Comedy club reopening under new ownership

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The deafening silence at the former Morty’s Comedy Joint is about to replaced by roaring laughter.

A group of local owners bought the assets of the upscale club on East 96th Street earlier this month and plan to open on March 4, under the same moniker.

Co-owners are Chris Bowers and John Roberts, both 36, as well as Tony Deardorff, 34. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

“We decided to keep it Morty’s because it had a pretty good name,” Bowers said.  

Bowers already is familiar with Morty’s through his work as a stand-up comic. The motivational speaker who operates Bower Success Development placed second in the comedy club’s Midwest Championships last year in the "Master of Ceremonies" division.

He and Deardorff, former assistant general manager at the downtown Jillian’s restaurant, were fraternity brothers at Ball State University. Roberts, the other investor, is a “friend of a friend,” Bowers said.

The trio signed a five-year lease for the 5,000-square-foot building with The Precedent Cos.

The former owners, based in New Jersey, closed the upscale club in early January after a nearly four-year run.

Former co-owner Andrew Pincus, a lawyer, said the group was unable to tap into the affluent Hamilton County demographic. The club ultimately resorted to filling seats with free-ticket promotions that attracted a crowd that wouldn’t spend on drinks, Pincus said.

“It was a rocky road the whole time,” he said. “I hope someone can take the name and run with it.”

Pincus has a vested interest in the new owners’ success. He named the club after his dog, Morty, who recently died.

Bowers and his partners plan to offer other entertainment besides comedy, such as karaoke nights and acoustic acts. They hope to attract steady crowds through “guerrilla marketing” methods using Facebook and Twitter. A lunch menu also is in the works.

Comedian Joe Materese, who has appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman," will headline the first week.

On March 3, the day before opening, the club will have a “soft launch,” in which the $5 cover charge will benefit the Indianapolis-based About Special Kids not-for-profit. Bowers plans to perform at the event.

The new group of owners will have their work cut out for them. The Morty’s closing in January was preceded by the closure of One-Liners Comedy Club in Greenwood, which shut down in June 2008 after 15 years in business.

One-Liners, owned by Dave Wilson, a former radio host and comedian, told IBJ in January that he decided to close it because he was just too busy. He’d tried to sell the business, which included a large bar and restaurant, for five years.

Bowers said he's confident his group can succeed.

“I never went to Morty’s and saw a bad comic, which is one of the things I loved about it,” he said. “We want to keep that mentality.”


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