ELKHART — Get ready to laugh.
Five Star Dive Bar is bringing stand-up comedy to Elkhart in 2014. The bar and restaurant will transform into the Five Star Comedy Bar about once a month, bringing in comedians from all over the country starting in January.
Owner Jason Curtis envisions the bar east of downtown as a place for comedians to stop in between gigs in larger cities like Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.
“Coincidentally, that’s what we’ve been doing with bands as well,” he said. “We hosted a band called Eve to Adam that has radio play nationally right now. Their tour bus was parked outside, and they stopped in here for a free show. It’s really cool to see these bands that you watch on MTV standing right there on stage and then they’re drinking a beer with you at the bar when they’re done. That’s what we hope to do with these comedians.”
Curtis began talking with comedy promoter James Witty and his business partner Dirk Hanlin earlier this year about booking comedians. Witty has been doing stand-up comedy for eight years and booking shows for the past six. Ready to move on to “bigger and better things,” Witty recently sold The Drop Comedy Club in South Bend.
“This is the hottest club in Elkhart,” Witty said about the Five Star Dive Bar. “It’s a bigger room, so I’ll be able to get bigger names. I feel like South Bend is totally oversaturated with comedy with comedy show after comedy show after comedy show. The presales for tickets are showing that this is a prime area for comedy.”
Close to 50 tickets have already been sold for comedian and actor Donnell Rawlings’ performance in May. Rawlings was a member of the cast on “Chappelle’s Show,” a popular sketch comedy series hosted by Dave Chappelle on Comedy Central. Witty has also booked a show in February with Chicago stand-up comedian Megan Gailey who trained in improv and writing at The Second City and has performed at popular comedy clubs around the country.
South Bend-born comedian Mijo Bueno will headline the Five Star Dive Bar’s first comedy show Jan. 9. He will share the stage with Eric Oren, a stand-up comedian who has performed at comedy clubs, colleges and festivals from coast to coast.
“I love how comedy is growing in our community,” Bueno said. “It’s way bigger than when I started. I’m excited for the new venue in Elkhart. You don’t hear about too much comedy going on in Elkhart, so it’s going to be good to be going into a different scene.”
Five Star Dive Bar, 561 E. Jackson Blvd., will seat as many as 200 people per show. Tickets for most of the comedy shows will be $10, but some shows may cost more, depending on the act.
Witty said he is constantly keeping an eye out for comedians to book next year for the bar’s monthly shows. He is currently working to book comedian Doug Stanhope and actress Kate Flannery, the hilarious redhead who played Meredith Palmer on NBC’s “The Office.”
“These are going to be headline-level comedians but also up-and-coming comedians who have a chance of becoming famous and doing something big, which is kind of cool,” Witty said. “Someone had to have see Louis C.K. before he became Louis C.K. I want to give that experience to Elkhart.”