Side Splitters Comedy Club, 12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, presents headline comedians performing Thursday through Sunday evenings, thus offering an alternative to the usual night out. Each week the club brings in a national act for one show on Thursday, two shows on Friday, three shows on Saturday and one show on Sunday.
“We’ve played host to some of the biggest names in comedy,” says owner Bobby Jewell. “Larry the Cable Guy began his career here. Ron White, Ray Romano, Kevin James and Dom Irrera have performed here, and Tom Arnold was just here at the end of April.”
Side Splitters Comedy Club has been open for 21 years, according to Jewell, and the showroom holds about 250 people in an intimate setting, while the lobby can hold another 100. The seating around small tables allows patrons space to enjoy drinks and a snack, while being entertained.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” Jewell insists. “We offer a full bar, as well as non-alcoholic drinks, coffee drinks, panini sandwiches, nachos, chicken bites, a veggie platter, cheese sticks and other types of bar food. We have the world’s greatest popcorn…at least the best popcorn east of the Mississippi. Usually there are three people at each show: the host, the featured performer and the headliner.”
One aspect of Side Splitters Comedy Club that makes it unique among Tampa Bay area nightspots is the open mic night. Somewhat of a tradition in comedy clubs, open mic night allows for amateur comics to test their mettle in a professional club and setting.
“It’s a great venue for up-and-comers to get started in a professional setting. We give them the opportunity to come in and watch the regular shows, then hit the stage with their talent for six minutes,” explains Jewell, who began his own stand up career with an open mic appearance. “We do our best to try to mold them and move them forward in this business.”
Learning to exude stage presence and how to handle an audience are the hardest things for a new comic to learn, according to Jewell, so he tells open mic participants to, more or less, bring their own audience.
“We encourage new comics to bring their friends so that they are not completely in the cold,” Jewell adds.
Side Splitters Comedy Club has done several charity events over the years, helping to raise funds for a variety of organizations. The success of the Carrollwood club led to the opening of a sister club in Knoxville, Tenn., five years ago.
The club’s website includes a schedule and seating chart, allowing patrons to choose their seats for upcoming shows and to save by purchasing tickets online. Upcoming shows include Henry Cho, Jen Kober, Josh Blue and Mary Lynn Rajskub.