Comedy club brings New York flavor and diversity to Town Center
STAMFORD — For nearly three years, the section of Stamford Town Center’s restaurant plaza that adjoins a Barnes & Noble store has stood silent. This weekend marks the beginning of its hilarious revival.
The latest New York Comedy Club will open Saturday night in that formerly dormant space in the downtown shopping center. Complementing the two New York Comedy Clubs in Manhattan, the new establishment represents Stamford’s first full-time comedy club in more than 30 years. At the same time, its opening highlights how malls such as Stamford Town Center are diversifying their tenant rosters as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic-fueled disruption of recent years.
“One of the great things about a comedy club is that it’s a destination location,” New York Comedy Club co-owner Scott Lindner, a Stamford resident, said during a recent interview at the club. “We wanted to have a club in Stamford. I think it’s a cool thing to say, ‘Let’s go to the comedy club.’”
New York Comedy in Stamford
The New York Comedy Club team had originally planned to open a club at another downtown Stamford address, 422 Summer St. But after discovering the extent of renovations that would be needed at 422 Summer, which formerly housed a YWCA center, and learning about the availability at the mall, they decided to change the location.
The site they settled on in the mall’s restaurant plaza, at 230 Tresser Blvd., covers about 4,500 square feet, with amenities that include a full-service bar. The new club succeeds a Plan B Burger Bar, which suspended its operations at the mall in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and never reopened.
With its new space, the NYCC team said it found a site worthy of sharing the name of its clubs in Manhattan’s Midtown and East Village, establishments that Lindner and co-owner Emilio Savone, respectively, acquired in 2014 and 2018. In turn, the interior design, including the stage’s brick-wall backdrop, evokes the look of the Manhattan clubs.
“Stamford feels like a mini-New York, so it just made sense to bring a New York Comedy Club here,” said Savone, a Milford native. “I want us to show Stamford and Connecticut what it’s like to be at a comedy club in New York without having to go to New York. Every night, you’re going to see killer comics.”
In the wake of numerous retail and restaurant closings in the past few years, Stamford Town Center and other malls across the state and country have increasingly sought non-retail tenants such as New York Comedy Club to help fill their vacancies.
In the past couple of years, the openings at Stamford Town Center have included Soccer Fun Zone, which kicked off operations on the fifth floor last summer. The same level also consists of A Dance Space, which opened in the fall of 2021 and houses The Ballet School of Stamford. A Dance Space took over a storefront that had been occupied by retail tenants such as Ann Taylor.
The diversification of the tenant base at Stamford Town Center is set to continue. Upcoming arrivals include a food hall backed by chef Todd English that will operate in an approximately 78,000square-foot box that housed a Saks Off 5th department store from mid-2015 until the end of 2021.
In the restaurant plaza, New York Comedy Club will be joined next month by the latest location of the Mexican restaurant chain Puerto Vallarta. Another newcomer, Brazilian steakhouse chain Terra Gaucha, opened in October in a space next to the club that was occupied from the fall of 2016 to the summer of 2020 by a Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
“New York Comedy Club is a welcome addition to the restaurant plaza and will be a perfect complement to our fantastic restaurant lineup,” Stamford Town Center General Manager Dan Stolzenbach said in an email. “We’ve already received an extremely positive response from the community. Most patrons will make a night of it, coming for dinner and a show, and maybe get a little shopping in while they’re at it.”
‘You want to create a scene’
New York Comedy Club represents Stamford’s first full-time comedy club since the New Governor’s Comedy Shop shut down in 1991. Shows at the new venue will initially take place mostly Wednesday through Saturday. After that, the club aims to build up to a seven-day schedule. The opening-night “New York showcase,” which is sold out, will feature shorter sets by Subhah Agarwal, Ashley Austin Morris, Chuck Nice and Paul Virzi, hosted by James Mattern.
Next week will feature another sold-out multi-comedian showcase on Valentine’s Day. Next week’s schedule will also include the club’s first headliner, Chris Distefano, with shows on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17. Distefano is managed by ComicAccess, the management firm of Lindner, Savone and their business partner, Jim Panels.
In addition, the NYCC team is planning other programs at the Stamford club, including private events, open-mic nights and comedy classes.
There is ample room for all those events, with the venue seating up to approximately 220 people, compared with respective capacities of about 100 and 150 at the Midtown and East Village clubs.
There is also a green room in which comics will congregate. Lindner and Savone quipped that the room would be large enough to host shows if it were in Manhattan.
Being a comedy club, the space will also have some visual gags. The NYCC team enlisted Holly Salerno, an artist who runs merchandising design and also works as a server at the Manhattan clubs, to paint a mural in the green room of comedian Brendan Sagalow in a regal pose astride a brown horse. Sagalow is another of the comedians managed by ComicAccess and one of the performers scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. showcase on Feb. 18 at the new establishment.
In addition, the lobby will feature an exhibit of Salerno’s “100 comedians in 100 days” series of portraits.
“I think this place is like an upscale version of what we have in the city,” Salerno, who is from Fairfield and whose grandparents still live in the town, said in an interview while working on the mural. “In the city, there are comedy clubs that are in smaller spaces. This is more like a venue. I think it’s going to be really special when people perform here.”
The NYCC team also plans to use the Stamford club for its Connecticut Comedy Festival. The event returns this year, probably sometime in the fall, after a hiatus last year because of the work on the new club.
“A comedy club needs to be an active, creative space,” Lindner said. “We want to have classes earlier on in the day, and we want to have open mics so comics can try out material.”
“You want to build a scene,” Savone said, nodding in agreement.
In addition to the Manhattan clubs, the NYCC team also owns Fairfield Comedy Club, which opened in 2017 and holds shows at The Circle hotel in Fairfield; Atlantic City Comedy Club, which launched in 2016 in Atlantic City, N.J.; and the Los Angeles-based California Comedy Club, which debuted last April.
“We’re putting it on hold for about a month, but we’re still keeping it,” Savone said of the Fairfield club. “It’s like a proof of concept — like, ‘Wow, he did really well [in Fairfield]; let’s bring him to the bigger room,’” in Stamford.
Among other comedy clubs in Connecticut, the nearest one to Stamford with its own venue is the Stress Factory at 167 State St., in downtown Bridgeport, which opened in 2018.
“COVID was a challenge for everyone in our business, and we are excited to say that our audience continues to grow,” Stress Factory owner Vinnie Brand said in an email. “We have some terrific talent booked, and our club provides a roomy, welllaid-out atmosphere that people enjoy. We also have expanded to include a fullservice restaurant, and we are opening a small room, which will seat 80 people. This will give both national headliners and up-andcomers a great place to
grow and entertain.”
“I’m happy for New York Comedy Club’s new opening in Stamford,” Brand added. “There’s plenty of room for them and plenty of market for both clubs to thrive. Comedy is a great night out.”