Back when I first started doing comedy in Boston during the 1980s, comedy clubs were pure and simple; a showroom with black walls and low ceilings, great comics, fair prices and plenty of parking. New York was a lot like that too (except for the parking). It was just that wonderful ambience of the comedian connecting with the audience. Well, that’s the Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club. They’ve kicked it old school and it’s workin’.
Nestled in the back of the 840 Plaza on Oakland Park Blvd., a few blocks west of Dixie Hwy., the club is easy to get to from both I-95 and US-1. The vibe here is just so…inviting. From the minute you walk in, hostess/manager Romi has a smile on her face and a friendly greeting. Today, when “service with a sneer” is often the norm, the Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club is a welcome change. The staff is friendly, courteous and happy to see you. The customer is valued. The prices are “economy conscious”; $10 admission and bartender Tomy Maugeri (a partner in the business) serves up drinks that range from $4.00 for soft drinks to $6.00 for beer and wine. (Light food fare is also available.)
But any establishment becomes a reflection of its owners, and front man Pete O’Neil makes the place a joy to visit. His easy-going demeanor and respect for both the comedians and the customers permeates the club. O’Neil, puts it this way: “I want people to be able to come here and have a good time – it's affordable and with a friendly atmosphere.”
As a veteran in the comedy business starting out in L.A., O’Neil has an extensive knowledge of the biz and his years working in the main office of an NFL football team and managing a small market CBS television station, gave him the skills to operate a successful club.
The night I visited, Erik Meyers, a local headliner, was performing. People were crying with laughter at his bit about filling out an application at Taco Bell: “One of the questions is: How did you hear about Taco Bell? How did I hear about it? I LIVE ON THE PLANET EARTH!”
Perry Sak, also a local guy, who hails from Boston, was hosting the show. His sarcastic wit and likeability makes him one of the best hosts on the circuit. Plus, he’s wicked easy to look at. Hey, if some of his jokes don’t work – look at his biceps. (Superficiality is highly underrated.)
National headliner Johnny Mac, a veteran of TV and commercials, wrapped up the show with his own brand of observational humor.
The Green Room in the club always has a few comics, both seasoned and newbies, that hang out to watch the show or perform a guest set. Most recently, well-known director (Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier) and veteran comedian Wil Shriner, stopped in for a guest set. On hand in the Green Room that night was Adrienne Airhart, Aristotle, and Nelio. This is a chance to see these upcoming comics so you can say, ”I knew them when!” or “WTF?” Ms. Airhart wants to be a writer in L.A. for sitcoms, a sketch show, or perhaps gain herself a spot on SNL. You never know what star will emerge out of this fresh, new club.
Q & A with Pete O’Neil
What is your background in comedy?
I started out at the age of 15, passing out fliers for the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, California. I went on to help with marketing and promotions at clubs in LA and NYC. For 20 years off and on, I worked four-walled comedy rooms in NYC and Vero Beach, Florida.
Coming from LA - do you find South Florida audiences different? If so - how?
No, Florida and California are very much the same. Except California does not have humidity or hurricanes!
You have a variety of shows at your club. What is your goal with these shows?
We are trying to have all the disciplines of comedy covered, but our main goal is great standup comedy shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Our monthly “Two Milk Minimum Show” hosted by Oopsy the Clown, is for kids 4-7 years old. We also have an improv and sketch comedy troop offering shows each month. In addition, our Drag-a-Palooza Comedy Show has become a hit with the local gay community. This Fall we will be hosting a special Seniors Show with Woody Woodbury and London Lee for our large retired community here in Fort Lauderdale. And every Thursday from 8 – 10 PM we have an open mike show where aspiring comics are given 5 minutes to try out their stuff.
Where do you see the club going in the next few years?
We hope to keep working hard and become a club that locals and visitors can count on for great comedy performances.
Do you feel any competition from, let's say, the bigger clubs, like the Improv, or do you think there's room for everybody to flourish?
There is room for everybody in this market.
What makes your club so great? Why would someone want to come there?
Great Comics. Good prices. Lots of easy parking!
What do you think makes a great comedian?
Someone who makes people laugh hard.
Anything else you would like to add?
There is no greater gift someone can have then that they can make someone laugh!
So next time you want to visit a great comedy club, with fabulous comedians and affordable prices – you’ll know where to go! And that’s no joke.
(a few beats later)
Is that a douche ending? Too cliché? What can I tell you? Go there for Crissakes. It’s a great place to laugh and you won’t feel like you were raped like a lot of these club owning vultures do to you. End of story. And print this page. They’ll give you a 2 for 1 if you bring it in. $10 as a 2-4-1 = $5 pp. Two drink minimum per person applies no matter what. Oy. Such a deal.
The Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club is located at 840 East Oakland Park Blvd., Suite 106, Oakland Park, FL 33344 US. www.fortlauderdalecomedyclub.com Call 954-530-2069 for information and reservations.