The Irvine Planning Commission delivered a punch line Thursday night that should be good for laughs in coming months: The panel unanimously approved the opening of a new Improvisation comedy club near UC Irvine. "I think this will be dynamite," said Marlene Bumbera, chairwoman of the commission, after the proposal was passed.
The nightclub, scheduled to open as early as late November, will be the third "Improv" in California, joining the 11-year-old Los Angeles hot spot and a San Diego franchise that opened in 1984.
The Irvine Improvisation will open in the Irvine Co.-owned Marketplace shopping center near Campus Drive across from UCI. Preliminary plans call for a one-story, 6,375-square-foot establishment that will serve dinner and drinks as well as comedy. Like the San Diego club, it will be franchised by Budd Friedman, owner of the Los Angeles Improv.
Mark Anderson, the new club's owner, said it will feature headliners from across the country in addition to showcasing Southern California comics as opening acts and emcees. "The Improv has always been a starting point for a lot of talent and it will be the same here," Anderson said.
Friedman, who started the first Improv in New York more than 20 years ago and is known for discovering and nurturing comics, will help line up the acts for the Irvine club, Anderson said.
Thursday's public hearing focused on a required permit specifying club size and features, parking and addressing overall questions on whether the Improv would fit in the neighborhood. No one spoke against the club and only one woman spoke on its behalf.
In its report to the commission, the Irvine Planning Department said the Improv fits in with city officials' original wishes to include a nightclub or other entertainment center alongside business tenants in the Marketplace.
"We've been trying to get something interesting in the Marketplace for some time; this may finally do it," said Commissioner Mary Ann Gaido.
Dennis Trapp, Irvine's principal planner, said the city will ensure that the late-night entertainment does not disturb the nearby University Town Center residential community.
Robert Delgadillo, assistant city planner, said the city will be sensitive to any complaints and the commission could revoke the permit at any time if there are problems.
Anderson said Irvine was chosen after a long search for a suitable site. Orange County, he said, is a "perfect environment" for the entertainment planned.
"This is a very exciting area with a lot of bright, young people," he said. "The area is expanding and there's a spirit here, also an obvious appreciation of the arts. There will probably only be a total of 10 Improvs throughout the whole country, so it's clear that we gave this some thought."
The Irvine Improv will become the sixth club nationally either owned or franchised by Friedman. Beside the New York original and the Los Angeles and San Diego outlets, there are also clubs in Dallas and Las Vegas.