About a year and a half ago, I was let go from a job that I described as my career. I was dedicated completely to it. I was also miserable there. The work environment was oppressive, cruel and we were all spun on a dime, depending on leadership’s wildly flowing moods.
Leaving was at once a tremendous relief and completely terrifying. I am the sole provider for my family. While I wasn’t making a huge salary, it was enough for us to live in relative comfort.
Finding the next job was my immediate priority. As the job market was consistently described as hot, I wasn’t too worried about it. The one thing I wanted to make sure of was not to go back to a job with a similar work environment.
One of the first calls I made was to ComedySportz (CSz). In 2009 I had inquired about bringing ComedySportz to Las Vegas when Second City left. I knew the show from my years in Los Angeles and thought it would be a perfect fit. While CSz was interested in 2009, the license for the Las Vegas territory was being held by another team. My first son was born and I needed to move on.
Nearly ten years later, the license was now openly available. Leadership remembered me and encouraged me to pursue the opportunity. There would be a lengthy process, including their worldwide board’s review, to determine whether or not I would be able to handle running a ComedySportz. While I felt reasonably confident, I can look back now and say, if I’d known then what I didn’t know, I shouldn’t have been.
The blessing that helped me and continues to help me in more ways than I can describe was the fortunate connection with the dynamic duo of mother and son, Lana and Justin Green. Lana and Justin were part of the Buffalo ComedySportz for nearly a decade at that point. They had a great reputation within the organization which, as it turns out, is well earned. They’re just great people.
They had their eyes on Vegas for a ComedySportz, too. Worldwide played matchmaker and asked if we could work together. It turns out we can and I am deeply, deeply thankful for their knowledge, friendship and incredible kindness.
If it were just the three of us, we wouldn’t be the burgeoning giant we are. And if you’re not aware of CSz Las Vegas’ status as a giant yet, don’t feel bad. 2019 will show you the way.
Justin, Lana and I took the long steps over the course of nearly a year of preparation to accomplish the three foundational goals: business operations (formal licensing, paperwork, office) finding the right venue and the Pro Roster - our players.
It was a slow and sometimes frustrating roll. But we made steady progress. When we finally put the word out to the local improv community, we were, again, blessed and nearly overwhelmed by the response. Derek and Natalie Shipman at Theater Hub, along with owner Darren Pitura, were immediately onboard. So was Kopy Kopatich, owner and operator of High School Jesters. These two groups, along with my longtime, lone wolf comic pal, Keith Lyle, came together in a small, very hot and sweaty rehearsal space in June of 2018 to see what we had.
That room was electric. Unbridled joy and silliness - but also serious commitment and craft. Our players were in tact.
We visited a few locations for our possible home. In ComedySportz, everything follows the sports motif. Our home theater is in fact, our “arena”. We don’t have shows, we have “matches”. And, very importantly, our teams, who would become the Red Rocks and the Blue Diamonds, always play to win, but they don’t care if they lose...something you’ll have to see to truly understand.
I set up a meeting with Mark Shunock at The Space. Mark is a very talented and successful performer and businessman with a great philanthropic reputation around town - not to mention being the Voice of the Golden Knights. I ended up sending Justin to the first meeting as I had a family appointment I had to take care of. Justin called me back within 20 minutes almost out of breath: “I think we found it!”
With our Pro Roster and Home Arena in place, we just needed the final paperwork to be approved by worldwide. It was a bit nerve-racking to have put forward all that work, to be that close, and realize, oh yeah, we still may not be approved. But we were.
We had our soft opening on Sept. 7, 2018. It was anything but soft. The room was packed. The audience was on fire. It worked. But these were our friends and family. Would it play with the general public? Two weeks later at our Grand Opening we got a resounding yes there, too.
We’ve played four more matches since then, twice a month and have seen a steady growth in our offerings and the audience, our dear Loyal Fans. ComedySportz tends to get a near cult like following from those who love it. We’ve had fans from all over the country, here in Vegas for a visit, or moving here to all Vegas home, telling us how excited they are to have ComedySportz here.
We are too.
Above all, I’m thankful. As I mentioned, we’re just scratching the surface on what we will be. The matches are just the tip of the iceberg. We will begin road shows in earnest, at local schools, other theaters - and we’ll reach in outlying parts of southern Nevada and northern Arizona, too.
The laughs and joy we’ll bring with the show are also just the beginning. Improv, in a broad sense and ComedySportz, in particular, have the tremendous power and potential to be uber positive forces in an individual, organization and society. We are bringing all that here to Las Vegas to make this growing city a better place for all of us. It’s much more than a show, CSz offers education and business training along with its entertainment.
I am so thankful to have this tremendous organization to pour my whole self into. Like improv, I don’t know exactly where this will go. But I’m thrilled to be on stage and in the arena with a group who I know has my back, just as I have theirs.
I look forward to sharing and growing ComedySportz with you during the holidays in 2019 and for years to come.