The folks behind Morty’s Comedy Joint, the newest and swankiest comedy club in town, haven’t re-invented the wheel, but the model they rolled out at an invite-only preview Aug. 9 has enjoyed quite a bit of refining.

Gone are the standard brick wall behind the stage, stackable chairs and general comedy club disregard for aesthetics. In their stead are soft-hued walls, gel lights and wood accents. Morty’s has the look and feel of a hip restaurant and, thanks to American Culinary Institute grad Betty Jo Shorts, a menu to match.

They didn’t abandon all the comedy club axioms. Color-washed photos of comedians dot the walls but, while the standards are all there (Sam Kinnison, Steve Martin and Richard Pryor), there is plenty of stock from the new school, repped, in this case, by Dane Cook, Mitch Hedberg and Dave Chappelle.

“We put those up about 10 minutes before we opened,” says co-owner Andrew Pincus. “No joke, I was hammering at 10 [minutes] to 7 [o’clock].”

Small touches abound, such as the mirror in the men’s room that offers the backhanded affirmation: “In the right light, you are very good looking.”

Morty’s bar offerings are on par with their upscale menu and there’s plenty of staff to make sure everything gets where it needs to be on time.

“We spent a lot of effort to make this different than the typical comedy club,” Pincus said. “I hope it shows.”

Ambiance and a nice menu will only get you so far (good drinks, a little further). People don’t head off to comedy clubs for tasteful décor and a nice merlot anymore than folks head to concert halls to appreciate comfortable seats. If the talent doesn’t resonate, the rest is inconsequential. This night, it resonated. It reverberated even.

Eric Shorts kicked the night off. “I own the club,” he said. “You are damn right I am the first one on stage.” Hank McGill bridged the gap to the headliner, Don Friesen, who killed with impunity in an abbreviated set. Friesen has a manic, goofy presence and doled out mash-ups of Dr. Seuss and a cellular calling plan, student loan debt seen through the window of “Cat’s in the Cradle” and an extended riff about an airline pilot on Percocet.

Shorts has expressed an interest in bringing highly talented, but possibly lesser known comedians to town. If Friesen is an indication, he is off to a stellar start.

“I hope that you will come back again,” Shorts implored the audience. “Tell your friends, family, anybody with cash, really.”

Morty’s Comedy Joint is located at 3625 E. 96th St. Admission for the first 23 shows is only $1 with a reservation. Call 317-848-5500 for the whole scoop.


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