THE SECRETS OF SUCCESS FOR THIS POINT PLEASANT BEACH COMEDY CLUB
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY SEAN FORD & PATTY PIXELS
When Dino and Jerry Ibelli bought Ferrara’s Ristorante just over than 15 years ago, they played host to dozens of bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, and other significant life events. There were also Kiwanis Club gatherings, some psychic nights, and a few two-for-one evenings, but when the Belleville-raised brothers began searching for something new to draw in a mid-week crowd, they turned to comedy.
“We had some prior experience with the stand-up club business,” Dino Ibelli noted, detailing a short-lived hotel stint in 1990. “So I had some connections. One thing led to another and we started booking some big-time acts. People started going crazy for this little idea.”
In fact, the concept exploded. By January of 2010, the Ibelli brothers had to knock a wall down to accommodate the growing clientele. Soon, they turned their smallish banquet room into a bustling comedy haven with room for 110 guests.
“There actually wasn’t too much work to do,” Ibelli conceded. “We added some new dark flooring, moved the stage from one side to another, got a good mic system and some lighting…it was a pretty easy changeover. The hardest part was standing before the town planning board, applying for an entertainment license. At that point I had already been doing comedy for a while and eight out of 10 of the board members were my regular customers. They looked at me like I was totally crazy, but it was a step I had to take. Now I’m good to host Def Leppard if I wanted to. I’m totally covered.”
The Ibellis focused on big talent, booking names like Andrew Dice Clay, Sebastian Maniscalco, Artie Lange, and Jackie the Joke Man (the last two of Howard Stern Show fame), as well as Bobby Collins, who has to date released six comedy albums. Local residents were thrilled to find such talent on a small stretch of Arnold Avenue in Point Pleasant.
“We didn’t skimp; if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right,” Ibelli said. “For some reason, comedy is the lowest-ranking form of entertainment in the business. I think there are a lot of establishments out there with a stage and a mic that think they can do a show. But if you’re doing it once a month, you’re not a true comedy venue. We do 250 shows a year here; this is our full-time business. In terms of comedy in the state of New Jersey, we offer almost as many shows as the Borgata or the Hard Rock.”
And the brothers leave the joke telling to the professionals.
“You’re either a club owner or a comedian, you can’t be both,” Ibelli said. “It’s my job to stay focused on bringing the funniest talent to the stage.”
Coming to that stage in December are names like Vic Dibitetto, Uncle Floyd, Dr. Dirty John Valby, and Dice Clay once more.
“When you listen to that lineup, it sounds like a pretty dirty December,” Ibelli laughed. “But these are the names that helped build this place. Andrew Dice Clay has performed here 15 or 16 times since 2007; I have the fake cigarette he used on stage during his very first performance here hanging on my wall. And Sebastian Maniscalco [who’s also had supporting acting roles in the recent films Green Book and e Irishman] has dropped in here three or four times a year since 2015. They love this club. It feels like home to them. And our customers love seeing these larger-than-life comedians in an intimate venue. It’s really the only way to see a show.”
Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club
518 Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach / 732.899.3900