Landmark local comedy club Tempe Improv, which closed last summer after decades of hosting hundreds of superstar stand-ups, is making a return. The legendary laugh establishment, located near University Drive and Rural Road in Tempe, is scheduled to reopen its doors in mid-April.
It's just the latest development in the recent drama-filled history of the Improv, and it has a couple of surprising wrinkles.
To wit: One of the parties involved with the relaunch of the venerated club, which shut down in June 2012 after 24 years in operation, is comedy impresario Joel Bachkoff, owner of onetime Improv competitor Stand Up Live at CityScape.
According to the news of the Improv's impending return and various business records, Bachkoff (who owns comedy joints throughout the country) will serve as one of the proprietors of the Tempe club. Per state records, Phoenix-based limited liability company One Sweet World, which is managed by Bachkoff, currently owns the Improv's liquor license.
Before the Tempe club's shuttering last summer, late owner Mark Anderson issued a vitriolic news release laden with emotionally charged allegations and staged a press conference where he accused former employees and Bachkoff of betraying him by poaching big-name comedians and ultimately forcing the Improv out of business.
As we reported around that time, spokespeople for Stand Up Live declined to comment on Anderson's allegations and told Jackalope Ranch the following: "As with any story, you know, there's always two sides and we look forward to sharing ours at the appropriate time."
Anderson, who was rumored to be under extreme duress at the time of his establishment's closure (and reportedly had a "history of mental illness"), disappeared a week after the press conference. He was found dead about three weeks later in a Buckeye hotel room after succumbing to a subarachnoid hemorrhage stemming from an cerebral arteriovenous malformation.
According to the news reports of the Improv's reboot, Bachkoff spoke at length with Anderson's widow regarding potentially reopening the venue in order to carry both it and the late owner's "legacy."
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The Improv's website also reveals that it will be undergoing "wall-to-wall renovations," including the addition of a VIP area and full-service bar in its balcony area, prior to opening its doors again on April 19.
Comedian and impressionist Frank Caliendo gets the honor of rechristening the place during a three-night stand.
Other notable comics who will grace the stage in the coming months include Half Baked star Harland Williams, Saturday Night Life vet Kevin Nealon, recent Wait Wait Don't Tell Me guest Alonzo Bodden, Jackass star Steve-O, and the infamous Tom Green.