Myrtle Beach businessman purchases comedy club at Broadway at the Beach
Myrtle Beach businessman Freddie Rick has always considered himself somewhat of an amateur comedian.
He says he was a class clown in high school and has been told repeatedly over the years he should consider stand-up comedy if he changes careers.
So as a Christmas gift in December, his wife Misty bought him a series of comedy classes in Atlanta, which he attended six consecutive Saturdays and “really loved it.”
He then spent a few weeks in Los Angeles learning from comedy writers, “learning how to really write material, how to understand the process,” said Rick, who performed at The Comedy Store in Hollywood in April. “I’m kind of an all-in guy so I wanted to really get to the people who knew what they were doing.”
Upon returning to Myrtle Beach, the 52-year-old entered a contest at the Comedy Cabana and traveled to an open mic night in Wilmington, N.C., to get stage time.
Opportunities to perform won’t be an issue any longer, as Rick has upped the ante in the development of his comedy career. On May 23, he purchased Carolina Comedy Club at Broadway at the Beach.
“I’m not a young man and this is somewhat of a young man’s career so I decided to buy the club to have a stage to sharpen my skills,” Rick said, citing Rodney Dangerfield bettering his career by regularly performing at a club he owned in New York. “It’s a perishable skill, if you don’t use it you lose it.
“By having the club I can work on my craft constantly and start to associate myself with individuals who are in the world of comedy I would like to get to know. . . . A goal is to one day become the best I can be at that craft. I would like to be a well-known comedian.”
Fulfilling a passion
Though he wouldn’t disclose its expiration date, Rick said he has a long-term lease with Broadway landlord Burroughs & Chapin that will take him into retirement.
The club will be open seven days a week throughout the summer with as many as five shows per day.
Rick will utilize his venue for several forms of entertainment, including the return this month of The Magic of Carl Michael, which was featured at the club for five summers through 2017. Michael will perform five shows per week throughout the summer beginning July 20.
Rick plans to feature touring comedians weekly, comic hypnotists, open mic competitions, local comedy classes and local comedy shows.
“It’s really meant to be a club that will foster growth in the comedy community, a place where a new comedian like myself can grow and learn and develop stage time,” Rick said.
Among the weekly acts he has scheduled this summer is Jon Reep on Labor Day Weekend. The North Carolinian won the fifth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2007. Rick will likely emcee or be an opener for many of the acts.
Rick and his wife are operating the club, which is one of two full-time comedy venues in Myrtle Beach along with the longstanding Comedy Cabana, with some assistance.
He is receiving guidance from Brian Heffron, founder of Heffron Talent International and owner of a chain of more than 40 The Comedy Zone locations, including Charlotte, where he began working in 1991 before eventually buying the venue. Heffron’s company is Rick’s booking agent for a commission and Heffron is advising him.
“Because he has a passion for comedy, that’s where I come in,” Heffron said. “I’m teaching a lot of the formulas and a lot of mistakes I’ve already made in this business and learned my lessons, and trying to help him not fall into those same traps. Of course the booking advantage we have is extraordinarily large because of the size of our network.”
Rick said he has taken some ideas from clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “We have a new look and new feel that will rival any comedy club between here and Los Angeles, and have really made it top notch. It’s an A club now,” he said.
Carolina Comedy Club has 150 seats inside and another 100 seats at an enclosed outdoor patio stage that can be used before and after shows or simultaneously for a separate performance.
Rick would like to expand the club this winter to 400 seats by encompassing the existing patio into the structure of the building if the city and B&C allow it. The larger venue could host bigger names or up to three rooms could be created with collapsible walls.
“To be able to get some bigger names in the comedy world into town, that’s the goal,” Rick said. “We’re going to have some comedy acts that quite honestly haven’t been able to come to Myrtle Beach before. Being a passion project I’m going to invest into the club and into the comedians in a way that maybe wouldn’t make good business sense.
“I’m willing to take a hit to bring in a big name as long as it’s good for the area and good for the club. I’m just in a different place and just have a different focus and motivation on the club.”
Since taking over the club, Rick said he has spent “a couple hundred thousand dollars” on renovations and improvements.
He has built a new stage with a new wall-length curtain and added filming equipment so performances can be recorded.
He has also added noise reduction, lighting, graphics, new chairs and tables, new table linens, service lights on each table to minimize chatter between servers and customers during shows, a green room with stage and crowd monitors that leads to the stage behind the curtain, outdoor awning with ceiling fans and air conditioning, outdoor tables and chairs, a new bar, and new kitchen and bar equipment. The bar has been moved behind a wall to separate it from performances.
“We wanted to have the best club up and down the East Coast,” said Rick, who vacationed in Myrtle Beach beginning in 2000, and has been an area property owner since 2003 and resident since 2013. “The purpose was really a passion project, not necessarily a business project, but it has to run perfectly because of my business background. It’s going to have some of the best food in town. Service has to be quick and prompt and really provide a good experience.”
Rick’s wife, nicknamed “M.J.,” previously owned a restaurant in Atlanta and is managing the kitchen. A completely new menu includes food made fresh daily including fried shrimp, pizza and hamburgers,
“We are offering a lot of fresh items, not your frozen things any longer coming straight from the freezer to the fryer. . . . It’s a lot of fresh foods and we’re calling it upscale bar food,” M.J. said.
“The club is somewhat of a passion project for both of us: mine is the comedy side and hers is the cooking and food side,” Rick said.
For an update on upcoming shows text the word “fun” to 72345, visit CarolinaComedyClub.com or call 843-839-2565.