2014 Update: Carnival Punchliner Comedy Club

Punchliner Comedy Club - Carnival Cruise Lines

In 2011 we wrote about Carnival’s new Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, saying it was a great idea with faulty execution. Having recently sailed on the Carnival Magic over the 4th of July, we’re excited to report that Carnival has improved the experience of this popular evening choice.

Instead of having one show a night, Carnival now has 4-5 shows every night. That’s not to say that they don’t fill up, but hundreds weren’t being turned away from their entertainment of choice like they were a few years ago. They typically would have 2 ‘family friendly’ comedy shows and then 2 ‘adults only’ comedy shows split between two comedians. Halfway through the cruise, two new comedians come on board to keep the talent fresh.

To avoid seat-squatters and savers from staying back to back shows, the lounge is emptied, and those wishing to attend the next show get in a line that winds through the increasingly depressing piano bar. (Side note: This has less to do with uninterested cruisers than it does the grumpy pianist)

We were able to see three of the four comedians perform and overall they were quite good – you should definitely check out the comedy shows on your next Carnival Cruise.

Comedy Review:

John Caponera (Grade: N/A) – We didn’t catch John’s act, but he does have a link to a “printable 8×10″ under his head shot on his homepage, so he must be hilarious.

James Johann (Grade: C+) We caught James’s ‘adults only’ act. If you think dropping the f-bomb is inherently funny, you’ll think James his hysterical. Many people did, in fact. We didn’t.

James Sibley (Grade: B+) We thought this James was following the path of first-half-of-the-cruise-James, but a couple minutes in his style grew on us. Stand-up comedy sittin’ down with some genuine country-boy story-telling. We liked second-half-of-the-cruise-James a lot better.

Tommy Drake (Grade: A) The only reason we didn’t give Tommy an A+ is because we wouldn’t want it to go to his head. We don’t want that, because we really liked him just the way he was. The Carnival Magic is a large ship, but while in Cozumel we were docked near the mega Royal Caribbean ship, Allure of the Seas. “I thought Magic was a big ship until we parked in the shadow of the Allure…when you see a ship like that you start to wonder about all the amazing things on board – their comedians are probably famous.”

Carnival Punchliner Comedy Comedy Club: Great Idea, Faulty Execution

A little over a year ago, Carnival Cruise Lines saw how popular its comedy shows were and decided to repurpose lounges so that each ship would have a dedicated “Punchliner Comedy Club.” On the surface, this sounds like a great idea – if something is really popular – why not have a spot dedicated to it on the ship? The problem arises when you take a popular program out of a 1400 seat theater and put it in a 400 seat theater.

In general, Carnival has activities and programs in venues that make sense. Trivia isn’t that popular (maybe 20 people out of 3700 will show up) so it’s held in a small seating area adjacent to the faux-Starbucks on the promenade. However, we attempted several times to attend the comedy shows in the new dedicated lounge, but were unable to find a seat – even with arriving 10 minutes early.

Now, we could have gotten there 30 minutes early and gotten great seats – but that still doesn’t help the next 300 people who wanted to see the show but couldn’t find a seat. Not everyone turned around and left, though – there were probably 60 people standing along the walls and another 25 standing OUTSIDE the venue. On the Conquest, the Degas lounge (AKA Punchliner Comedy Club) has a wall of windows into the lobby where many just stood and tried to listen through the open door.

The comedy shows often coincide with the main entertainment in the large lounge which holds about three and a half times that of the comedy club, but there were times when nothing was happening in the 1400-person theater at the same time.

Carnival knows that its comedy shows are extremely popular – and in some cases – even more popular than the shows being performed in the main-lounge at the same time.
If the comedy shows are so popular that many people are turned away and 100 are willing to stand in the back and outside – why would they be moved to a theater a fraction of the size of where they were held just over a year ago?