Stop us if you've heard this one before: The Comedy Zone is planning to reopen in uptown Charlotte.
Only this time, it's no joke - the rumors are true. Heffron Talent International - which owns the Comedy Zone name and operates more than 60 locations in North America - announced Tuesday that it is building "a unique, state-of-the-art facility" at the N.C. Music Factory complex in Fourth Ward.
The planned 400-seat venue tentatively will open in late winter or early spring 2011, and Heffron Talent owner Brian Heffron said that bookings will start "pretty much right away." He's says he's already talking to A-list comics including Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence and Steve O, among others.
The new Comedy Zone will feature a dining room overlooking the "showroom"; the whole building could accommodate about 700 people.
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"It'll be kind of like a cool, funky, basement feel, with a carved-out, stadium-seating atmosphere," Heffron said. "We're getting away from the flat floor and into the concave design with stadium seating. The stage'll be right out in the crowd, Vegas-style."
Heffron Talent, which has its corporate headquarters in southwest Charlotte, currently operates Comedy Zones out of the Galway Hooker pub in Lake Norman and Madison's on the Corner in Fort Mill.
There have been rumblings about a new uptown location ever since the old spot on College Street (capacity: 350) closed nearly three years ago. Last February, Brian Heffron told the Observer: "There will be a fairly big announcement very soon. I think we're within a week (of making it). ... It's gonna be the best club I've ever put in this town."
On Tuesday, Heffron acknowledged that it hasn't been easy getting to this point.
"A lot of mistakes have been made in order to do it right over the years," he said, adding that he thinks the new club will change the landscape of Charlotte's comedy scene.
"The improvs and the open mics and all that are a critical part of the city as a whole, but everybody's drifting around back and forth," Heffron said. "So this'll create a home base for everybody."