Hitting a comedy club can be a fun twist on the tired dinner-and-a-movie date night, and an evening of chuckles can be a memorable birthday party or girls night out. • The Tampa Bay area's rubber chicken scene ranges from the well-known names of late-night standup, to the journeyman comics you might find on a cruise ship, to the up-and-comers just learning their craft. The up side is the ticket prices are way less than the average concert. The down side is unknown comics are like a can of mixed nuts with a 30-inch jumping snake inside: You never know what you are going to get. • Here's a look at what the local comedy scene has to offer.
Improv Comedy Theater
1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. (813) 864-4000; improvtampa.com
The legendary comedy chain has more than two dozen comedy spots around the country, including this one in Centro Ybor. The acts here tend to be people you've heard of or will hear more about in the coming years.
The scene: Seating is first-come, first-served, so a line starts forming about 30 minutes or more before a show. There's a bar serving drinks while you wait. Once inside, you are seated in a renovated 1930s brick theater with grand balcony seating. There is table service with a full menu of food and drinks. If it's a sold-out show, service slows down a lot, so order everything up front. Price range is about $2 to more than $20.
This weekend: Eddie Griffin
He is best known for his UPN sitcom Malcolm & Eddie (1996–2000), in which he starred with Malcolm-Jamal Warner. He also starred in the 2002 comedy film Undercover Brother as the title character, and had parts in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and its sequel, Date Movie and Norbit with Eddie Murphy. In 2007, it was hard to find the humor when he made headlines for crashing a $1.5 million Enzo Ferrari during practice for a charity race to promote the film Redline. Griffin was unscathed, but the rare car was destroyed. Ouch. Shows are at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday. $30.
Alex Reymundo: The "Hick-Spanic" from the Original Latin Kings of Comedy tour. 8 p.m. today, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday. $15.
Tim Wilkins: 7 p.m. Sunday. $10.
Ron Morey: 8 p.m. Wednesday. $10.
Coming up: Later this month you can see roast master Jeffrey Ross (Oct. 8-10), top right, or Beauty Shop's Sheryl Underwood (Oct. 15-17), bottom right. Tickets tend to be in the $20 range, but there's no two-drink minimum like you find in some clubs.
Side Splitters Comedy Club
12938 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 960-1197; sidesplitterscomedy.com
This is the place to find low-priced, high-quality comedy since 1992. It's now fully a nonsmoking club, and you can find a range of comedy options from the standup circuit to the Chippendales.
The scene: You can reserve your seat online, otherwise it's first-come, first-served. Patrons are packed elbow to elbow, but because of its size there are few bad seats. Look for frequent coupon deals, and they honor other clubs' coupons. Tickets are $15 to $20, with a two-item minimum. Food is casual, from loaded nachos to grilled paninis, ranging from about $5 to $9. Full bar.
This weekend: John Caparulo He's a regular on Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler's snarky talk show on E!, and he was one of the comedians on Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Tour. He also was on the bill for Blue Collar Comedy: The Next Generation in 2007 with Bill Engvall, but the problem is people now lump him in with Larry the Cable Guy. "I love all my blue-collar comedy fans," he has said, "because I can relate to them, and that's pretty cool. But the next jackass who yells 'Git 'er dun' at me is gonna git 'er throat punched!" Shows at 8:30 p.m. today and 8 and 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $15-$17 advance, $2 additional day of show.
Coming up: Nick Di Paolo (Oct. 14-16), a comic's comic who played himself on Louis C.K.'s raunchy FX show Louie.
Comedy in the Bayview Room
Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 892-5798; www.mahaffeytheater.com
Mahaffey Theater launched an experiment this year opening up its small but scenic Bayview Room as a monthly comedy spot. Veteran comic Lou Angelwolf is using this chance as a promoter to give some of his favorite journeyman comics a boost. The theater has ordered up one low-priced comedy show a month until spring.
The first gig, with outstanding comic musician Michael Mack, sold out in July. So we're going to trust Angelwolf when he vouches for the latest offering, Uncle Dow Thomas, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The top hat-wearing, long-haired songwriter, musician and comedian tends to be an audience favorite at comedy festivals. Tickets are $12 advance, $17 at the door.
The scene: Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and seating is first-come, first-served. Some seats in the back can be obstructed, so get there early. The room has a view of the bay and there is both bar and table service, where they serve classic bar food such as cheese sticks and sandwiches. Drinks are in the $5 to $8 range.
Coconuts Comedy Clubs
Various locations in St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor and Clearwater. coconutscomedyclubs.com
Saturday Night Live's Jim Breuer cut his teeth working the Coconuts Comedy Clubs up and down the coast. The King of Queens' Kevin James and SNL's Darrell Hammond have also taken the mike in a 100-seat hotel ballroom leased by Coconuts on the weekend. This is the place you find green comics, cruise ship comics and possibly rising stars. Since Bob Shoemaker opened his first club in St. Pete Beach in 1986, he has hired 1,150 comedians by his count.
The scene: The food and drink availability depends on the hotel, but usually there's a bar set up in the back, table service and a ballroom outfitted with tables and chairs to see a comic with at least two opening acts. Tickets range from $5 for open mike nights to $15 for a comedy show. You can reserve a seat at (727) 360-5653; otherwise it's first-come, first-served.
This weekend: Rene Bray: Coconuts Comedy Club TradeWinds Sandpiper Resort, 6000 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $15. (727) 360-5653.
Steve Moore: Coconuts Comedy Club at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, 105 N Bayshore Drive, Safety Harbor. 9:30 p.m. Saturday $15. (727) 360-5653.
Other comedy options
Big Bang Show at Nova 535: Every first Thursday of the month, this show combines elements of the Gong Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway. Next show is Oct. 7 at 535 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $10 advance, $15 at door. (727) 821-6682.
Late Night with Got Jokes? The open mike showcase on Fridays at Got Jokes? Comedy House also doubles as the official audition for the Big Bang Show. They run it like a late-night comedy show, with a host and a desk, sitting performers down to chat afterward. It starts at 8:30 p.m. Friday next to Peabody's Billiards, 15333 Amberly Drive in Tampa. Admission is $5 at the door; no fee for performers. gotjokesimprov.com.
Improv at American Stage: The "First Sunday Improv" show this week is 321 starring Ricky Wayne and Gavin Hawk (The Dumb Show) as part of American Stage's "After Hours" series every first Sunday at 8 p.m. Starting with the audience suggestions of three character relationships, two improvisors will create a piece that takes place in one location (3-2-1, get it?). There's more improv at 8 p.m. Oct. 17. Strangers and Fools Improv is a short-form improv show that's like an absurdist Whose Line Is It Anyway. Both shows are "pay what you can" at the door and $15 in advance at American Stage Theatre Company at Raymond James Theater in St. Petersburg. (727) 823-7529.