No Laughing Matter: Pam McCurdy

 

No Laughing Matter: Pam McCurdy

 

Date: May 22, 2013
by: Mallory Gnaegy | A&E Editor

 
 

 

 

Pam McCurdy sits at her desk in the box office of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. She’s naturally pretty with short blond hair, toned, tan arms and a killer smile. Other than admitting, “I’m the better half,” she’s trying to pinpoint exactly how she supports her husband, when he walks through the door.

“Les, how do I support you?” she asks him.

“Well,” he says in his Tennessee drawl, “marrying me was huge.”

Although Pam McCurdy is too modest to admit it, saying it’s teamwork, her husband is adamant: “If it weren’t for Pam, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre wouldn’t be.” On June 15, thanks to Pam McCurdy, the business will celebrate its 25th birthday. It all started because of her steadfast work ethic.

When the duo met in 1982 in Sarasota, they were both working as waiters at Bennigan’s. Then, McCurdy (nee Pam Taylor) was an MFA student in the FSU/Asolo Conservatory acting program and worked weekend shifts on the side. Les McCurdy was a traveling comedian, and he noticed the petite blonde who worked harder than anyone else.

One day after work, he asked if she wanted to go on a date to his favorite place. Pam McCurdy thought this meant they’d head to Summerhouse, a romantic jazz bar on Siesta Key — but Les McCurdy, instead, took her to Beach Club, which was then a dive bar.

“He’s not a pretentious person,” she says. “He took me to the Beach Club for God sakes. You gotta respect that.”

“It was a damn good night,” Les McCurdy says looking at his grinning wife. “We sat at a table in the corner, threw money into the jukebox and laughed our asses off.”

They dated until 1984, when Pam McCurdy moved to New York City to pursue acting, and Les McCurdy traveled around the country performing standup. Eventually he retired from the road to help his friend, Ken Sons, run The Comedy Catch in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Les McCurdy and Ken Sons grew up together. Pam McCurdy joined her boyfriend there, they got engaged and were married in 1987. McCurdy managed the kitchen and wait staff of the comedy theater.

“I had no idea what I was doing!” she says with a laugh.

Ken Sons sold his club, and the newlyweds moved to Siesta Key. The first year of marriage was what both describe as a honeymoon until one angered-filled night. It’s a story Les McCurdy often tells in his stand-up.
The couple brought spoons and Haagen-Dazs to the beach where they watched the sunset. They returned home, and Pam McCurdy was washing dishes when she looked up and asked, “Where’re the spoons?”

As Les McCurdy tells this story, his wife starts giggling. The spoons were missing, and Pam McCurdy was livid. So, Les McCurdy went through garbage cans, looked in cars, scoured the beach and spent hours searching. Pam McCurdy is belly laughing now, trying to stifle her laughs with her hands as Les McCurdy continues to tell the story.

“She’s stomping around the house mad as a wet hen, ready to leave me, when I went to the silverware drawer and counted … ” he says. There were eight forks, eight knives and — eight spoons. From that moment on, they’ve never sweated the small stuff. It’s how the relationship — and business — survives today.

“I wouldn’t have thought about opening a comedy club on my own,” he says. “It’s not in my nature.”

But because Pam McCurdy said she’d take care of the responsibility, they went through with it and began McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. Pam McCurdy would take care of the back of the house, Les McCurdy the front of the house; and Ken Sons, who had moved to Sarasota, would run the Humor Institute.

In 1988, they hosted their first weekend of comedy at what is now the Holiday Inn and Suites Airport Sarasota. At that point, Les McCurdy was still touring, and Pam McCurdy was waiting tables at Charlie’s Crab (now Crab and Fin) to make ends meet. They had a daughter in 1994, Taylor, and Les McCurdy stopped touring to become what he calls “Mr. Mom.” He would do the front-of house stuff the audience could see, and Pam McCurdy was the foundation: developing the business, doing inventory, overseeing employees, doing the taxes, etc.

After 10 years of operation and bringing famed acts, such as Tommy Chong and Jeff Foxworthy, and discovering acts, such as Larry the Cable Guy, new management of the hotel lounge gave them three days’ notice to find a new place. They downsized from a 300-seat banquet hall to a 90-seat room inside now-closed restaurant Big Kitchen. It was Pam McCurdy who went on the lookout to find their own space.

“I always wanted it,” she says.

Teatro, a $1 movie theater on North Tamiami Trail where Les McCurdy had taken Pam McCurdy on a date when they were first dating, became vacant in 2000. It was perfect. They leased it and renovated it. It remains the spot where McCurdy’s is located today.

It was an old building erected in 1963, so, after big storms, McCurdy would walk in and discover the paneled ceiling collapsed in some places. She, of course, would be the one to take care of it and pick up the pieces.

“She’s the foundation for why this community even has this place to offer — you can’t give more support than that,” Les McCurdy says.


IF YOU GO
Rob Schneider kicks off 25 years of McCurdy’s
When: 7 and 9:15 p.m. Friday, May 24; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 25
Where: McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 3333 North Tamiami Trail
Cost: $34 to $38
Info: Call 925-3869 or visit mccurdyscomedy.com



Timeline:
1982 — Les and Pam McCurdy, then Pam Taylor, meet at Bennigans where they both serve.

1984 — Pam Taylor graduates from FSU/Asolo Conservatory and moves to New York City.

1987 — Les McCurdy and Pam Taylor wed July 25, in Chattanooga.

1988 — June 15 is the opening day of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, then located at the Holiday Inn Airport Arena lounge called Riddy’s Lounge (now the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Sarasota Airport).

1994 — The McCurdys’ daughter, Taylor, is born.

1998 — The comedy club relocates to now-defunct The Big Kitchen at 3900 Clark Road

1998 — The comedy club relocates to now-defunct The Big Kitchen at 3900 Clark Road

2000 — The McCurdys lease the Teatro building (movie theater). It takes one year to renovate.

2001 — The doors to McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre open in September at its current location open.

 

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Great story for a great couple. Congratulations on 25 years of laughter!
    Hope for another 25! The Beckmann's
  •  
  • Fabiola Beckmann
    Sat 25th May 2013
    at 11:37am
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