Helium Comedy Club set for March opening

No joking—the country's fifth Helium Comedy Club will open downtown March 8 with a weekend’s worth of shows by Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharoah.

The club, at the northwest corner of Meridian and Georgia streets in Circle Centre mall, will feature a 9,000-square-foot main floor with seating for about 275. A mezzanine level adds several thousand additional square feet and includes a bar, additional seating and space for the comedy classes that the club will offer.

There’s a strategy behind the classes; and the open mic nights that the club will host each Wednesday.

“We do it to build a local talent base,” said Helium Comedy Club owner Marc Grossman. The goal, Grossman said, is to develop new comic talent—people who might go on to open or even headline future Helium shows. “Our goal is to be the place that they started.”

Grossman opened his first Helium in Philadelphia in 2005, later adding clubs in Portland, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; and St. Louis. The company also operates two other clubs under different names: Goodnights in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Bananas Comedy Club in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

IBJ first reported Grossman's Indianapolis plans in June. 

Grossman said he’s expecting big things in Indianapolis, based on early ticket sales, social media interactions and the number of people who have applied for jobs at the establishment.

“There’s a ton of buzz,” Grossman said. “We’ve had shows on sale right now for a couple of weeks, and we’ve sold a lot of tickets.”

That's not always the case when a new club opens, Grossman said. "I have some clubs that have been open three or four years and they [local residents] still don't know we exist."

Pharoah, who is slated to perform five shows at Helium March 8-10, was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2010-2016. He was known on that show for his ability to do impressions of famous people, including President Barack Obama. Other performers booked for the Indianapolis club include Damon Wayans in April, Margaret Cho and D.L. Hughley in May, Bill Bellamy in September and Kevin Nealon in October.

In other news this week:

— After a short run, the Books & Brews in Speedway is closing. The location at 5836 Crawfordsville Road had its grand opening in May.

Books & Brews Founder and CEO Jason Wuerful did not respond to a phone call, e-mail and Facebook message seeking details on the closure.

The Indianapolis-based used bookstore and brewpub chain has eight other locations—four in Indianapolis and one each in Carmel, Zionsville, Brownsburg and Muncie. A ninth is set to open later this year in Oxford, Ohio. The fast-growing chain, which launched in 2014, has both franchised and company-owned stores and has opened seven locations since 2017. Last week, Books & Brews and local craft brewery Flat12 Bierwerks announced that Books & Brews had acquired Flat12 for an undisclosed amount.

Flat12 has been brewing all of Books & Brews’ flagship and seasonal beers for the past two years. The two businesses formed a partnership when Books & Brews launched a strategy in early 2017 to open franchised and company-owned locations throughout Indiana.

Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping is opening in February in Greenwood at 3011 Meridian Meadows Road just off of State Road 135. Franchisees are Jim and Rebekah Warren. Jim Warren was a member at Farrell’s Bloomington facility, and his experience there convinced him to open a gym of his own in Greenwood. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Farrell’s opened its first fitness center in that city in 2001. The company now has 70 locations in 11 states.

Sushi Boss has added a second city location, this one at Keystone Shoppes at 3349 E. 86th St. The restaurant, owned by Jason Hornberger, uses a “build-your-own” concept: Customers step up to the counter and select the ingredients they want as employees make the sushi rolls in front of them. The original Sushi Boss opened downtown in 2014 in Lockefield Shoppes, 803 W. 10th St., Suite B.  

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