A funny business in the East Valley is closing its doors today without really having its last laugh.
Instead, the Tempe Improv, located at 930 E. University Drive, is closing under a shroud of seriousness and a bit of mystery as its co-owner, Mark Wilson Anderson, has been missing for two weeks.
While authorities believe he could be somewhere in the Dallas area, Anderson was joined earlier this month by Improv co-owner Howard Pohlenz and other representatives in announcing that the 24-year-old venue would close June 1. They specificically cited competition from Standup Live in downtown Phoenix, which now lands most major acts coming to the Valley. In the past, the Improv presented major comics such as Jerry Seinfeld, George Lopez and David Spade.
Comics Arden Myrin and Steve Hytner hold the distinction of being the last acts at the Improv, performing the last shows on May 26, according to Yamili Cano, day manager of the Tempe Improv.
Cano said on Thursday that no shows are planned for tonight.
“We’re probably not going to do anything but close the doors,” said Cano, who has been working for the Tempe Improv for nine years and started in the ticket office. “It’s pretty terrible. We love this place. It’s sad to see it go, especially this way anyway.”
Cano and a handful of others were inside the Improv’s office on Thursday, finishing up paperwork.
“I consider the people I work with as family,” Cano said. “Everyone here has been pretty supportive. The comedy circuit is a family.”
Meanwhile, a nationwide search for Anderson remains focused on the Dallas area.
Anderson, 60, was reported missing by his family on May 15, three days after he left Oklahoma City to travel to Phoenix or Dallas to do business, according to Thomas Martin, a private investigator with Martin Investigative Services of Newport Beach, Calif. The family family hired Martin to look into his disappearance.
Martin told the Tribune earlier this week that his office has been monitoring Anderson’s credit card purchases and phone calls, but there has not been any movement on them since May 15, the day he showed up at a friend’s house in San Diego.
The investigators are focusing their search on the Dallas area, as there have been at least three sightings of Anderson in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton as well as one at WinStar Casino in Oklahoma near the Texas border, Martin said.
Anderson has gray hair, brown eyes and glasses and travels between Phoenix and Oklahoma.
He was last seen driving a silver 2011 Dodge Durango SUV with Arizona License Plate No. AWE8050.
Although the final curtain is falling on the Improv today, ComedySchools.com, an independent comedy development and promotional entity that teaches stand-up comedy at the Improv, will re-open in another location in the weeks ahead, according to the school’s director, Tony Vicich.
“Hopefully, the Improv can re-open in the future,” Cano said.
If anyone knows anything about Anderson’s disappearance or where he is, they can call 911 or the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit at (405) 297-1129.
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