CLAYTON (KPIX 5) — While the rampant COVID-19 business closures around the Bay Area are far from funny, a group of local comics are using laughs to try and help save a big venue in a small East Bay town.

The Clayton Valley Bowl is a big bowling alley featuring 44 lanes, a pro shop and a capacity of up to 450 people. Its lanes have been silent for six months since the start of the pandemic lockdown.

How the business could survive during such a lengthy closure, Clayton Valley Bowl General Manager Paul Thompson was blunt.

“Well, we can’t! That’s why we are trying to do fundraisers and trying to get some help going,” Thompson explained.

That help is coming from a very unusual group. One of the bowling alley’s secrets is that professional comedians used to meet here in the bar the first Wednesday of the month, turning the Clayton Valley Bowl into a free comedy club.

Comedian and comedy promoter Dan Mires told KPIX that Wednesday night, they held their first Zoom comedy fundraiser.

“We had seven comics, about 30 people on attendance on the Zoom,” said Mires. “It was not a lot! We weren’t on the news then, but we’re on the news now!”

Comedians like Cody Woods, Emily Van Dyke and others donated their time to help. Their fundraising goal is $150,000. The Wednesday night show raised $650. While it was a start, the effort to save the troubled bowling alley has a long way to go.

For Thompson, it’s no laughing matter. They also have a Facebook fundraiser and a GoFundMe page, but the bowling alley may be facing its last few weeks.

“Everybody’s been on unemployment. That helps, but that is about to run out,” said Thompson.

Another Zoom comedy fundraiser is scheduled for next week.

When asked who was scheduled for the show, Maines joked, “Nobody yet! We just thought of it 30 seconds ago. But I’ll tell you, we’ll probably have Dave Chappelle, Robin Williams is coming back from the grave…uh, George Carlin. Well, some really good local comics!”

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