Class, Not Crass


Jeff Jena headlines Dec. 20-22

8:04 p.m. every Thursday; 8:04 and 10:18 p.m. every Friday and Saturday

Tickets are $6, $15 and $25

11000 Beach Blvd., Southsid

646-4277, jacksonvillecomedy.c

Steve Smith takes his humor seriously. A former radio talent and salesman-turned-entrepreneur, Smith has been working to bring his concept of an up-market adult comedy venue to Jacksonville for the past four years. Now that blueprint has become reality, and he’s been managing the launch of his new comedy club — from booking talent to scheduling kitchen inspections to choosing the pre-show music.

Smith’s been involved with comedy throughout his professional life, especially as a disc jockey for Clear Channel Radio, cracking jokes behind the microphone and later as a sales representative, where several of his accounts were comedy clubs. “Comedy is probably the world’s second-oldest entertainment profession. Obviously, we know what the first profession was,” Smith insinuates. “The second probably started when those professionals made fun of their clients’ size and performance.”

Even though the area already has The Comedy Zone, Three Layers’ Comedy Sundays, Mad Cowford Improv and St. Augustine’s Gypsy Comedy Club, Smith felt there was room for another comedic venue. Nestled in a suburban shopping center on Beach Boulevard, just west of St. Johns Bluff Road South, The Comedy Club of Jacksonville had a soft opening in mid-November, preparing for its grand opening on the last weekend in January 2013. “It’s between the final NFL playoff game and the Super Bowl,” Smith pointed out. Headlining that weekend will be Caroline Rhea, who’s starred in several major comedy films and TV shows including “The Biggest Loser” and “The Caroline Rhea Show.” Throughout the year, the club plans to feature headliners who’ve appeared on MTV, HBO and Comedy Central.

“I’d consulted with several comedy clubs in Tampa, Sarasota, and in Columbia, S.C., when I was an account rep,” Smith explained. “My vision is a ‘friendlier’ adult comedy club experience. None of our comedians do explicitly harsh-language shows.” The comics’ material doesn’t lean on the obscene, either.

To Smith and company, this is no laughing matter. The club rates its comedians according to language and content.

“That’s for several reasons. First, you don’t have to cuss to be funny. Secondly, we appeal to a more sophisticated audience … spouses’ night out and date nights, corporate group sales and the like. Many clubs book comics that regularly use obscenities. But you won’t hear many ‘f-bombs’ or the like here. I’m not saying it’s never going to happen; particularly with a major talent like Caroline Rhea. She’s going to do her own thing. But with nearly everyone else, I book them particularly because their act, while sometimes risqué, is relatively clean in language, and I specifically request they keep it that way. Content-wise, it’s the same. We feature professional talent whose comedic fare is sometimes ‘adult,’ but without hardcore vulgarity.”

The venue’s website devotes a full page explaining its comedic mission in a tiered-rating system and schedule. Content ranges from “Soft R” to “Hard R.” “We don’t do X-rated shows,” Smith emphasizes. “That rating’s for strip clubs, not this venue, ever.” Its language rating spans from “PG-13” to “Hard R,” the former not having any “f-bombs” while the latter may have some occasional cursing. “At the beginning of each performance, we’ll announce the show’s language and content ratings. If someone thinks that show might be too offensive for their party, we’ll gladly refund their admission price and reschedule them for a different performance.”

Smith touts his new venue as one where businesses can bring their employees, middle-aged couples can bring their elder parents or young adult children, preferably over age 21, as alcohol is served. He reiterated, “We want our guests to enjoy themselves, but not at the expense of our talent being distasteful.”

The Comedy Club’s menu features “Food on a Shtick” entrées (insert cymbal crash here) with chicken, steak, shrimp and vegetable kabobs as well as appetizers, salads and desserts. “Our menu is diverse and appealing, but none of the items are overly filling. It’s uncomfortable to enjoy a night of belly laughs when your stomach is full.”

Brian J. Foley, creator and host of the Comedy Sundays show at Three Layers Café in Springfield, said he hopes the new comedy venue is successful.

“It’s fantastic he’s bringing professional comedians here. It helps all of us in Jacksonville’s funny business scene.”

Robert Kay