Like a bad punchline, Dean Schnurr was on the verge of launching his new business Funny Bus CLE in March 2020 when COVID threw a wrench in his plans.
“We’d purchased and retrofitted a schoolbus in the Southern U.S., and we were driving it back up to Ohio on March 18, right when the Governor was shutting down the state,” recalls Schnurr. “At first, we thought we’d just have to postpone our opening for a few months, but we ultimately decided we would just put it on hold until this year.”
Cue the upcoming May launch of Funny Bus CLE, which may actually be perfectly timed (because we could all use a good laugh after the last year). Led by local comedians, the 90-minute bus tour combines laughs and local lore for a lively tour of the city’s core—starting at Collision Bend in the Flats with a halfway stopping point at Merwin’s Wharf.
“There are so many great sightseeing and tourism opportunities in Cleveland already, like Lolly the Trolley, BrewBoat CLE, and brewery tours, but I think what really makes ours unique is that we have comedians leading it,” says Schnurr. “We spent several months diving into the comedy scene here to find our hosts, and I was really surprised and impressed by what a prolific environment we have in Cleveland for comedy.”
After compiling a spreadsheet of 100-plus local comedians and attending lots of open mic nights, Schnurr’s first two hires are John Armstrong and Julia O’Grady. Armstrong is an award-winning regular performer at The Improv and Hilarities, while O’Grady is a Cleveland boomerang with lots of tales to tell about “escaping from Christian college” and traveling the country for six years.
“They’re both high-energy and very entertaining, which is why we specifically chose them for the Funny Bus,” says Schnurr.
For Schnurr, the endeavor is somewhat of a family affair as he co-owns the company with his wife Sarah Schnurr, and his sister opened the first Funny Bus incarnation in Charlotte, North Carolina five years ago.
“Frankly, when my sister first started, I thought it was a crazy idea, and then I watched her business grow over the last five years,” admits Schnurr. “It’s been a huge asset to the city of Charlotte and has won many accolades and awards down there. She began talking to me about the idea of bringing one up here to Cleveland, and I realized it would be the perfect opportunity to add another form of entertainment and education to the downtown area.”
While Schnurr and his wife actually reside in Sandusky, Schnurr has been visiting Cleveland regularly since he was a teenager growing up on Ohio’s north coast.
“I’ve always felt that Cleveland is an amazing city with such a high potential, and the arrow is pointing up right now for Cleveland with the NFL Draft and the Rock Hall [expansion],” says Schnurr. “We want to showcase all the great things Cleveland has to offer to both locals and visitors, and we’re hoping people can learn something new even if they’ve lived here their whole life.”
And have a laugh, too.
Funny Bus CLE launches on May 14. Four tours will be held every weekend, on Friday at 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. Bus tours typically hold 34 people, but will operate at 50% capacity at first for social distancing and safety. Admission is $28 per person, and BYOB is permitted. Get more info here.