A new comedy club in Burnsville? You must be joking.

Just a few years ago, you'd get laughed at just for saying a comedy club was opening anywhere in the Twin Cities area, let alone a suburb like Burnsville. After the comedy boom fizzled in the mid-1990s, Acme and a couple of other clubs were the only places left standing. But even a depressed economy can't kill laughter, as the recent deluge of new comedy clubs will attest.

The newest -- the MinneHaHa Comedy Club -- opened in November in Burnsville. The club is in the lower level of a restaurant called Anthony's Parkway Grille, the former site of Benchwarmer Bob's. The intimate room features three shows every weekend and seats about 130 people.

"I think people south of the river haven't experienced much comedy other than what they see on TV," said owner Michael Orensteen. "It's not the same."

No, it definitely is not. Last Thursday, I trekked down Interstate 35W to check out MinneHaHa. The club hosted two sold-out shows by a quartet of American Indian comedians who call their show the Pow Wow Comedy Jam. L.A.-based comic Marc Yaffee kicked off the show by saying: "We're gonna party like it's 1491."

The foursome tore the house down -- with people banging on tables and crying with laughter. Personally, my face hurt from laughing. My favorite joke came from comedian Vaughn Eaglebear: "When I was in college I took a Native American Studies class, and I was the only Native American in the class. ... I got a C. I should've cheated off that little Asian girl."

For MinneHaHa's owner, the tough comedy business seemed liked a good idea after a rough couple of years in the airline industry. Orensteen, of Eagan, is a pilot who was laid off twice by United. "I like a good beating," he joked. Starting in 2007, he began moonlighting as a comedy promoter with monthly nights set up across the southern metro area. Orensteen drew from his United pension to fund the new club.

"It's always good to have a club that is run by somebody who knows comedy and is not just pushing drinks," said Yaffee, the comedian who opened the Pow Wow show. He'll be back for a solo set in May.

Yaffee's crew has toured the country, but it has stuck mostly to casinos, where their show can draw on a large American Indian population. He was glad Orensteen took a chance on the show without a guarantee that the quartet would capture a crowd in Burnsville. Both shows sold out -- even if some clubgoers had a hard time finding the place.

"They need to put a sign out front, because we drove right by it," said Kelly Sarenpa, of Medina. "We were late."

Orensteen said the restaurant's owner plans to put MinneHaHa's name on the marquee at some point. The stage could use some sprucing up, too. Currently, a giant black flat-screen TV hangs behind the comedians when they perform. Traditionally, a club's logo acts as the backdrop. With the TV in the way, MinneHaHa's logo hangs below it, relegated to waist height.

Still, these quibbles didn't seem to bother customers. Sarenpa and her friend Melanie Hickey of Apple Valley stuck around afterward to buy T-shirts and get autographs from the comedians.

"I didn't even know [the club] was here," Hickey said. "I would come back."