Coyle and her hus­band pur­chased the club, along with part­ners Rich and Lisa Miller, Colleen McGarr, and Dun­can Strauss. She remem­bers her “…proud day as an own­er of a com­e­dy club. It was New Year’s Eve of 2002 and both sinks in the wom­en’s restroom were leak­ing and I was sick.” You can imag­ine the what have I got­ten myself into” feel­ing of that night, but Coyle had already been man­ag­ing the club for years in addi­tion to being the tal­ent wran­gler for Club Soda in Mon­tréal from 2000 – 2002, so she was a pro. Pro” being my words, not hers. Coyle remains hum­ble, despite the years of work­ing with some of the great­est in the business.

The Path Of Passion

Martha Kel­ly (Source: The Bone Zone)

While she refus­es to take cred­it for the careers of any comics, I can clear­ly see the joy Coyle takes in hav­ing watched comics like Howard Kre­mer, Bren­don Walsh, and Martha Kel­ly launch­ing their careers in Austin. There’s noth­ing more fun than sit­ting in the lounge and watch­ing the tru­ly fun­ny ones have their moment,” Coyle says with a smile. I can hear the love in her voice, that at times sounds like a proud par­ent and some­times a dear friend. The first time she saw Martha Kel­ly she was at the Velvee­ta Room and Char­lie Shan­non said, You have to watch this girl!” Clear­ly, she was impressed, as she went on to man­age Martha Kel­ly for a time, among oth­ers, includ­ing Megan Mooney. Coyle beams, as she recalls the ear­ly years of Mooney’s rela­tion­ship with her hus­band, Eddie Gossling.

Gossling was sched­uled to per­form the night of 911. Coyle remem­bers the emo­tion­al con­flict while try­ing to decide whether or not to have the show. That Tues­day morn­ing she remem­bers dri­ving on the free­way and lis­ten­ing to Dud­ley and Bob on 93.7 KLBJ. Dale Dud­ley kept talk­ing about the tow­ers” being hit, but she did not know what he was ref­er­enc­ing. She called Gossling in San Anto­nio and woke him up. He turned on the tele­vi­sion to dis­cov­er what was unfold­ing in New York. Ulti­mate­ly, they decid­ed peo­ple need­ed to laugh and the show must go on, so Gossling took the stage and the show was a success.

Eddie Gossling (Source: Com­e­dy Cen­tral)

A Com­mit­ment To Charity

Margie Coyle shares a sto­ry of Ron White, who spent his ear­ly years in Austin. Yes, that Ron White, years before the Blue Col­lar Com­e­dy Tour. Around 1994, Cap City had agreed to do a Sun­day night fundrais­er at the behest of a head­lin­ing come­di­an. The Fri­day after­noon before the event, the head­lin­er’s man­ag­er called to inform them he could not do the show. Coyle remem­bers call­ing Ron White, who at the time was liv­ing in Mex­i­co, and ask­ing him to step in and head­line the event. White got in his car and drove in from Mex­i­co just to do the show. It was a favor she nev­er forgot.

Speak­ing of fundrais­ers, Cap City con­tin­ues to give back to the com­mu­ni­ty. There is a food dona­tion bin near the front door almost every time you walk in the club and they fre­quent­ly waive admis­sion for a dona­tion. Recent­ly, they gave a por­tion of door sales to the Immi­grant Legal Resource Cen­ter — an orga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ing legal assis­tance to immi­grants and pro­motes the advance­ment of immi­grant rights. They also have an upcom­ing triv­ia night fundrais­er for Austin Child Guid­ance Cen­ter on May 3rd. Coyle attrib­ut­es much of the club’s phil­an­thropy to busi­ness part­ner Rich Miller who she regards as a very gen­er­ous person.”

For­ward To The Future

In our dis­cus­sion, I men­tioned to Coyle that Cap City seems to retain a lot of their staff and almost has a fam­i­ly feel to it. Her reply: I try to sur­round myself with good peo­ple.” She describes her phi­los­o­phy: Treat peo­ple like you want to be treat­ed, treat them like adults, do the job and that’s all you real­ly need, right?” She cred­its a lot to Chandy Popp Kurzweil, who’s been there over 15 years, and Marc McManus and John DeMayo who have both been there over twen­ty years. Last year, the club renamed the front lounge Andy Ritchie’s Balt­haz­ar Lounge,” after the late come­di­an that per­formed and worked there, ear­ly in his career. After being at Cap City week after week for years, I can say each time I walk through the door, I feel at home.

FPIA Wall of Fame (Source: Austin Cul­ture Map)

Now we are approach­ing the busiest time of year when Moon­tow­er Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val and Fun­ni­est Per­son In Austin (FPIA) begin and over­lap. Coyle remarks how Moon­tow­er has grown quick­ly in the short time that it’s been around, which she cred­its large­ly to her busi­ness part­ner Colleen McGarr, a Mon­tréal native that grew up around the largest com­e­dy fes­ti­val, Just for Laughs.

While Moon­tow­er is very impor­tant to Coyle, it seems that FPIA is still her baby and she adores watch­ing young comics emerge. As the per­son that books the fea­ture acts for the club, Coyle says that is the time when you get to see all the new and young tal­ent. That’s where you see Raul Sanchez and Martha Kel­ly and Andrew Dis­mukes and Vanes­sa Gon­za­lez… that’s where you see those guys.” As she talks about see­ing new tal­ent, Coyle lights up and you can see this is where her pas­sion for the com­e­dy busi­ness resides — being there to see a comic’s career begin. Now in its 32nd year, the com­pe­ti­tion draws judges from around the coun­try to come and decide who will wear the crown and cape.

Final­ly, as we fin­ish our chips and que­so, I ask Margie Coyle if she thinks the Austin com­e­dy scene will ever rival that of New York City or Los Ange­les. She believes it’s going to hap­pen with or with­out Cap City, it’s gonna hap­pen.” Coyle paus­es and then adds, Let me take that back, there has to be a Cap City,’ there has to be a venue which serves peo­ple like Antho­ny Jesel­nik that want to come and play an inti­mate show.” I could­n’t agree more.

For a com­plete list of every­thing going on at Cap City Com­e­dy Club, all you got to do is click this link.