For the last five years, The Comedy Zone Lake Norman has showcased nationally touring comedians to sell-out crowds nearly every Tuesday night.
Last week, actor/comedian Pauly Shore performed two sets to a packed house. Sandy Danto, Shore's traveling comedic partner who has appeared on "MADtv," along with up-and-comer Carlos Valencia warmed up the crowd.
Shore grew up around legendary comedians like Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison. His parents opened The Comedy Store in 1972 on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Calif. The 38-year-old club continues to launch many careers. Shore, known for his roles in the movies "Encino Man" and "Son In Law," became famous in the early 1990s for his portrayal of The Weasel on MTV's "Totally Pauly." His new movie, "Adopted," is due out in June and a Showtime comedy special is in the works.
Laughs for a cause
Partners Chris Boukedes and John Bisson use the Galway Hooker - an Irish pub-themed restaurant - as an anchor to their catering, events and hospitality business. The Comedy Zone is located above the restaurant in Waterford Hall, a 200-seat venue that hosts live shows at 8 p.m. each Tuesday.
The club also has helped raise millions for local and national charities by hosting comedy events as fundraisers. Its NFL Caring for Kids event raises about $500,000 each June for Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boukedes said. The club has also partnered with the American Cancer Society, The American Red Cross and its annual Laugh for MS event is a big draw.
Boukedes is preparing to re-open The Comedy Zone Charlotte with his other partner, Brain Heffron, 42, who books big-name comedians - Sinbad, Robin Williams and Chris Rock to name a few - through Heffron Talent International.
The club operated in Charlotte for 20 years at two different venues, but Heffron closed it a couple years ago in order to find and create a new venue with Boukedes. Details have not been finalized, but they plan to open a 300-seat venue with a restaurant in Charlotte by June.
"We're coming back to make Charlotte laugh again," Boukedes said. "The flagship of comedy in Charlotte will be back before summer."
The Galway Hooker
Boukedes, 40, has 21 years of experience in the restaurant and entertainment business. He lives in Cornelius with his wife of 10 years, Danielle, and their two daughters, Ella and Zoey.
"I've been in the kitchen, whether I liked it or not, since I was 5 years old," said Boukedes, who was born and raised in Charlotte by a family full of restaurateurs.
The restaurant was designed in Dublin, Ireland, by the Irish Pub Company, which has specialized in the design, manufacturing and installation of authentic Irish pubs worldwide sine 1991. The entire pub was imported and built - piece by piece - over a two-year period.
In the kitchen, Johnson and Wales University culinary graduate Steve Jordan serves up a few traditional Irish staples combined with a fusion of seafood, steak, appetizers and sandwiches. He has 15 years experience as a chef.
The Lake Norman club has been visited by celebrities, including The Jonas Brothers, Lenny Kravitz and Matchbox 20. More than a dozen area NASCAR drivers frequent the shows as well, he said.
The comedy club in Lake Norman is one of his proudest achievements. "One good laugh can make your whole day," he said.