Name-brand comedy acts are but a part of the plan for an ambitious events venue that promises to further enliven Columbia’s Main Street.
The little cluster of buildings at 1620-1626 Main Street has housed multiple ventures — the upscale deli Michael’s Cafe, an expansive catering/event space, a pharmacy, the vintage/eclectic retail fixture Shoppes on Main, Ally and Eloise Bakeshop, and Top Golf Swing Suite. The brainchild of entrepreneur and developer Scott Middleton, who also owns the adjacent, vegan-friendly Good Life Cafe and The Grand bowling alley, bar and eatery across the street, has combined its constituent elements under a new punning banner, The Main Course, with a 150-seat performance venue now labelled as The Main Stage.
Partnering with national entertainment franchise The Comedy Zone, Main Course is hosting evenings of stand-up comedy at least once each month, with an eye toward expanding bookings as popularity grows.
Comedy Zone is a nationwide network with a presence in more than 60 metro areas, including both traditional brick-and-mortar comedy clubs and long-running residencies in existing markets such as Columbia, where comedy shows were once presented at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Booking is handled by Joel Pace of Charlotte-based Eastcoast Entertainment, allowing for access to a wide roster of comedians with both regional and national appeal, explains Main Course Entertainment Coordinator Kendall Dorton. She points to the recent appearance in December by former Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan, who was able to be booked for a more intimate show during the week in Columbia, in between bigger gigs in larger cities on the weekends.
“We were packed,” she recalls.
Other comics who have appeared in recent months include Collin Moulton, Johnny Millwater, Will Jacobs and Jamie Ward. This week’s roster includes Atlanta-based Shaun Jones as the headliner with Dylan Vattelana as opener. Jones has appeared in the Jamie Foxx film Shade and on such television programs as BET’s ComicView and One Mic Stand and BounceTV’s Off The Chain, while Vattelana draws humor from his diverse experiences as a former biology major and Peace Corps volunteer.
No reservations are required for the comedy nights, and the full menu of appetizers, entrees and drinks from the existing cafe, bar and gaming center are available, and Dorton says that dinner specials — an entree plus admission to the Comedy Zone performance — will become a regular feature.
Also in the works are regular appearances by a dueling piano act, murdery mystery dinner collaborations with Lexington’s On Stage Productions, weekend brunches featuring live music and evenings dedicated to swing and shag dancing. Blues-rockers Elliott and the Untouchables (Jan. 11) and Terence Young and the Finesse Band (Jan. 18) are both scheduled to perform, and the venue hosts a regular Sunday night drag show entitled Divas on Main. Dorton expresses particular excitement about collaboration with nearby entities such as the Columbia City Ballet, which will perform selections from their extensive repertoire for a dinner-and-dance event every third Friday of the month.
Dorton plans on kicking off a monthly Pints and Pups night on the venue’s rear patio as soon as the weather warms up, and also anticipates offerings such as karaoke and trivia nights, seeking to appeal to the young professional population as well as the heavy concentration of college students also in residence.
With the departure of the nearby Tapp’s Arts Center, which often hosted nights of comedy as well as progressive music acts, to Five Points, Dorton hopes Main Course will be able to fill a number of different niches.
“We want to be able to be able to provide entertainment for everyone — older people, younger people,” she says. “We want to be able to reach out to different groups.”
Local actor/musician Charlie Goodrich, who performed a lounge-style nightclub act with sister Dell Goodrich soon after the venue’s transition to an entertainment hall, describes Main Course as “a great space for an intimate cabaret style performance.”
“It was very nice to be able to sing and interact with the audience,” he offers.
Singer Jerryanna Williams-Bibiloni was in attendance, and says that “the venue was incredibly welcoming to the crowd of theater patrons among their normal dinner crowd, which was very encouraging. This shows much promise in becoming a staple venue as it allows for performers to showcase their passions and share it with the community.”
What: Shaun Jones, Dylan Vattelana
Where: Main Course, 1626 Main St.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.