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Dig the new digs for McCurdy's

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Les and Pam McCurdy host a soft opening of the new location of McCurdy's Comedy Theatre on Monday night. (Correspondent photos by Casey Brooke Lawson)

Over the years, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre employees have worn colorful T-shirts with funny sayings on the back.

“This place is a joke.”

“One out of 10 dentists recommend McCurdy’s for a healthy smile.”

“You think I’m funny, but I’m really just mean.”

“I lost 10 pounds at McCurdy’s; I laughed my ass off.”

Chip Beeman, co-owner of the Main Street Sandwich Shop with his wife Kate and a frequent patron of McCurdy’s, remembered those T-shirts. He called Les McCurdy recently and asked if he had any of them left; he wanted his own employees to wear them so they could embrace McCurdy’s’ move from the North Trail to Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota.

“He told me, ‘Everybody should just be handing you money,’ ” McCurdy said, with a laugh. “All the business owners around our new place are excited about having us here. They’ve all been very welcoming. It’s overwhelming.”

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It was a packed house for McCurdy's Comedy Theatre's soft opening Monday night. (Correspondent photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

The new McCurdy’s, at 1923 Ringling Blvd., had a soft opening on Monday night, with a pre-grand opening fundraiser for co-owner Pam McCurdy’s favorite charity, American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Local media, comedians and dignitaries were invited, entertained by local musicians and the Black Diamond Burlesque troupe.

Then Wednesday night, Louis Johnson Jr., a McCurdy’s favorite for more than 20 years, got the stand-up comedy ball rolling. He performs nightly through Sunday.

A week ago, the McCurdys passed all their inspections, and renovations were kicked up a notch. Workers installed the LED lighting and sound system; tables were turned upside down and chairs were stacked up; the smell of fresh paint filled the expansive room. Les McCurdy went over opening-week details with his club manager and a few other employees, and Pam McCurdy was at the bank signing more paperwork.

“The facility is ready to go, but we’ll be tweaking things along the way,” Les McCurdy said. “By the time we have Darrell Hammond here in July, we should have everything squared away. We have to be ready for every contingency, whether it’s a slow June or if it’s packed every night.”

Clearly, the McCurdys are having fun with their new space. Whereas their North Tamiami Trail location was “a cave, with no windows,” Les McCurdy said, the Ringling Boulevard spot is like an open canvas.

The building was home to the short-lived Shaner’s Pizzeria and the Horse Feathers nightclub before that. In December, the McCurdys signed a 10-year lease, with two five-year options, for the 7,100-square-foot space owned by Sarasota developer Mark Kauffmann. That space includes the storefront formerly occupied by Elan Salon (which moved to the Whole Foods Center on Central Avenue).

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A member of the Black Diamond Burlesque troupe performs for the crowd.

The inside was gutted and retrofitted to feature a state-of-the-art theater performance space, including an elaborate multimedia system. The original entrance was converted into the box office; patrons can buy and pick up tickets there and then walk down an awning-covered sidewalk to the new entrance. There, they’re welcomed into The Green Room, a lounge and bar area where guests can enjoy drinks before and after showtime.

To the right of The Green Room are the restrooms — men’s, women’s and unisex. Each one has a theme. The unisex restroom is painted “tinkled pink,” McCurdy jokes, and has been decorated by American Cancer Society volunteers to spotlight breast cancer awareness.

“When we were coming up for ideas for the other restrooms, it finally dawned on us: the Johns!,” McCurdy said. “They have since passed away, but Sami and Don John were two of our greatest supporters from the beginning. So, we have themed the women’s restroom after Sami; her favorite color was purple and the mirrors are shaped like her signature big glasses. Don was a banker, so we went for the pinstriped, conservative look for the men’s room.”

The new McCurdy’s has a much larger kitchen and another service bar (to get drinks out quicker to guests). The theater will seat about 200 per show, roughly the same as the North Trail venue, but there’s plenty more room to move about.

“The other place was like a basement,” McCurdy said. “This is like night and day.”

The McCurdys were grinning from ear to ear Monday night, but they admit moving into their fourth location in the past 26 years was still very stressful.

“But now comes the fun part,” Les said.

COMEDIAN SINBAD GETS A LOOK AT THE NEW McCURDY'S

McCURDY’S COMEDY THEATRE
Coming shows: Louis Johnson Jr., June 12-15 / Dale Jones, June 18-22 / John DiCrosta, June 25-29. 1923 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. 925-3869; mccurdyscomedy.com.

COMING UP AT McCURDY'S
Darrell Hammond, Rachel Feinstein, D.L. Hughley, Elayne Boosler, Kevin Nealon
Last modified: July 3, 2014
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