Entertainment

A new Triangle comedy club is set to open with heavy-hitter comics on the lineup

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2016, file photo, Actor Ken Jeong participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his television series “Dr. Ken” at AOL Studios in New York. Jeong was a doctor before he became a comedian. That training came in handy when an audience member began having a seizure while Jeong was performing at a comedy club in Phoenix on Saturday, May 5, 2018.
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2016, file photo, Actor Ken Jeong participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his television series “Dr. Ken” at AOL Studios in New York. Jeong was a doctor before he became a comedian. That training came in handy when an audience member began having a seizure while Jeong was performing at a comedy club in Phoenix on Saturday, May 5, 2018. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision

A new comedy club is coming soon to the Triangle’s live-entertainment landscape, a place called Raleigh Improv. Which is not actually in Raleigh, but we’ll get to that.

Raleigh Improv will have what general manager Andrew Lofaro describes as “comfortable seating for 460” — plus uncomfortable seating for another 121, if the demand is there, which adds up to a fire-code capacity of 581.

The club’s initial schedule is a good one, too, opening with four soldout shows for “The Hangover”/“Crazy Rich Asians” star Ken Jeong Dec. 28-29.

Also on tap is blue-collar Southern comic Dusty Slay on New Year’s Eve; Whitney Cummings, TV writer and creator of the sitcom series “2 Broke Girls,” Jan. 4-5; and former talk-show host Arsenio Hall Feb. 1-2.

Here are five things to know.

1. Raleigh Improv is actually in Cary.

It’s in Parkside Town Commons, at 1224 Parkside Main St. And it’s called “Raleigh” rather than “Cary” primarily because of branding.

“We’ve been doing research in Raleigh for years, looking for a place to grow in this market,” said Lofaro. “The town of Cary is a huge reason why we’re here now instead of two years down the road. Obviously, Cary is a great town with the statistics everybody wants. But at the end of the day, Raleigh is the anchor city.”

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Raleigh Improv is opening in Cary and will seat about 460 people. It’s in Parkside Town Commons, at 1224 Parkside Main St. Plans call for a full-service restaurant and live-music club to open within the Raleigh Improv space sometime in the second half of 2019. Raleigh Improv

2. Opening night will feature an act with local ties.

Before Jeong was a star, he grew up in Greensboro, the son of immigrant parents from South Korea. He went on to Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, eventually becoming a licensed physician. He most recently cheered on his Blue Devils at the UNC-Duke game in March.

But medicine long ago took a back seat to acting and standup. Along with “The Hangover” and this year’s big-screen smash “Crazy Rich Asians,” he has had major parts in the network sitcoms “Dr. Ken” and “Community.” This week, comedian Whoopi Goldberg publicly voiced support for Jeong hosting the Oscars, making him the first Asian-American to do so, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Jeong agreed with Goldberg on “The View” and later on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” (No decision has been made.)

All four of Jeong’s shows on Dec. 28-29 are already sold out.

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3. Raleigh Improv is part of a chain.

It’s a sizable one, too. Improv Live is part of the Levity Live organization and has more than 30 clubs across the nation, with more in the works for Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and cities in Florida and Texas.

“We have an aggressive growth platform, and the Southeast is part of the expansion plan,” said Robert Hartmann, co-founder of Levity. “I’ve always looked at Raleigh as a kind of meeting point between North and South, fitting nicely into the East Coast triangle with Nashville and New York.”

The national acts are booked out of the chain’s Los Angeles office.

arsenio hall
COURTESY OF ARSENIO HALL Provided photo

4. There will be competition.

Raleigh Improv enters a market that has long had a leading high-profile comedy venue, Goodnights Comedy Club, open in Raleigh since 1983. But the new club’s management downplays the competition angle.

“This market is absolutely big enough for both of us, especially given how fast it’s growing,” said Hartmann. “Seems like everyone’s moving here. Orange cones dot the highway everywhere you go here.”

5. A restaurant and music club are in the works.

Plans call for a full-service restaurant and live-music club to open within the Raleigh Improv space sometime in the second half of 2019. The model is Copper Blues Rock Pub & Kitchen, which is in five other Improv locations, with a capacity of around 200.

“We are all about live,” said Hartmann. “In a world that’s so digital, one thing we need more of is something you experience that only happens one time. There’s that moment, it’s gone forever and every night is different.”

Details

Raleigh Improv is in Parkside Town Commons, at 1224 Parkside Main St., Cary.

Upcoming shows include Dusty Slay, Dec. 31; Chris Kattan & Friends, Jan. 18-20; Arsenio Hall, Feb. 1-2; Gilbert Gottfried, Feb. 8-10; Andrew Schulz, Feb. 14; and Rita Rudner, Feb. 16-17.

For details and tickets, go to improv.com/raleigh.

David Menconi has covered music and the arts for The News & Observer since 1991. He can be reached at 919-829-4759 or dmenconi@newsobserver.com.
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