Forget driving to Tempe or Scottsdale for a laugh; comedy fans can get giggling right here in Mesa. National Comedy Theatre presents four live comedy shows each weekend, and, through March 21, tickets to the late shows are buy-one-get-one-free.
It's part of an effort, says the theater's creative director Krissy Lenz, to let locals know there's a comedy spot in their neck of the woods.
"A lot of people don't know that we're here. We've only been open since February of last year, and we just haven't had the time to build name recognition like the Improv in Tempe or the Comedy Spot in Scottsdale," she says.
Housed in an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way old coffee shop near Mesa Community College, the club doesn't bring in big-name comedians, serve drinks from a bar or offer a dinner menu. Its schtick is good, clean fun for the whole family, along with movie theater-style snacks like popcorn, candy and pop.
"We don't use bad language or inappropriate subject material. We like being able to have a broader audience. High school kids and families are some of the most fun audiences, and we don't want to eliminate them from being able to come because we rely on crude humor," says Lenz.
Instead, the performers - local comics who must audition for a spot on the theater's comedy team - are trained to be funny without being offensive. If a performer or audience member breaks the rules, they get a brown paper bag on their head for the duration of the sketch.
The improvisational shows are built around audience suggestions and voting, similar to the TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" No two shows are ever alike.
Lenz and her husband, Dorian, own the theater. The couple, who grew up in the East Valley and now live in Mesa, trained with local comedy troupes the Oxymoron'Z and Impromptu, and with National Comedy Theatre in San Diego before opening Mesa's National Comedy Theatre. There are two other theaters in New York City and San Diego.
In addition to four weekly improv shows, the theater offers ongoing comedy training workshops for adults of all skill levels, a league for aspiring high school comedians, and entertainment for corporate and private events.