The Backstory Behind the New West Side Comedy Club, Set to Open Friday

Image via West Side Comedy Club.

By Bobby Panza

Take a couple of surfers. Add Caroline’s on Broadway. Sprinkle in some love. That’s the formula for the West Side Comedy Club, opening Friday at 201 W. 75th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam.

It started in the 90’s. Eugene Ashe and Thomas Wilson were cutting their teeth in the restaurant business. They met while working at the popular Broadway hangout Marseille in Hell’s Kitchen, and bonded over surfing. Eugene, a born and raised Upper West Sider, learned to surf in Montauk while Thomas hit the breakers at Martha’s Vineyard. That was their inspiration for Playa Betty’s, the California beach-style restaurant connected to the West Side Comedy Club at 320 Amsterdam. The two surfers co-own both establishments.

The West Side Comedy Club will turn on its lights this weekend and begin pumping out the laughs with comedians Greer Barnes, Sherrod Small and Brian Scott McFadden, among others.

It’s been a journey to get to this point. For almost two years, the club served as a storage room for Playa Betty’s, which opened in December of 2015. Nina Ashe, Eugene’s wife, was the one who saw the space’s potential. They met working at Caroline’s Comedy Club in the nineties.

“This has to be a comedy club,” Nina said when she saw the room.

The group thought it best, though, to focus on making sure Playa Betty’s got off on the right foot and focused there first. It wasn’t until the spring of 2017 when New Jersey comic Russ Meneve was hanging out and said the exact same words as he toured the joint, that everyone looked at each other and agreed this had to be put in motion.

If you go, keep your eyes peeled for comedy stalwart Gina Savage. She’s the club’s general manager and booker. As soon as work got underway on the West Side Comedy Club, Nina Ashe knew that her old friend from her and Eugene’s days at Caroline’s Comedy Club was the perfect person to help bring the venue to fruition.

Savage has a long history in NYC comedy, having worked on and off stage as a manager, booker and all-around professional who can add value everywhere.

“I love being a part of this family. To create a scene that is uniquely ours. I literally get chills. I’ve been excited every day I come to work,” Savage said.

The Westside Comedy Club and Playa Betty’s aim to be a place where comedians will not only like to perform, but will enjoy hanging out, too.

“We look forward to seeing old comedy friends who are now successful come through while cultivating new talent. And not schlock it up,” Savage said.

For the month of October, West Side Rag readers get half off ticket prices when they mention, “westsayeed.” (Don’t be scared, just say it!) Just not on Tuesday nights which is new talent night.

The Wall of Greatness at the club. “If comedy was a high school, this was our graduating class,” said Gina Savage. Included is former Upper West Sider Greg Geraldo (Center), who passed away 7 years ago on September 29th.

NEWS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. mo says:

      before playa bettys, before citrus, what was here? help please! its driving me nuts!

      • Yvette Perry says:

        Long time ago, I think that was where Cafe Central was.

        • Marie says:

          Before Citrus was Ciccio & Tony’s …but Cafe Central was a Great Bar and I had some good times there. However when walking the neighborhood I believe it was where Amsterdam Ale House is now…crnr of 75 & Amsterdam.

          • Yvette says:

            Ooh! I bet you’re right! I was picturing one of those corners and I think you got the right one. It was a great place – so much fun. Thanks Marie.

    2. Janet Felton says:

      Where do we mention “westsayeed”? Is there a website to order tickets or do we need to buy the ticket the day of on site!!

    3. Christina says:

      Is Stand Up NY still on I think it’s 79th St.? Used to go there all the time in the 80’s and early 90’s.