John Lacey, CPA, Ph.D.

Professor, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, Calif.

Jay Leno, Kathleen Lacey and John Lacey

I’ve served on many accounting boards and committees. The experience has been great. I’ve made so many friends, and I feel like I’ve made at least some difference in our profession as a consequence. In addition to teaching at Cal State, Long Beach, I teach accounting to judges, investment managers, and bankers. Part of my career has been explaining how to read financial statements—what people can learn from them and what they can’t.

I served on the AICPA Accounting Standards Executive Committee (AcSEC) [now called the Financial Reporting Executive Committee]. We wrote accounting standards that were a part of GAAP. That was really cool. I was appointed to the committee in 1990. There’s only one academic on the committee, so I was very pleased to be selected.

I’ve been teaching at Long Beach since 1989. I love it there, love the students. We have so many first-generation college students. My dad was a gardener, and nobody in my family had gone to college, so I love talking to these kids who come from similar backgrounds to mine. My dad was an immigrant from Canada.

I’m a minority owner of The Comedy & Magic Club. My brother, Mike, runs it and is the majority owner. Robin Williams helped design the club. One thing he suggested was having a green room, where comedians can hang out instead of having to sit at the bar with the patrons. It’s kind of helped create this family atmosphere. The idea of camaraderie is encouraged.

My brother had the idea to open the club. He used to go to The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. He asked a friend to go, and the friend said, “It’s too far to drive.” He wanted something closer. About that time, there was a strike going on at The Comedy Store and The Improv, because they weren’t paying the comedians. My brother thought if the comedians were paid, maybe they’d make the 20-mile drive to Hermosa Beach. He talked to the comedians and they said, “Sure.”

We sat down with a calculator and a piece of paper. I knocked out the numbers, and it looked like it would work. We asked questions. What could we charge as admission? What’s the rent? How many can we seat? Can we get a liquor license? How much can we charge for a drink? Back then, we didn’t have a kitchen. We just served beer and wine because that was what we could afford. We had Dave Letterman or Jay Leno playing to 30 people. The first couple of years it struggled, but then it really picked up. It’s been in business almost 35 years, so it worked.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the comedians. Jay Leno and I have been friends for 35 years. He’s been wonderful to my family. I owned a Lamborghini Miura, which is a cool Italian sports car. When our first daughter was born, my wife said, “The car seat doesn’t fit in this car,” and I said, “So.” I ended up selling it to Jay, and he started playing our comedy club more often to pay it off. He still has that car, and he still plays on Sunday nights and tries out material for The Tonight Show at our club.

I have an obsession with cars. I’m not sure how it started, but I’ve loved them since I was about 3 years old. I’ve owned many stupid cars. I have a Jaguar XK-E roadster, a BMW M5, a Lotus Elan roadster, and a Lotus Turbo Esprit.

When I was teaching at the University of Southern California, we had donor dinners. Accountants would speak after dinner, and people would be falling asleep in their dessert. About 25 years ago, I said to the dean, “Why don’t you let me have a comedian come speak?” He said, “No, we need something professional.” I said I would write a speech about accounting in the 21st century, and the comedian could read some of the speech and do some comedy. Then it would have a professional component. So the dean said, “OK.” The comedian read some of the speech, told some jokes, and read some of the speech. The funny thing is some people never got it, that it was a comedian. The funnier thing is the comedian I got to do that was Jerry Seinfeld.

As told to Neil Amato, ,
JofA senior editor.

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