Weekender

Wisecrackers series brings top-notch comedians to State College

Wisecrackers Comedy Club has been bringing top-notch comedians to the area for more than a decade. Above, Jesse Joyce does his stand-up routine in 2011.
Wisecrackers Comedy Club has been bringing top-notch comedians to the area for more than a decade. Above, Jesse Joyce does his stand-up routine in 2011. Centre Daily Times, file

Although it isn’t quite the 1980s anymore, the second comedy club boom is here and Wisecrackers is ready to make Centre County laugh. The new season gets underway Jan. 13 with Brian McFadden and Mick Thomas taking the stage at Celebration Hall in State College.

“Brian is a really good talent and clever story-teller,” said Wisecracker’s promoter Tom Bruce. “He’s been one of our favorite acts who audiences always request and we’re happy to be kicking off this season with him as the headliner.”

Thanks to social media, podcasting, television shows and good, old fashioned word-of-mouth, comedy clubs are taking in massive audiences, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the early days of Jerry Seinfeld, Dom Irrera and “An Evening at the Improv.” Bruce is looking to share this renewed interest in the art by bringing top-notch comedians to the area.

“We’re in a really good place right now with comedy being a good and interesting choice for a night out,” Bruce said. “These new forms of media help to proliferate the events and the actual humor itself. It’s a plus to have them out there working for us.”

During those hectic days in the ’80s, comedians were rock stars. The clubs became places to not only see a comic, but to just be seen yourself. The excess on stage and off were the stuff of legend and even left a few causalities in its wake. As a comic back then, Bruce’s brother, Scott, gained unparalleled insight into what made a comedy club work. After years of performing across the country, Scott decided to get into the promotional side of things and use the knowledge he gained to launch his own clubs before Tom joined him.

“I give a lot of credit to my brother, who played in so many clubs, and when he was on the road he paid attention to what separated a good club from a bad club and incorporated those characteristics into Wisecrackers,” Bruce said. “To have a successful club, we have to treat the comedians right and accommodate them, which I think we’ve done a pretty good job with.”

With a slate that runs appropriately through April Fools’ Day, Wisecrackers is looking to build upon the successful foundation that they set in State College back in 2001. Crowds will have a unique opportunity to see a talented array of both established and up-and-coming comedians doing what they do best.

“We always try to have the same quality comedy year in and year out. We’re having some old favorites as well as some new comics, which will give people the chance to come out and see some brand new faces,” Bruce said. “We’re taking these New York City comedians and taking them to these smaller towns and the audiences love having them come to their town. We really do surprise people with the quality of our comedy. We bring the city to Happy Valley.”

A comedy club is only as good as its emcee, and Wisecrackers has taken an interesting approach to ensuring that it has a quality host. In addition to showcasing some local talent, Bruce has fulfilled his town and gown obligations by reaching out to Penn State’s Second Floor Stand-Up club. Established in 2009, this student group has been making a name for itself on campus and in venues throughout State College. After the group caught Bruce’s eye, he invited members of the group to riff and introduce the acts at Wisecrackers.

“When you’re young, you need stage time and you need to get out there in front of people,” Bruce said. “I’ve been very impressed with this group and think that having these students come out and host the shows is a great tie-in with the university and will also give these young comedians the stage time they need.”

During the past five years, Wisecrackers has been operating out of Celebration Hall. Bruce said the locations gives the flexibility to tailor the venue to fit the comic and the audience.

“What’s unique and special about this room is that even though it’s pretty large, I am able to adjust the walls to fit the crowd,” Bruce said. “It’s a very comfortable setting in a very good room that maintains its intimacy no matter how big the audience is.”

Another unique aspect about Bruce’s operation is his charitable work and fundraising in the community. In addition to supporting the United Way, Centre County PAWS, Relay for Life and other organizations, Bruce also puts on private shows for families that need some extra assistance.

“It’s the right thing to do and it has helped out a lot of people in our community,” Bruce said. “This charitable approach has ensured that we get exposure, which draws a nice crowd while also raising public goodwill. I am very pleased to be doing this and have had the opportunity to meet with a lot of special people and help them reach their goals. It has certainly been very rewarding.”

Every season, Bruce aims to build upon his previous success and this year it’s no different. With 28 shows in store, audiences can expect to continue laughing at Wisecrackers.

“Not only do people like to laugh, they need to laugh,” Bruce said. “I am really having a ball doing this, and I look forward to doing it for years to come.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Wisecrackers Comedy Club: Brian McFadden and Mic Thomas
  • When: 9 p.m. Jan. 13-14
  • Where: Celebration Hall, 2280 Commercial Blvd., State College
  • Info: www.wisecrackers.biz.
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