Just for laughs, a bidding war erupts

Times Staff Writer

Maybe they should call it, “Bucks for Yucks.”

Hollywood’s Laugh Factory is auctioning off a 10-minute spot opening for comedian Jon Lovitz as a fundraiser for the American Red Cross’ hurricane relief efforts. The auction, which closes at 9:45 a.m. today, includes airfare and a hotel room if the winning bidder is from out of town.

The show date will be worked out after the auction closes, but will be during one of Lovitz’s weekly Thursday shows on the Sunset Strip comedy stage, said Shawn Ullman, Laugh Factory’s vice president for business development.

The top bid reached $4,050 by early Friday afternoon.

Ullman said the Laugh Factory usually paid entry-level comedians $50 to $100 for a similar spot.

Lovitz said he wasn’t worried that someone might pay a few thousand dollars and steal the show. “I hope he’s super funny,” Lovitz said, adding that he’d be happy if the show provides a career break for someone. “If he can get more laughs in 10 minutes than I can in an hour then he should be a professional comedian.”

But inexperienced comics be warned: Ten minutes alone on a stage can seem like an eternity if your material isn’t up to snuff.

“If you’ve never done it, five minutes is a long time,” Lovitz said. A problem new comedians face is that the better they know their own material, and the more comfortable they become, the more efficiently they deliver their lines. “It took me a while to get 20 minutes, then I would get more material and it was still 20 minutes,” Lovitz said.

Michael Shanto, an aspiring actor, hopes to win the 10 minutes even though he’s not a comedian. He says he has a pantomime routine he hopes will grab the eye of any Hollywood power players who might be in the audience.

“Being that it’s at the Laugh Factory, I don’t think they’re real big into pantomime,” said Shanto, who has spent most of the last 20 years as a City of Los Angeles lifeguard and supervisor. “I’m still putting it together.”

Laura Hayden, who describes herself as a comedian by night and a physical therapist by day, bid $1,500 to support a good cause and to try to steal 10 minutes of attention span from well-connected Hollywood agents and producers.

Then, Hayden said, she got an e-mail from another bidder telling her, “l don’t mean to be a jerk, but I have way more money than you and I’m never going to let you outbid me -- I’m going to win.”

Hayden took that as a challenge.

“I e-mailed him back and said it’s for a good cause -- let’s make sure the Red Cross gets a lot of your money. So I bid on it way longer than I was going to,” said Hayden, whose last bid was $2,550. “Of course he has more money than I do. Most people do. So my intentions weren’t completely altruistic.”

Bidding can be done by searching for “Laugh Factory” on www.ebay.com.