A man walks into a bar – you’d think he’d learn to duck. Well, maybe I should think about keeping my day job. But if you are looking for real comedy, give a hand (figuratively, at least) to the newly renovated Catch a Rising Star at the Princeton Hyatt.
The club is intimate (seating at 120) and affords good views from anywhere in the room. Tickets for the show are $15 with a two-item food or drink order requested. The bar menu includes popcorn shrimp, nachos, and wings, as well as a fruit plate for the healthy comedy lover. Prices range from $9 to $12 for appetizers and $7.50 for dessert items that include chocolate covered strawberries. Beers are in the $5 range; mixed drinks around $7. Considering the cost of movies and concession prices, this chance at live entertainment is well within budget.
Shows start promptly at 8 and 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are required with tickets held at the window. The doors open at 7:30. Seating is first come, first served but the venue has unobstructed views of the acts from any seat in the house. Preferred seating is available for guests of the hotel or folks who have the dinner show package at the hotel restaurant for a fixed price of $52 per person. Seating is a variety of banquettes, some individual tables and long tables to share. The tables in the back are bar height so the stage is in full view.
One serious drawback is the fact that the room allows smoking. For those of us spoiled by no-smoking sections at most venues, this fact – not mentioned when reservations were placed – was an unpleasant surprise. But the club has instituted smoke-free shows at the 8 p.m. show on Fridays. show. Luckily, those seated around us were not chain smokers and the room is fairly well ventilated.
An MC begins the night and the show includes an opening act. The night we attended, the headliner was Bob Golub, a 25-year veteran of the standup circuit. His show was sharp, observational humor peppered with audience participation. (The presence of a bachelorette party plus some middle aged men with wives happy to point out balding heads provided good starting points for the interaction.) The constant use of the F-word in all its incarnations wore on us after a while. Little wonder you have to be 21 to get in.
The highlight of the night we visited turned out to be a comedian not even listed on the card. Just before the scheduled appearance of Golub, the MC asked us to indulge a guy who had frequently been in the audience and who had dreams of being a comedian. While some our audience must have been reluctant to be guinea pigs for a wannabee stand-up, all of us were, well, disarmed by the man who took the stage. He had just one arm, and we applauded enthusiastically for his courage as he took the stage.
"Thanks for giving me a hand," he said with some nervousness as the applause died down. "I needed that." Despite a less than polished patter, the amateur stand-up managed to get off a succession of one-liners, many dealing with disability. He bewailed a recent run-in with a rapacious repairman: "He wanted to charge me an arm and a leg," he deadpanned. "Lucky I had a coupon."
The last and greatest gag was a twist that had us laughing hardest of all at ourselves. And that’s the whole point of this small venue, which offers the added treat of kibitzing with the comedians (hawking their CDs, of course) after the show. For grown-ups it’s a night out that’s far different from the usual dinner and a movie.
Catch a Rising Star, Hyatt Regency Princeton, 102 Carnegie Center, 609-987-8018. www.catcharisingstar.com. Reservations. $15. Friday and Saturdays, 8 and 10:30 p.m.