Jeremy Aevermann has been in and around bars and restaurants most of his 38 years. He helped out in his grandmother's restaurant—Millie's Cafe—in his hometown of Marsing; and as a teenager in Nampa, he was a cook at Taco Johns and Burger King. He eventually walked into Quinn's Lounge and Restaurant in Boise after spotting a "help wanted" sign in the window, which led to four years behind the bar there, followed by 11 years behind the bar at Pengilly's Saloon, which culminated in co-owning Solid Grill & Bar and Liquid Laughs with his wife, Elizabeth. He was also a farmhand and lineman along the way, but he always dreamed of owning a bar.
"What can I tell you? My favorite TV show when I was 10 years old was Cheers," Aevermann told Boise Weekly. "That's probably why I love comedy so much, too."
During Treefort Music Fest (March 25-29), Aevermann's Liquid Laughs will be in the spotlight for the inaugural Comedyfort, which features a full slate of comics every night of the fest.
Let's talk a bit about running a bar, restaurant and club. What makes the ideal bartender?
I can tell you that it's not about making drinks. You can learn that. It's all about how you deal with people. Ask yourself: Why do people go to any particular place? It's not because they know how to make drinks.
That said, you must acknowledge that some bars in this town make lousy drinks.
I guess some people are short-pouring customers to make extra money. But to me, it's all about feeling welcome when you walk into a place. That takes me back to Cheers.
Was it always your model to run a restaurant and a club concurrently?
Initially, I didn't want to own a restaurant. It scared me to death. My wife talked me into doing the restaurant. It all started with the club, Liquid. When we opened in 2008, we started out with a mix of comedy and music, but that just doesn't work. Now, it's all about the comedy, Thursday through Sunday. We've been doing solid comedy for four years now.
I've lost count of how many comedy clubs have come and gone in Boise. You're the last one standing.
It's all about the acts that you book. And the secret is to always look at your Saturday 8 p.m. show—that's the real barometer of success. The guys who ran the Funny Bone were thinking of opening another club but they told me, "If you do a comedy club and we do a comedy club, we're both going to fail." They had Hijinx, but that didn't work out. When the city of Boise began its nonsmoking ordinance, Liquid went to comedy full-time.
Did anyone tell you not to do this?
A lot of people.
How do you keep in touch with all of the brilliant comics that are out there?
Every Tuesday, I meet with my friends who are also local comics: Jen Adams, Matt Bragg, Mundek Clement-Stein and Olek Szewczyk [all of whom have worked or do work at Liquid]. I tell them what I've been working on and they have their fingers on the pulse of comedy.
True of false: comics can be a lousy audience for other comics.
[Long pause and a laugh.] They sure can be. They think it should be them on stage, and not anybody else.
Who's on your Mount Rushmore of comic legends?
Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, even Bobcat Goldthwait. And some of the newer guys, like Rory Scovel, probably the best show you'll ever see.
Over the years, which comics have been most successful for Liquid Laughs?
Pauly Shore, Hannibal Buress was great, and we have Gilbert Gottfried coming later this year. But it's all about the Boise comedy scene, which is great. I would not do this without the great local comic talent.
Have you ever tried your hand at stand-up?
It scares me to death. I'm great behind a bar.
Talk to me about Comedyfort.
We'll have six or seven comics each night. We'll have the best local talent and our headliner will be Chris Fairbanks. What's great about the format is that the sets will be seven minutes. We're going to hit you in the face every seven minutes. You've got to keep that energy going. We have a number of slots that we'll hold for Treefort wristband-wearers but those seats will be up-for-grabs 15 minutes before the show starts.
How does all of this fit into Treefort?
I'm the first to say that I was skeptical. I wondered if Boise was big enough to do something this big and this special. I think it's a good bet that we'll get some people who don't normally go to comedy. This is a real opportunity for the music festival and a real opportunity for us to build customers. I think this Treefort thing will be a very big deal. It actually already is.
In spite of what I'm certain is a lot of hard work, you get to spend your days and nights around funny people.
I truly love this. I'm a great audience. My life is a big ball of stress, but laughter is such a good deal.