Along with its reputation for being the best medicine, laughter is unrestricted — we all love to laugh. And Matt Bridgestone’s mission in bringing the Atlantic City Comedy Club to The Playground is to make us do just that.
“What I love about comedy is that it really appeals to all ages, and my shows are totally melting-pot kinds of shows,” says Bridgestone, producer and manager of the A.C. Comedy Club, which opened in August at the former site of WAV Nightclub. “You might see an 18-year-old Puerto Rican kid next to an 80-year-old Jewish lady. You can’t really do that with other genres of entertainment. Bands, musicians and even movies are usually age-specific or appeal to certain groups of people. Nightclubs mainly attract the 20-something crowds. Comedy hits all walks of life.”
Bridgestone is a seasoned stand-up comic himself who has been producing shows in Atlantic City for about five years. His Comedy Crapshoot was a popular series at the Blue Velvet Theater, adjacent to Scores inside the recently closed Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. His past shows have featured up-and-coming regional acts from the New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City comedy scenes, as well as national headliners such as Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live,” Nikki Carr of “Last Comic Standing,” Shuli Egar of “The Howard Stern Show” and others. Atlantic City native and rising comic star Zachary Pickert is considered the A.C. Comedy Club’s house comedian who helps with promotions, as does Bridgestone’s wife Jackie and their 2-year-old daughter Willow.
“(Willow) kind of hangs out with me and I let her hand out flyers on the Boardwalk,” Bridgestone says. “She’s in the mix. A lot of comics don’t get to see much of their kids growing up, but she’s with me every step of the way. And Zach and some other comics have been tremendous in helping us get this going, for which I’m really grateful.
“The Blue Velvet was cool, but it was in kind of a remote area,” adds Bridgestone, who has teamed up with the New York City-based talent agency Empire Tonight to bring in such N.Y.C. comic standouts as Jim Florentine, Krystyna Hutchinson and Wendi Starling. “With the Playground being right off the Boardwalk, it’s just so much easier to run promotions the day of an event. And the Taj site was really more of a comedy night, whereas this is more of a comedy club. Last week we did five shows, and right now the schedule will be one show on Friday night (8 p.m.) and two on Saturday (8 and 10:30 p.m.). We might add dates if there’s a demand for it, and eventually I’d like to shoot for seven days a week, since there’s so much foot traffic and potential in this area.”
Show tickets are $20 and group rates are available. Following Saturday’s second show, the venue sort of morphs into a nightclub with a DJ.
“I’m just trying to make something happen,” Bridgestone says. “I see this as an opportunity to introduce a lot of excellent up-and-coming comedians who thus far may not have been seriously looked at by some of the powers-that-be in the comedy world.
“I want it to be similar to New York City back in the day when you had ‘Catch a Rising Star’ and ‘The Improv,’ where many comics were basically unknown commodities five to 10 years ago and are now household names. I think that’s what we’ve got going on here. I see this as the wave of the future, basically.”
Although just shy of his 38th birthday, Matt Bridgestone has already been doing stand-up comedy nearly half his life.
“I started doing it at Rutgers, and I always joke that I finished college early,” he says. “By that I mean I dropped out.”
He’s had a lot of interesting experiences along the way, sleeping in cars on some nights and million-dollar mansions on others in between gigs. One of his fondest remembrances thus far is having received some guidance from one of the icons of comedy, George Carlin.
“I had the good fortune of having been given (Carlin’s) email address by a friend, and I wrote him kind of assuming he’d never reply,” Bridgestone says. “Well, he wrote back a couple of hours later and invited me and some friends out to see a couple of his shows. We later talked on the phone a couple of times. He was such a cool guy. This was toward the end of his life — maybe two or three years before he passed away — so we didn’t get to be that close, but it was certainly among the coolest experiences I’ve had in the business so far.”
Carlin, who died in 2008, was considered a “counterculture” comedian. He was a genius at seeing the humor in nearly anything, but was perhaps best known for lampooning politics, big business and fanaticism of any sort.
“If people were clustered into groups and had agendas, he’d go after them (in his routine), and maybe that gave him the reputation for not liking people in general,” Bridgestone says. “But meeting people on a one-on-one basis? He loved people on that level and would go out of his way to help them out. To me that was amazing.”