MAGAZINE RELAUNCH IS LAUGHING MATTER

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Publisher Jamie Masada has a lot of comedians working for him.

While many magazine publishers might say the same in jest, Mr. Masada is dead serious. After all, he publishes Laugh Factory magazine.

It began in 1983 as a single page of jokes duplicated and handed out to people waiting in line at the Laugh Factory, Mr. Masada's Sunset Boulevard comedy club in Hollywood. But the single-page publication rapidly bloomed into a full-fledged, glossy magazine in the mid-1980s. Mr. Masada suspended publication in 1987 after a dispute over distribution. But on Feb. 1, Mr. Masada officially relaunched Laugh Factory.

Featured on the cover of the 100-page relaunch edition, dated April and carrying a $2.95 price, is Tim Allen, stand-up comedian turned star of the "Home Improvement" sitcom. He's pictured naked from the tool belt up with a woman's hands covering his chest.

Inside stories are mostly short takes and mostly written by comedians. A selection includes a vicious conversation between Paul Mooney, a TV and movie comedy writer, and comedian Sandra Bernhard, who savages her ex-pal Madonna. Filmmaker Woody Allen offers a philosophical and autobiographical rambling. Syndicated humor columnist Art Buchwald writes about comedy as medicine. And Tommy Chong, former partner in the Cheech & Chong comedy team, compiles "The Doper's Guide to Fitness."

Mr. Masada insisted that comedy in Laugh Factory is rated PG, much as he attempts (not always successfully) to keep his comedians on stage at his club.

"It's not a dirty magazine," Mr. Masada said. "When you take it home, you don't have to hide it under your pillow."

"We are People magazine with a sense of humor," he said.

The relaunch issue carries 18 1/2 pages of paid advertising, mostly from Hollywood studios. The only ad seemingly out of place is on the third cover, for Wheeling Steel, a Pittsburgh manufacturer.

"They want to boost their visibility to the entertainment industry," Mr. Masada said.

A b&w page in the monthly is $13,370. Initial circulation is estimated at 275,000, and Mr. Masada sees that growing to the 1 million mark by the end of the year. Laugh Factory will be distributed by Hearst Corp.'s ICD. Newsstand returns will be sold at the club, included in the admission price.

Mr. Masada has built-in promotion opportunities for the magazine. Apart from distribution in his own club, the magazine will undoubtedly be touted in comedy clubs that license the Laugh Factory name in Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; and later this year in Baltimore and New York.

In addition, Fox Television's "Comic Strip Live" is filmed in the Hollywood club, while the Laugh Factory's "Joke of the Day" is syndicated to radio stations nationally and claims an audience of 9 million.

Meanwhile, Mr. Masada said most of the comedians who work the original club are willing to plug the magazine during TV appearances.

Although comedians still write most of the publication, Mr. Masada has hired a professional editor and a sales rep. But Mr. Masada himself stays very much involved.

"I just try to make people laugh," said the 34-year-old publisher. "Mostly, life is just too serious."

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