In February 2013, five improv comedy compatriots launched the Arcade Comedy Theater on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. The quintet of writers/actors—Abby Fudor, Randy Kirk, Jethro Nolan, Kristy Nolan and Mike Rubino—had performed together numerous times during late nights at the Cabaret at Theater Square, and had reached the conclusion that the Steel City needed a standalone comedy club that offered a wide variety of local and national talents, as well as comedic genres, on a weekly basis. More importantly, the group of comedy entrepreneurs firmly believed that such a theater needed to be located in the downtown area as opposed to nearby neighborhoods.
“There’s still a perception of downtown and Liberty Avenue,” Kristy Nolen told the Pittsburgh City Paper at the time. “First of all, that nothing goes on here. Secondly, that people don’t go downtown after dark. I don’t think everyone in Pittsburgh is aware that there is an up-and-coming arts scene emerging downtown.”
Although they themselves were unaware of it at the time, the founders of the Arcade Comedy Theater picked the perfect location for their endeavor as the 800 block of Liberty Avenue once contained another entertainment venue known as the Carousel. Little Jackie Heller, a nightclub singer born in the Steel City who went on to become a Las Vegas headliner, opened the Carousel shortly after the conclusion of World War II and brought a steady stream of A-list entertainers to the venue during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, for instance, performed one of their earliest shows together at the Carousel, while everyone from Chico Marx, Jackie Gleason, Victor Borge, Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett likewise took the stage at 815 Liberty Avenue, just doors down from where the Arcade Comedy Theater now resides.