November 01, 2008

Big names,big laughs

Stand Up Live hopes to stand out in downtown's 4th Street Live

It's been tried before -- unsuccessfully -- in downtown Louisville, but now fans of such big-name comedians as Tracy Morgan, Robert Klein and Lisa Lampanelli can see them perform in a new nightclub, Stand Up Live.

Opened last month, Stand Up Live occupies 8,000 square feet on the second floor of 4th Street Live, and -- knock on wood -­will avoid the fate of Rascals, which closed in 2005 after six months as the original comedy tenant of the block-long entertainment complex.

"They're always tricky, comedy clubs," said Brian Dorfman, owner of Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville, Tenn., and one of three entrepreneurs involved in the enterprise. "Comedy Clubs are part-time businesses with full-time expenses. But we have a model that's worked in other places, and I truly believe what we've built is one of the nicest comedy clubs in <st1:country-region>America</st1:country-region>."

Dorfman and his two partners bring to the enterprise a combined 40 years of entertainment experience. They are Joel Bachkoff, owner of three Florida comedy clubs, including Miami Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theatre, and Brien Spina, owner of Captain Brien's Seafood & Raw Bar, a restaurant headquartered in Marco Island, Fla.

The owners carefully distinguish Stand Up Live from Comedy Caravan, a 20-year Louisville institution on Bardstown Road in the Mid City Mall.

"We do a different type of business," Dorfman said, "more of a name-driven business."

And while Comedy Caravan owner Tom Sobel acknowledged that Stand Up Live represents competition, he said, "We believe that Louisville will continue to see our bohemian space on Bardstown Road as a place for top-caliber comedy at roughly the price of a movie.

"Stand Up Live has booked a fabulous lineup of talent, and we hope it increases awareness about the art of standup comedy and brings 10,000 new ticket-buying customers into this market."

Stand Up Live contains three businesses in one: the comedy club, Captain Brien's seafood restaurant and the Savannah, Ga.-based daiquiri bar Wet Willie's.

Captain Brien's serves everything from a selection of appetizers, such as conch fritters and oysters on the half shell, to market-price lobster and crab, snapper, salmon and grouper. Wet Willie's -- unrelated to the Louisville neighborhood bar Wet Willy -- has taken the frozen rum-flavored drink over the top, with 17 variations.

The look and ambience of Stand Up Live are intended to impress, with stone floors, wood accents and premium restroom fixtures. , But make no mistake: Stand Up Live is first and foremost about the comedy.

"We're booking the 'bigger names,' " Dorfman said, "the Norm Macdonalds, the Sinbads of the world. We're going to have the last club date of Jimmy Fallon before he goes to NBC in January. A lot of acts you're going to see in our comedy club are warm-ups for HBO specials."


Coming soon are: James Gregory, from the video "Beef Stew for the Brain"; psycho-hypnotist Rich Guzzi; Ralphie May, star of Comedy Central specials "Girth of a Nation" and "Prime Cut"; Lampanelli, the Queen of Mean; "All About the Benjamins" star Mike Epps; and the inimitable John Witherspoon, familiar to movie­goers from Ice Cube's Friday series and other films, including "Ladies' Man" "Boomerang" and "Soul Plane."

"We care about comedy," Dorfman said, "and we give people other options so they can stay and party afterward."

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