The theater lights dim, a spotlight blinks on, and golden light is cast across a lone microphone at centerstage. The evening’s entertainer arrives, and the hushed crowd erupts into laughter that echoes throughout the intimate venue. Though these are nationally renowned, touring comedians, this isn’t a one-off event: It’s The Comedy Zone in its new Asheville home at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.
For four weekends this season, downtown Asheville is getting its very own comedy club, featuring a touring selection of some of the hottest stand-up comedians today — and it all begins Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 and 14.
After a popular run at the venue last season, the nation’s largest comedy collective is back, bringing top-notch comedians as seen in specials on Comedy Central, HBO Comedy, Netflix, Hulu and more. With a new headliner and opening act each weekend, The Comedy Zone is constantly refreshing its selection of witty one-liners, preposterous punchlines and hysterical anecdotes to keep locals laughing all night — and all year — long.
The Comedy Zone was founded in 1986 to capitalize on the growing stand-up movement of the time. “Cable TV was just getting started, and stand-up was finally being featured on TV other than The Tonight Show,” said Comedy Zone owner and managing partner Brian Heffron. With so much momentum behind comedy, “we also wanted to bring world-class comedy to small and mid-size markets that might not be able to support a full-time comedy club.”
By the mid-90s, The Comedy Zone was one of the largest networks of comedians in the country — and, today, the collective continues to fill venues nationwide, including at its own dedicated, branded clubs from Pennsylvania to Florida.
At the Wortham Center’s comedy club, however, guests are treated to more than just a show. Drop in, hang out, enjoy drink and snack specials — with treats from Asheville Charcuterie Company, $5 local drafts and 20% off bottles of wine, just for the occasion — and get ready to laugh out loud in the venue’s intimate Tina McGuire Theatre.
“Bring a date. Plan a girls’ night out. Come see us in October — and then again in December, January or February. We really want people to know that the Wortham Center is the place to find comedy in Asheville,” said Rae Geoffrey, managing director of the Wortham Center.
Each weekend brings a new headliner and opening act to the downtown venue, kicking off with the hilarious Leonard Outzs on Oct. 13 and 14, continuing with Joel Byars on Dec. 1 and 2 and Lace Larrabee on Jan. 19 and 20, and wrapping for the season with Doug Smith on Feb. 23 and 24.
“You might not know their names, but these are some of the top comedians in the country,” Heffron said. “Bigger name doesn’t mean bigger laughs — and we all need a good laugh from time to time. No matter your background, demographic or income level: Everyone loves to laugh. It’s a unifying activity. So give us a try, and let us show you some great entertainment.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Comedy Zone with headliner Leonard Outzs
When: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 and 14
Where: Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, 18 Biltmore Ave., downtown Asheville