Irving Azoff Eyes Comedy Investment (Report)

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That recent Billboard cover story featuring Irving Azoff with new client Chelsea Handler as a stand-up comic turns out to be not just a punchline.

The music mogul’s joint venture with Madison Square Garden is set to announce the acquisition of a 50 percent stake in L.A.-based Levity Entertainment Group, which owns and operates a chain of comedy venues across the U.S. and represents a roster of stand-up comics that includes Jeff Dunham and Jenny McCarthy, according to a report in this morning’s New York Post. Those venues include such well-known brands as Improv, Funny Bone and Levity Live.

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The investment by Azoff MSG Entertainment will help finance a nationwide chain of dinner/comedy theaters carrying the Levity name. Levity bills itself as “the largest comedy booking agency in the country.”

The 5-year-old Levity also has a reality TV division responsible for shows including Iron Chef and The Mentalist.

AMSGE was created last September to expand MSG’s business into new areas outside sports and live music, and includes Azoff’s talent management company, whose roster features The Eagles and Christina Aguilera, among others. Jim Dolan’s MSG acquired a 50 percent stake in the venture for $125 million and agreed to provide $50 million in revolving credit loans.

Among the company’s recent acquisitions:

A 50 percent stake in Burns Entertainment, a Chicago-based firm that brokers celebrity endorsements, in April.

A 50 percent stake in Pop2Life, an experiential marketing company, in March.

Purchased the L.A. Forum and transformed it into a music venue, which opened in January with a series of six concerts by The Eagles. It will also host the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 24.

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The company’s first acquisition was a 50 percent stake in Digital Brand Architects, which manages popular online bloggers.

Comedy is proving one of the largest growth areas in the touring business, with several stand-up acts cracking the top 200.

Among the top-grossing touring acts of last year, Jeff Dunham ranked No. 45, with $23 million in box-office receipts, while Jerry Seinfeld was ranked No. 87 with ticket sales of $11 million. Other comedians in the top 200 include Jim Gaffigan and Lewis Black.

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