"Morty’s: the next big thing
Eric Shorts, a veteran comic and familiar face to local comedy fans, has partnered with childhood friend Andrew Pincus, a bankruptcy lawyer based in New Jersey, to resurrect a comedy club on Indy’s Northside. They’ll be unveiling Morty’s Comedy Joint on Aug. 10, in the space formerly occupied by one of the national Funny Bone outlets.
Shorts first took the stage as a comic 20 years ago at Catch a Rising Star in the Princeton (N.J.) Hyatt. Since then he has traveled the nation, working as a comic based in Southern California, the East Coast and the Midwest. He’s waited tables, bartended and promoted several of his own comedy shows.
“I have always tried to put together things that I thought worked well at other venues,” Shorts says. “I have thought, ‘Hey, one day if I ever got the opportunity to do a comedy club, I would do it like this.’”
Now he’s getting the chance.
The duo started looking in earnest two years ago, first scouting locations in New Jersey and then in San Diego’s refurbished downtown. They checked out options in New York and Chicago, but none resonated.
When they found the vacated Funny Bone space in Indianapolis, it made sense. It was already built out to be a comedy club. Liquor licenses on the Northside are inexpensive and easy to come by and the demographics satisfied the number crunchers. The hurdles they had encountered at other places melted away.
“Our vision for a comedy club is very, very different from the typical comedy club,” says Pincus, who along with his family and friends provided most of the club’s funding. “It’s not your cramped, dark, smoky place where they serve cheap alcohol on stackable chairs. It is an upscale vision.”
Pincus and Shorts have patterned Morty’s after the New York City comedy clubs with which they are familiar. They aim to raise the bar in terms of service, quality and standards, for patrons and comics alike. They’re pouring only premium liquors and Shorts’ wife, Betty Jo, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has designed a menu that runs swift laps around the traditional comedy club fare.
“Our focus is in trying to change the comedy club experience into an event and not just a show,” Shorts says. “I want to bring the best talent here, and by that I don’t even mean the best names. Name value does not always equate to talent.”
“We want to do something fresh,” Pincus says. “Eric is a real comedy purist. He is a real expert in [identifying] talent; he has a real good eye for it. The idea here is we may bring in some unknowns, but you aren’t going to be disappointed with the show.”
“Sort of like a Slippery Noodle. Last time I went to Slippery Noodle I had a great time. I have no idea who the band was, but I always know when I go there I’m gonna have a good time. I want us to be that consistent,” Shorts said.
Whether the NYC approach will play in the heartland is unknown. What is clear is that the neighborhood surrounding the facility is changing. When the Funny Bone opened in November 2002, it was the only tenant open for business in a very nice, but equally new strip mall. Evening diners, shoppers and other foot traffic was non-existent. That is no longer the case. The corridor along 96th Street between Allisonville and Keystone is thriving. Restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and shops have blossomed and the area is emerging as an entertainment destination for many Northsiders.
The doors fly open on Aug. 10 with Don Friesen, two-time winner of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, plowing them down behind Drake Witham and Hank McGill, who also MCed opening night at the old Funny Bone.
Morty’s Comedy Joint is located at 3625 E. 96th St. The first 23 shows are only $1 with reservations, $5 at the door. There is a two drink minimum. For more info, including a schedule of comics and show times, check ’em out at www.mortyscomedy.com or call 317-848-5500.