Comedy off Broadway at the Lexington Green is celebrating its 30th anniversary of making central Kentucky laugh this year. Originated 1987 it was actually on Broadway. Developed by Investors and the late Jeff Gilstrap. Jeff was a renaissance man of comedy who appreciated and loved the art form and wanted to give it a home in Lexington. He wanted it to be a theatrical experience of engagement not just a bar selling drinks where the inducement to keep drinking was a guy on stage telling jokes. No he wanted something different a philosophy that created a venue that became one of the premier comedy clubs in America. It was voted a top ten club by USA Today repeatedly thru the 90’s when newspaper rankings really meant something. A true destination for comics who wanted the stage time at a venue where the art form was paramount. Names like Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy, Steve Harvey, the late Charlie Murphy George Wallace, Sinbad and so many more household names are always on the marquee. After the sudden passing of the owner his protege Jordan Hawley took over the reins and uses the same guiding philosophy.
Some factors as to why it has been so successful in my opinion.
1. Theater first and bar second the emphasis has always been on the show and it’s success
2. That means enforcement of rules no talking or disruptions. Dealing with intoxicated people isn’t easy but Comedy off Broadway does about as good a job as anywhere in the country. Believe me if you have traveled around and seen what many comics have to tolerate until a threshold is met where someone does something about it. You would appreciate the club you have here in the bluegrass.
3. Permanent House MC. The original was Alex Bard who did it for a few years. Then Jeff hired a headliner living in Florida who was originally from Kentucky and most patrons feel like they know Scott Wilson. Scott with his Dean Martin style establishes a tone and tenor that puts audiences at ease the way Johnny’s monologue would on the tonight show. Good or bad it didn’t matter it’s his show and you are his guest and he has never let you down with bringing a good time to the faithful. That familiar face and expertise at crowd management goes a long way with creating the environment.
It is my home, my stage, where I learned to fail, learned to bomb, make wrong decisions but always welcomed me back until I was ready to take those lessons out on the road and apply them.
Everyone I meet that has been to the “club” tells me what a great time they had. It’s not just nationally known brilliant comics or some of the best up and coming local talent. The secret is this
In an isolated world where we live virtually alone in social media spheres. A real life experience is to share laughter with someone you love and complete strangers at the same time! That’s life; that is real. The surprise of a punchline, the clever twist of a phrase those things mean little if you can’t share that moment and nobody for more than 30 years has allowed those moments to grow and blossom for central Kentucky better than Comedy off Broadway