New Laughing Matter

The life of a standup comedian is a study in simultaneous courage and masochism. Endless strings of one-nighters at clubs with names like The Funny Bone, Chuckles, and Haha's; audiences expecting laughs on demand; and the occasional heckler make for a profession that easily excludes the faint of heart. In their finest moments, however, those with the chops to rise above such challenges shine a light on life's absurdities, turning an evening of comedy into a truly transcendent experience.

As a featured comedian in comedy clubs nationwide, Arizonan Sean Dillingham has traversed the comedy highway several times over. Eager to provide a forum for comedy in the Valley, Dillingham began hosting a weekly comedy night, The Comedy Spot, at Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club in north Scottsdale two years ago. To his surprise, the night became a hit, drawing both local and national talent as well as capacity crowds looking for a convenient and affordable comedy outlet. Now Dillingham is adding a new character -- club owner -- to his act by taking The Comedy Spot to its own downtown Scottsdale location.

Formerly plying his trade at The Improv, Dillingham has nothing but good things to say about his more established friends down the road. He feels there is room for both clubs in the East Valley and is aiming for a vibe similar to those found in comedy clubs located some 350 miles to the west.

"A lot of people have asked me why I'm doing this when there's already an Improv in town," Dillingham says. "I tell them there's already a McDonald's, so why is there a Burger King?

"We're going for something different here anyway," he continues. "With our low ceilings, dark rooms, and chairs pressed close together, you really get the feel of the comedy clubs in L.A. When the laughter starts in here, it's almost like being on a roller-coaster ride, because the whole room gets swaying."

Back when he wore a white suit and an arrow through his head, a sage named Steve Martin warned us "comedy is not pretty." Nearly a quarter-century later, such a sentiment could be applied to the increasingly high ticket prices at comedy shows. In keeping with his original goal of making comedy more affordable, Dillingham has set a fixed price for all of his shows.

"It's all about raising the level of comedy in Arizona, and that means bringing people out to the clubs. For that reason, admission to all of our shows will be just $10. We'll also be scheduling a lot of stuff designed to help develop local talent, including contests, open mikes, workshops and seminars. The bottom line is that it's going to be rockin' on Fridays and Saturdays here, and it all starts this weekend."

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Craig Wallach