A Legend in Comedy: The Terrace Theater
A funny thing happens inside Long Beach’s Terrace Theater, and it happens again and again and again.
Though you may not realize it from looking at the dazzling exterior of the venue located downtown at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, the Terrace is inarguably one of the best, most significant, most sought-after destinations for comedians and comedy fans alike.
Over the decades, its stage has been home to virtually every important comedian there is. In recent years that has meant everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Chris Tucker to Kathy Griffin to Bill Burr to Long Beach native Gabriel Iglesias.
What attracts them are a host of reasons, everything from the theater’s layout to its acoustics to its history.
Regarding the latter, the Terrace was the site of legendary comedian Richard Pryor's seminal comedy film performance, “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert.” The first full-length feature film consisting of only stand-up comedy, the movie has been hailed as the “single greatest stand-up performance ever captured on film,” by no less than Eddie Murphy and is credited with helping to launch the stand-up boom of the 1980s.
Because of it, for many comedians, trodding on the same stage as Pryor is both an aspiration and an honor.
“There is definitely the Richard Pryor factor that plays into it,” said John Braun, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Assistant General Manager. “Most of the comedians will mention the film at some point in their show.”
Of course, while comedy shows are most often associated with small, sometimes dingy clubs with low ceilings and exposed brick walls, the Terrace is a huge, 3,000-seat venue, bordered outside by a dazzling fountain featuring multiple water columns of ever-changing colors and a spectacular three-story glass lobby and suspended staircase. Things go completely Next Level during the holidays when the theater’s courtyard becomes a winter wonderland, complete with a 50-foot tree lit by more than 150,000 bulbs, while gargantuan ornaments large enough to pose in for pictures, are placed all around the courtyard.
And yet, for all its size and sizzle, the Terrace maintains an intimate environment inside, one conducive to sharing a laugh – lots of them – together. Braun credits that to the theater's welcoming, comforting vibe.
“The continental seating and the wide rows and wide chairs in the Orchestra section make it very comfortable,” he said. “And the public area on all three levels with the residential-style furniture make those areas nice for socializing.”
Tying it all together are an outstanding sound system and exceptional acoustics that assures every nuance in speech and every punchline finds its way to each seat, all the way to the back row.
The acoustics are so good that not only is the Terrace home to world-renowned Long Beach Symphony but has played host to singers of all stripes and styles, including such icons as Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson.
The theater, which is also the site of a speakers series featuring such luminaries as former President George W. Bush, journalist Bob Woodward and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, is part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center that includes multiple venues, including the intimate Beverly O’Neill Theater, its 852 seats arranged in just 13 rows around a thrust stage offering live theater productions, everything from musicals to drama to, yep, comedy.
Funny how that works.
And as far as funny is concerned, Braun says to expect a lot more of it in the Terrace Theater in the months ahead.
“We are hoping to pick up some more shows in 2022 as more artists go back out [on the road],” he said.
You can bet that road will find a funny destination at the Terrace Theater.