Ken Watter and Irwin Weinstein, two comics, met about 15 years ago at a stand-up comedy event. For years the duo shared a dream of opening a comedy club. Now they have turned that dream into a reality in Montgomery County, and are helping local nonprofits in the process.
Starting Friday, Give a Hoot Comedy Club, housed inside the La Mexicana restaurant in Gaithersburg, will hold comedy performances four nights a week, with half of the door profits going toward local nonprofits, they say. The organization promotes itself as “Montgomery County’s only full-time comedy club,” and it joins a small cadre of groups, such as Silver Spring’s Improbable Comedy, creating or hosting comedy.
Chris Coccia, a comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central and Philadelphia-area radio stations, headlines this opening weekend. Other comedians scheduled for coming weeks include Pittsburg Comedian John Knight known for his signature mocking cynicism and deadpan delivery.
“It is really important to us both that we are able to help support Montgomery nonprofits,” Weinstein said. “I think … the mission of the club is to be a supporter of our community.”
Ash Sawhney has owned the Gaithersburg location of La Mexicana for nearly a decade, as well as the Germantown location for almost 25 years. Sawhney said the collaboration helps everyone involved.
“It’s such a good cause and laughing and giving back [are] two beautiful things,” he said. “They have a good mission. It’s a win-win situation for the community, for the club and for the restaurant–everybody.”
The comedy club is off the restaurant’s main entrance, so patrons can visit the bar for a drink or dine in the restaurant before a show.
On Wednesdays, the club plans to hold an open-mic night; Fridays and Saturdays the club will present professional comedians featuring an array of regional, up and coming and touring comedians; and Sundays will feature special entertainment such as a murder mystery comedy show or a drag comedy show.
“The whole idea is to turn this into an alternative entertainment venue,” Weinstein said. “Professional comedy is not something that is common throughout Montgomery County.”
Weinstein’s wife, Courtland Shaffer-Kelly, is the executive director of Give a Hoot Charities and helps coordinate which nonprofits benefit from the shows.
Proceeds from the grand opening performances will benefit Comfort Cases, which helps children in the Foster Care system while educating the public about issues facing kids in foster care.
Helping local nonprofits isn’t just limited to financial assistance, Weinstein said.
“There are a lot of amazing organizations in Montgomery County people don’t know about, and that’s one of the other things by being part of the club will help them, it gets them visibility,” he said.
Some other nonprofits that will benefit from comedy club performances include Stepping Stones, A Wider Circle and the Arc of Montgomery County.
In addition to helping the community, the duo also wants to provide a hub for entertainment.
“I would like this place to be an ongoing successful club destination that people think of when they think what they want to do,” Watter said. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest place in the world, but I’d like it to be successful and consistent.” The club has held some soft-opening events over the past few weeks and will hold its grand opening Jan. 20 and 21, with performances by comedian Chris Coccia. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, and $25 at the door. The club is located at 16143 Shady Grove Road.