They come for the laughs Comedy clubs delight audiences looking for something different


How many comedians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Never mind that -- how many comedy clubs does it take to keep Ocean City's tourist crowd entertained?

Nobody seems to know the answer to either of these questions. But it's clear that some people are looking for laughs when they come to Ocean City: Not only does the town has four regular venues for comedians, including this summer's newcomer, Slapstix, but over 3,000 tickets were sold for comedian Jay Leno's July 31st show at the Convention Center.

Slapstix manager Scott Hathaway opened his comedy club Memorial Day weekend. It's "doing real well" for a first season, he says.

Having transformed the ballroom at the new Princess Royale hotel into a dark and smoky stand-up joint, Ocean City's Slapstix is part of a chain that operates in Baltimore and around the country. Mr. Hathaway says those connections allow him to bring in top young comics.

"We bring in the same talent that we have in Baltimore," he says. Though not well known yet, most Slapstix headliners are veterans of cable television and national comedy club circuits and have opened for more famous performers. They draw audiences who want to have a good time, but who also crave the thrill of discovering the next Robin Williams or Billy Crystal in an intimate club setting.

Though Slapstix's business picked up drastically from June to July, Mr. Hathaway admits the club has been a little slow to adapt to one of the quirks of doing business in Ocean City, which is that the audience changes almost weekly.

"The local crowd now knows about us," he says, "but with new people coming to town every week, it's a battle to let people know we're here." He's taken to advertising on the planes that fly banners along the beach, figuring that almost every visitor ends up at the ocean sooner or later.

"Since it's our rookie year, I hate to predict what we'll do next year," says Mr. Hathaway. But, he adds tantalizingly, "our Baltimore club does special events, bringing in big names like Elayne Boosler, Dennis Miller and Bobcat Goldthwaite. We may try that."

Meanwhile, Slapstix's season continues though Sept. 1. Here's the line-up for the rest of the summer: Tonight is closing night for Bob Somerby with Jeff Caldwell; Aug. 13 through 18, Randy Lubas appears, with David Chappelle opening; Aug. 20 through 25 brings headliner Mark Voyce and featured act Blaine Capatch; and Aug. 27 through Sept. 1, Bill Thomas will appear, with Brett Harlow as the opening act.

There are performances at Slapstix Tuesdays through Sundays at 9 p.m., with an additional 11 p.m. show on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tickets are $7 Tuesdays and Wednesdays, $8 Thursdays and $10 Fridays through Sundays. For an extra $2, you get a seat in front. A cash bar is provided by the hotel. For information, call 723-LAFF.

If the folks at Slapstix want a lesson in how to achieve longevity, they probably should have a chat with Connie Pfaff. This brassy comedienne, who performs with her husband Charlie in their own club atop Giovanni's Restaurant, is now celebrating her 10th summer in Ocean City. That's time enough to have polished her musical comedy.

"We were a musical duo that performed around the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore," explains Mr. Pfaff. "Connie's always been a funny lady, and she started kidding around with people at the bar. It's turned into a full-time act."

Mr. Pfaff now acts mostly as stagehand and beleaguered straight man for his wife's act. When cold weather shuts down their Ocean City gig, Mrs. Pfaff takes her show to sea, performing winters on the Carnival cruise ships.

Putting a comic tilt on common experiences is the trick for Connie Pfaff, who bills herself as "a one-woman family sit-com." In some of her most popular routines, she muses on subjects like her annual visit to the gynecologist and the dangers and delights post-retirement life. In 1989, she was one of Penthouse magazine's Comediennes of the Month.

Also at Connie & Charlie's this summer are ventriloquist Greg Pakarklis and his sidekick Ernie. Mr. Pakarklis, who, at 23, has already been performing with his blockheaded buddy for more than a decade, once took first place in an international ventriloquists' competition.

Connie & Charlie perform Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 10, now through the end of Sunfest (Sept. 22). The cover charge is $6, and the show lasts about 90 minutes. For reservations, call 250-0542.

If Connie Pfaff's comedy is a little blue, Tubby Boots' act is positively indigo. Mr. Boots, also an O.C. comedy veteran, is at the Shrimp Shack in the Gold Coast Mall.

"It's definitely for adults only," observes bar manager Bill Crothers, who sees the Tubby Boots show every night. "It's funny; you see these meek little people come in here and you think they're not going to like this show. Next thing you know he's got them laughing."

The Tubby Boots show goes on at 10:30 Tuesday through Saturday nights at the Shrimp Shack. There's a $6 cover charge and a two-drink minimum. For reservations, call 524-3727.

A final Ocean City comedy option, also for grown-ups, is the Monday Night Comedy Capers at the Carousel Club in the Carousel Hotel. Shows are 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. every Monday for the rest of this month.

Here's the schedule: Frank Dougherty headlines August 12, with Andre Brown as the featured act; August 19 brings Max Dolcelli to the stage, with Mike Stanowitcz for openers; and August 26 it's John Pizzi, with Bob Levy warming up the crowd.

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