The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
The area’s newest comedy club, Bonkerz facilitates human laughter with a changing lineup of jokesters whose hijinks have appeared on Comedy Central, CBS, and HBO. Cackle at the self-deprecating humor and collection of medieval whoopee cushions of Dave Williamson—Bonkerz’s featured comedian, who has earned high ranks in national comedy competitions and opened for renowned funnymen such as Gilbert Gottfried, Jimmy Fallon, and Christopher Titus. Other performers include former marine biologist Forrest Shaw, master of sarcasm Pedro Lima, and Erik Myers, known for his machine-gun-like delivery. During the performance, patrons can transform belly grumbles into belly laughs with award-winning Cuban-Thai fusion cooking, or use their drinks to see who can do the fastest spit-take (food and drink are not included in this Groupon).
SAK Comedy Club, a breeding ground for highly pedigreed improv comics such as Wayne Brady, targets funny bones with the unique brand of improvised comedy that's made it an Orlando landmark since 1991. Sak’s skilled rib-ticklers offer a robust schedule of all-ages shows designed to evoke hearty laughter, humanity's only form of exercise prior to the advent of the treadmill. Thursday–Sunday, “Duel of Fools” allows the audience to play judge and jury to jousting comics. Like rodeo clowns settling a boundary dispute, four improv directors clash in a humorous battle royale in the “Gorilla Theatre” show staged on Fridays. On Saturdays, the “Early Show” at 11:30 p.m. allows Sak's masterful mirth-makers to spin longer scenes that give elements such as character and story a chance to frolic and roam free.
A staple of the nation’s standup scene since the first location opened in 1963, Improv comedy clubs have been popping up all over for nearly 40 years. The venues have played an instrumental role in the early careers of famous jokesters such as Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld. Now firmly established in locales from Florida to California, Improv comedy clubs draw big-name acts and ambitious up-and-comers.
Stand-up jokester Michael Blackson channels his West African roots to bust guts during an evening of nonstop snickers and guest cameos. Inspired by giggle guru Eddie Murphy, Blackson's exotic style received national exposure during his appearance in the film Next Friday, as well as HBO's Def Comedy Jam and P. Diddy Presents: The Bad Boys of Comedy. While guests sip drinks and sop up spilled laughs with a napkin, the dashiki-sheathed Blackson will dispense a steady stream of jocular jabs, covering such subjects as his adolescence and time spent adjusting to American culture. Special guest comedian Tony Black warms up audience chuckle engines alongside jester Rion Evans, who has appeared on the Monique Show. Also on the bill, musical act Atiba sends toes a-tappin' with energized jams and rhythmic readings of several shampoo bottles.
Packing the Deland Artisan Inn on the last Saturday of every month, Red Dog Comedy puts national and local comedians in front of the mike for a night of laughter and libations. Past shows have featured Vishaun Roberts, Matthew Lalanne, and TV-veteran Dean Napolitano, who many may recognize from his roles on Passions and The Shield.