The Laugh Tract: Bay area comedy

Where to laugh in Tampa Bay.

It's always nice when there are a couple of theater shows to bring together comedy fans.

That's not to shortchange comedy clubs and other venues, of course. They're the backbone of stand-up comedy in the area; most weeks they define comedy in Tampa Bay. But it's also good to have bigger shows stop by as well. It gives fans a chance to see established performers doing their thing in front of large crowds. This week, big names like Mike Epps, Tony Rock and the duo of Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood are part of those shows. It adds to the variety of entertainment, and that's always a good thing.

Plus all the regular venues have shows, with a free show thrown in, too.

Here's the lineup:

Theaters and Special Events

Festival of Laughs. A touring headliner makes for a great comedy evening. Two makes it even better. Put three together and you have a festival. In thise case, the Festival of Laughs. Mike Epps, Tony Rock and Cocoa Brown offer up unashamed, adult comedy by the truckload. The Sun Dome is a pretty large venue for comedy shows, so expect plenty of fans spanning all three comedy careers.
$50.75-$102.75. Sat., 8 p.m. USF Sun Dome, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-974-3111.

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood. The Whose Line is it Anyway? alums bring their two-man show to St. Petersburg for one night only. Fans of the show know what to expect: The unexpected. It's an audience-driven evening, with suggestions morphing into funny material on the fly from established improv vets — and that's exactly what everybody wants to see.
$37.50-$55.50. Sat., 8 p.m. The Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st St. S., St. Petersburg. 727-893-7832.

Comedy Clubs

Felipe Esparza. The former Last Comic Standing winner has a likable demeanor and easy-going stage presence. He’ll touch on topics like family and his Mexican heritage in a way that will likely resonate with you in your own life and experiences. $17-$20. Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; Sat. 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and Sun., 7 p.m.  Tampa Improv, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa. 813-864-4000.

Joe List. List is one of those comedians whose name you might not know, but has a lot of experience and talent. His youthful look belies more than 15 years on the stage, but his clever writing and understated demeanor shows why he's been a popular performer for so long. Note: The early Saturday show is a fundraiser for Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School.
Side Splitters (12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa) Friday at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.; Saturday at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.; and Sunday at 7 p.m. 813-960-1197 or $10-$20.

Gary Conrad at Snappers. Conrad's comedy hypnosis makes the audience a big part of the act: Under his direction, they'll provide the laughter for friends and strangers. That could mean, singing, dancing or all-around unusual behavior, all courtesy of Conrad's power of suggestion.
$12. Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Snappers Grill & Comedy Club, 36657 U.S. Highway 19 N., Palm Harbor.  727-938-2027.

Steve Arik. Arik normally offers the audience the choice between a clean show or a dirty show. But if he has a clean show, nobody's ever seen it. Everyone wants the latter, and his funny philosophies on dating, drugs and getting out of a DUI.
$18-$25. Wed.-Thurs., 9:30 p.m. Coconuts, 5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-360-5653 .

Helen Keaney. Keaney's a regular on Home Shopping Network, but she's a comedian at heart. Her stage demeanor is personable and a bit edgy, running the gamut from work to relationships and everything in between.
$18-$25. Fri.-Sat., 9:30 p.m. Coconuts, 5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-360-5653 .

Chris Gorges. Gorges delivers a fast-paced show that combines funny premises and elements from his improvisational background. That makes each show a little bit different while maintaining high levels of his infectious comedy.
$10. Sat., 8:30 p.m. 2 Palms, 2950 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater. 727-400-6920.

One-nighters and Independent Shows

G. David Howard. Howard's weekly residence at Sporty's features the longtime comedian drawing from his decades of stage experience. He mixes his regular material with plenty of crowd work to provide the kind of set only a true stand-up veteran can provide.
$20. Fri.-Sat., 9:35 p.m. Sporty's On The Beach, 17093 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach. 727-596-6725.

Kava Komedy. This regular show features local up-and-comers to warm up the crowd, and a more established closer to cap things off. This week it's Bryan Hamilton.
Free. Thurs., 9 p.m. Bula Kafe, 2500 5th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Thurs., 9 p.m. 727-498-8913.

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