The year was 1980, and the Comedy Works club had just opened above the Middle East Restaurant on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Despite its unassuming location, the 350-person space helped catapult the standup careers of Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno and Steven Wright, who would eventually go on to become A-list comedians.
Though Comedy Works drew highly-regarded talent, the lack of parking served as a deterrent for audiences who didn’t live directly in the city. The club’s founder, Steve Young, had moved out to Los Angeles, California to try his luck as a television writer, but his sister Joy, and her husband Jimmy, were determined to keep Comedy Works afloat.
In 1990, the pair relaunched the club inside Georgine’s Restaurant, 1320 Newport Road, Bristol, where it has thrived ever since. In honor of its 30th anniversary season, the new Comedy Works is celebrating this major milestone with a jam-packed lineup through the fall and winter.
Ahead of the funny festivities, The Times caught up with current manager Michael N. James, who reflected on the club’s vast history and why, in his opinion, Comedy Works has become a weekend staple for the Bristol community and its surrounding areas.
“People know that they can come into the Comedy Works and be entertained. They don’t have to worry about parking. It’s free. And they know they don’t have to buy anything. If they don’t want to drink, they don’t have to drink…even though they probably will,” he said with a laugh. “It’s almost cheaper than a night out at the movies.”
For $40, guests can enjoy a four-course meal at Georgine’s beginning at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, followed by a standup show at 9:30 p.m. If they want to experience just one or the other, they’re invited to do so. Typically, each show features at least three comedians, with fresh talent appearing every week.
Past headliners include Samuel Comroe, a comedian with Tourette’s syndrome who played Comedy Works mere weeks before garnering national fame on America’s Got Talent; Julia Scotti, who was also a contestant on the show; and Keith Robinson, who tours nationally with Wanda Sykes.
“We’ve had a lot of celebrity comedians who started with us. They play the club and then move onto bigger venues,” James said.
In addition to the weekly shows, Comedy Works offers special traditions thanks to James, who implemented them after taking over the club when Joy died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, and Jimmy retired.
Events include “Girl’s Comedy Night Out,” which boasts an all-female lineup, “Dirty Date Night – Filthy & Funny,” “New Year’s Eve Comedy Dinner & Dance,” “Valentine’s Comedy Dinner & Dance,” “Comedy Parmesan” and “Out of the Closet Comedy,” which features LGBTQ+ comedians.
According to James, Comedy Works draws patrons from across Bucks County, Philadelphia and New Jersey thanks to its close proximity to I-95. For anyone driving a long distance to attend a show, he promised it’s worth the effort.
“The thing about our club is, it’s very intimate. No matter where you sit, you’re close to the stage,” he said. “They can also always count on good food and good comedy. That’s what’s kept us going.”
The 30th season starts on Oct. 4 and 5 with a double-headliner weekend. “Bernie Mac Official” celebrates the life of Bernie Mac with Coleman Green hosting the show, and Davin Rosenblatt headlining.
Other comedians slated to perform are: Joseph Anthony on Oct. 11 and 12; Donald Trump impersonator Bob DiBuono on Oct. 18 and 19; Kirk Bogos on Oct. 25 and 26; Joe Bublewicz on Nov. 1 and 2; Derrick Eason on Nov. 8 and 9; Kevin Lee on Nov. 15 and 16; Greg Randall on Nov. 22 and 23; The Reverend Bob Levy on Nov. 29; Anthony Rodia on Nov. 30; Paul Bond on Dec. 6 and 7; Legendary WID on Dec. 13 and 14; Kevin Downey Jr. on Dec. 20 and 21; and Howard G on Dec. 27 and 28.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Comedy Works inside Georgine’s Restaurant. More information is available at comedyworksbristol.com, facebook.com/TheComedyWorksBristol or 215-741-1661, Ext. 4. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org