Funny Business comedy club ready to laugh it up

No joke — a new comedy club is set to open Nov. 6 in the basement of the former S&W cafeteria building in downtown Asheville.

The venture brings together Charlie Gerencer, a producer of the successful annual Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival and an Emmy-nominated former producer of NBC's Last Comic Standing, and John Yoder, whose Funny Business comedy booking agency represents comedians in 63 cities around the U.S. Yoder works with his sons Jamison and Eric, who will also be a part of the Funny Business comedy club.

Funny foursome: The team of Asheville comedy experts who have come together to create the new Funny Business comedy club are, from left: Eric Yoder, Charlie Gerencer, Jamison Yoder and John Yoder. Gerencer has helped produce the Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival, while the Yoders own a national comedy-booking agency that recently relocated from Michigan to Asheville and is also called Funny Business. Photo by Jason Sandford

"Everything just kind of came together," says Gerencer, noting that the success of the Laugh Your Asheville Off event over the past three years has helped build a market that's more than ready to laugh. Aside from the festival, which offers dozens of standup comics over three days, Asheville is bursting at the seems with jokesters of all stripes, from local improvisational and sketch groups such as the Feral Chihuahuas and the LYLAS to comics working open-mic nights and the LaZoom comedy-bus tours.

We have the fan base," Gerencer says. "Asheville is one heck of a music town, and I think it's on the verge of being one heck of a comedy town."

The new club will be located in the basement of the former S&W building, a gem of Art Deco architecture recently renovated to house two restaurants, a bar and condominiums. The 3,300-square-foot venue will feature a stage, full bar and seating for about 200 people, according to Gerencer. It will feature food from Sadie's Seafood Pub and the Steak & Wine restaurant.

The club plans to offer four shows a weekend — two on Fridays and two on Saturdays — with ticket prices in the $13 to $15 range, depending on the act, Gerencer says.

John Yoder says that teaming up with Gerencer "brings together skill and experience" that has the potential to propel the comedy club to regional prominence. Yoder and his family moved to Asheville about two months ago from Grand Rapids, Mich., and he brought his booking agency with him. Yoder's offices are located on Long Shoals Road.

Yoder says Asheville is a growth market already bubbling with a multitude of entertainment options, making a comedy club a good fit. The club will draw a diverse line-up of talent, including comics seen on Comedy Central, says Yoder. It already has booked the comics Lachlan Patterson, Nate Craig, Carl LaBove and Alex Ortiz for the month of November.

The club's Web site — www.ashevillecomedy.com — will be unveiled in a couple of weeks, according to Yoder.

"I think Asheville's going to have a beautiful, well-run comedy club," he says. "We're pumped up."

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