The chain of Helium Comedy Clubs releases giggle gas from famed headliners and tomorrow's brightest stars at its Philadelphia, Portland, and Buffalo locations. In front of a tabled showroom that allows audiences a clear sightline and maximizes guffaw acoustics, a bustling calendar of familiar comic talent fills most of the week with levity, and open mic nights and standup workshops put aspiring jokesmiths higher up the comedy rung. Although the club holds guests to a two-item minimum, the menu inspires curiosity regarding maximum orders, with tempting savories such as shrimp cocktail, pulled-pork sliders, avocado and chicken paninis, and spicy potato bites with ranch dressing.
Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the McDonald Theatre has enjoyed a long, strange history since its establishment in 1925. Originally a community playhouse equipped with both a stage and a screen, the theater found new life in the 1950s when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author and psychedelic pioneer Ken Kesey began presenting free cartoons there every Saturday morning. The McDonald spent the next six or so decades as a movie house exclusively, but in 2001, the Kesey family returned, producing concerts and community events under the theater’s enormous proscenium arch. Kesey Enterprises finally purchased the time-weighted stage in 2009, and today the building hosts events ranging from high-school proms to reggae concerts to plumbing-fixture lifting contests.
Capitol City Theater draws on deep local talent pools to provide a dynamic display of on-the-spot comedy for the smile-deprived masses. Each show lasts 90 minutes and features a family-friendly revue of improvised performance games. Acts draw on the suggestions of audience members, provided they promise not to suggest Millard Fillmore or seahorse mating rituals, the only two subjects scientifically proven to have no inherent comedic value. Though Capitol City comedy shows are always all-ages, beverages and alcohol-enhancing snacks are available. Today’s Groupon is also good for two adult drinks (up to $8 value); choose from beer, wine, soda, or surprisingly mature bottled water. There is one intermission during the hour-and-a-half show, so you’ll still be able to check stock quotes for your plucky cryogenics start-up.
Today’s no-nonsense society requires quick answers and fast thinking in order to become successful and eventually own a stable of expensive goats. For $5, today’s Groupon lets you learn from certified professionals, with tickets to any improv performance at Brody Theater (up to a $10 value). Sharpen your thinking-on-your-toes skills and learn to approach any situation with comedic grace.To avoid this common improv pitfall, print out this handy list of suggestions by clicking Print, located under the File menu in most browsers.
At Northern Lights Theatre Pub, audience members sip riesling and sink forks into chicken breasts as movie families sit down to dinner on the silver screen. Cinema-goers order their meals before sitting down to watch second-run flicks, letting waiters ferry their pulled-pork burritos or Angus burgers right to their seats so they don’t miss a screen couple’s passionate first kiss, tender final embrace, or heartwarming jump from an exploding helicopter. In addition to finger foods, the chefs take their fare up a notch by layering personal pizzas with housemade sauce, sprinkling parmesan cheese and squeezing lemon juice over chicken breasts, and piling pineapple atop their banana splits. Before evening films light up the theaters, Northern Lights’ full-service bar kicks into gear, leading to age restrictions so that moviegoers can freely sip on-tap beers such as Blue Moon and Gilgamesh Mamba or wash down bites with chardonnay and shiraz. In addition to screening blockbuster movies, the theater pub’s three auditoriums occasionally show sports or host live shows such as standup comedy.
Like the philosophy-based salons and cafes of 19th-century Europe, Funhouse Lounge is a place where locals can revel in local art and entertainment over drinks. On many nights, the stage plays host to local acts showing off skills at karaoke, open-mic comedy, and music. Saturday evenings also welcome local improv groups that take the stage with off-the-cuff comedy scenes. While watching neighbors and friends show off their talents, guests split eccentric appetizers such as Irish nachos made from potato chips, cheese sauce, and sour cream or the Ho Ho trifle. The drink menu is equally as whimsical, with bartenders mixing up carnival-themed drinks such as the Bumper Car with Southern Comfort, amaretto, and sloe gin. The Midway Mojito boasts fresh-squeezed lime and a very slim chance of going home with an oversized stuffed tiger.