Robin Williams, Damon Wayans, Dennis Miller, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Walker, Tommy Chong, Rosanne Barr, Tom Arnold, David Naster, Paula Poundstone, and so many more stand up comics share a Kansas City connection–Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club appearances–during the early days of their career as they climbed the comedy ladder to success and recognition.
Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club recently moved from Kansas City, Kansas to their new location in Overland Park, Kansas. With the move, the club made a switch from appetizers and drinks only to a dinner/theatre venue where customers may buy a combo ticket and enjoy a dinner prior to the show, or just the standard comedy show with drinks and appetizers. Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club, one of the first and longest running comedy clubs in the USA, originated in Westport, a night club section of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1975. Originally, the club contained a restaurant and was known for its famous flowerpot bread, but with its move to Kansas City, Kansas, the format changed to appetizers and drinks only. Now, with a new building and space to expand the restaurant has been resurrected, Craig Glazer co-owner, said.
Craig, his brothers Jeff and Jack, and his father Stan founded the original Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club with the help of local Kansas City comedian, David Naster. As one of the early comedy clubs, new and upcoming comics booked at the club to practice, develop, and hone their art of standup. One of the early comics, Jimmy “J.J.” Walker appeared there in his early standup days and continues to perform at the K.C. club annually, Craig said.
“We had many performers before they were nationally known. We had Larry the Cable Guy before he was Larry the Cable Guy,” Craig said. “The name Stanford and Sons came from the hit show Sanford and Son starring comic Red Foxx (because the owner of the club’s first name was Stanford Glazer and his sons ran the restaurant that was located below the comedy club.”
Stars like Sinbad, Louis Anderson, Rob Riggle, Bill Hicks, Larry the Cable Guy, and many more started their careers with Stanford’s, Craig said. Another rising star, Jon Schieszer just appeared for two nights, Dec. 26 and 27, and regularly returns to Kansas City to appear at Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club. To complete the line up, headliner Schieszer followed the warm up acts of Rashaad Wright, Richard Montano, Jeremiah Watkins, and Scott Shaffer. Most are local Kansas City talents.
All of the aforementioned are up and coming talents looking for their break. Especially funny, Wright remains new to the standup comedy format and has been active for just over a year, Craig said. Wright served as master of ceremonies. He did a short intro, then added more between each act as he introduced the following comic. He’s a name to watch as he climbs the ladder.
Schieszer (pronounced Sheeee Zer) headlined for two nights upon his regular return to Kansas City for Standford and Sons Comedy Club. Schieszer, a Kansas City native and Shawnee Mission Schools graduate began his career at the club on an open mic night. Being loyal to his roots, he returns regularly to headline at the club, he said.
“I am home for Christmas and was asked to headline for two nights. We had to delay the first show by about 15 minutes to set up extra tables because we were sold out. That was awesome,” Schieszer said. “I hope to come back in April for a night or two at the club and also to catch a few early season Royals’ games.”
The club exploded onto the national scene in 1981 when Craig Glazer met Robin Williams in LA and he agreed to work free at Stanford and Sons to hone his act. Variety in Hollywood wrote about it and the rest is history, their website boasts Stanfords became one of the top name clubs after Williams’ appearance. Big names and up and comers from all over the nation like Rosanne, Louie Anderson, Sam Kennison, Tommy Chong, Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Lewis and many more flocked to Kansas City to perform at Stanford and Sons. Recent stars that performed at the club include Pauly Shore, Damon Wayons, Lewis Black and Lisa Lampanelli. Any big name you have heard of has played the club over the last 40 years, Glazer said.
Other headliners Craig noted that are about to break into the big time include T. J. Miller, Collin Kane, Nikki Glaser, Jim Jeffries, Dov Davidoff. After 40 years in the business, Craig said he has seen hundreds of comics and recognizes the ones that stand of the verge of stardom. He also said that Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club remains one of the primary venues for standup comics in the U.S. He said New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Kansas City are prime routes for those comics traveling the major city circuits.
Stanford and Sons’ Comedy Club is different in that it is one of the oldest comedy venues in the States and serves a 4-star cuisine, Jeff Glazer said. Jeff touted the menu that now attracts guests to purchase dinner and comedy packages. Couple combo prices range from $55 to $65 depending on the night (Wed./Thurs./Sun. being the cheaper). The package includes a choice of dinners ($15 per person limit) and two $20 show tickets. Those coming without the package may choose from appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, seafood, chicken, grilled selections, and dessert shooters. Special nights have special pricing–like New Year’s Eve, Jeff said.
Jeff further explained that Stanfords is the second oldest family-owned comedy club in the nation, behind The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, owned by Pauly Shore’s family. With the history of talented former performers, Stanfords continues to offer exposure to established and new comics. Screech, Dustin Diamond, from TV’s Saved by the Bell is slated for 2015 performances. Steve-O from Jackass fame is also planned.
Craig said that the new venue’s business is booming since its October relocation. The site is a former Chinese restaurant and kitchen facilities were in place to re-start the full dinner menu like the original 1980 venue included. He said that in a few months they will add an enclosed patio and also overtake a space to their south and create another entertainment venue, possibly by summer.
We started with a restaurant in 1975 with entertainment that later became our comedy club. I went to L.A. and I saw The Comedy Store and came back with the idea to a similar format here. I figured, ‘Why not?’, Craig said.
Craig said he lived in Hollywood for about 10 years and got involved with some motion pictures before moving back to Kansas City. Previously, he wrote a book, The King of Sting, based on his work as a rogue sting agent to flush out drug dealers in the Southwest. The book, still available through Amazon, is under development as a motion picture.
“We still get a lot of comics but we don’t start as many as we did. Most go to the West Coast to start there. We are happy to have T. J. Miller scheduled. He’s done about 30 movies, and I think he’s the next Adam Sandler,” Craig said. “We are the only club he does and he’s booked in March. Jimmy Walker is set to return. He’s been a good friend for a long time.”
The future for Stanford and Sons continues to develop as they expand and book touring comic talent. With Kansas City being the home of the Glazer brothers, they enjoy seeing local talents perform and develop through their club. The Stanford and Sons Comedy Club website posts upcoming performers and events.