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Night Watch: National Lampoon Underground Comedy Club & Grill

National Lampoon Underground Comedy Club & Grill

900 Sunrise Lane, Fort Lauderdale.

Call 954-306-2689, or visit here.

Bikers, booze, and belly-laughs: a combination you can't get just anywhere these days. Throw in some sexy local stand-up comics, a huge mural of Animal House, plus plenty of "Red Death" shots -- and welcome to National Lampoon Underground Comedy Club & Grill: the new stand-up comedy standard.

Downstairs: In the partial-open-air beachside bar that has been home to watering holes over the years, Marilyn Manson's "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)" thumped from the electronic jukebox. The downstairs drinkin' part of National Lampoon Underground -- with its wooden floors, healthy-sized bar, and blown-up covers of National Lampoon magazine all over the bar-top and walls - was filled with a fierce-looking, leather-clad gang of bikers. Not the crowd I was expecting at an underground comedy club, but hey. I go with the flow.

Sam, the good-lookin' boy tending bar, wore a skullcap with the word "Amsterdam" embroidered on it. He articulately informed me that National Lampoon Underground was "right on the cusp" of becoming the premiere local comedy location. To punctuate his claim, he pushed a bourbon and Coke in my direction. Noticing that my gaze had drifted to one of the burly motorcycle men, he added: "Sometimes we have college kids; sometimes we have bikers. It's a mixed crowd."

Mike, the hyperactive maestro of the scene, informed me that Lampoon's is trying to recreate the Comedy Cellar, a comic-run comedy venue in New York.

"We're trying to be what most comedy clubs around here aren't," he explained. "We have an amazing chef, open mic Wednesdays, college nights, package sales, box lunch specials. So many things at once." He told me to sit tight and wait for the show, which would open with the hostess, progress through a couple up-and-comers and feature acts, and end with the headliner.

I took my drink, grabbed a table by the door, and finished surveying the scene. The walls were built with rustic-looking bricks (later I found out they'd been transported from the French Quarter); a giant yellow-hued mural featuring Animal House graced the far wall. The top of the table I'd chosen was adorned with the blown-up cover of a sports issue of National Lampoon mag, featuring a busty blonde swinging a bat. Young men in hoodies sipped Budweiser at the table beside me. Like me, they were befuddled by the presence of the bikers, some of whom wore their white hair long and ponytailed (one had even ponytailed his silver-speckled beard). They wore bandanas, and sunglasses were clipped to their jackets. Two women, one in a fur-collared leather jacket, the other in a leather vest, hovered near the men.

"Who are you guys?" I asked a burly biker who seemed to be the natural leader. His wiry, goateed friend cracked a grin and elbowed me playfully, but the leader didn't even blink.

"We are the US Army Vets Motorcycle Club," he said.

These words were printed on their jackets. "But why are you here, at this brand-new comedy club?"

"This was our club's official meeting spot back when it was Bikini Bob's," he informed me gruffly. "We're all in town - some of us from as far as Port St. Lucie, and we're visiting for old time's sake."

"Whaddaya think?" I asked. But the woman with the fur collar had cuffed him on the shoulder and motioned that it was time to leave.

"It's different," he said over his shoulder. "It' a lot more young people than before."

By this time, I sauntered back over to the friend I'd brought along, Beard, who was inhaling my bourbon and chatting up the beautiful comic hostess Jessica Gross, and her equally lovely beau. Jessica dressed well; a short dress with colored tights, smart rectangular framed glasses. She cracked poop jokes (a woman after my own heart) and teased her boyfriend, Andrew, who was vying for some free dinner.

"Do you think I can get French fries?" he asked with bright-eyed hopefulness.

"What, do you think the French fry fairies back there ran out of French fries?" she said. "Of course you can."

Andrew told me about their Web comedy series, "The Adventures of a Sexual Miscreant."

"It seems," he said, eying Jessica, "Comedians have no problem being associated with crazy shit."

Upstairs : We traveled the rickety stairs up to the cozy comedy club, replete with a vodka-vending bar and a spotlight-lit stage. The walls were painted black and benches surrounded the perimeter of the room.

I hovered awkwardly near Beard and Andrew. Wendi Starling, the headliner, walked by briskly.

"I took some pictures of you at the earlier show," Andrew told her.

"Do I look fat?" she demanded.

"No," he said, smart boy that he is.

"OK," the platinum-blond comedienne replied. "I'm going to continue to pace and drink Red Bull now."

Before we knew it, the show was starting. I instructed the perky waitress to recommend one of their candy-sweet flavored vodkas (they had about a billion flavors, including chocolate) and bring it to me. I received a vodka that (1) literally tasted like cotton candy, (2) made me giggle a lot, and (3) gave me a stomach ache.

"This is cozy," said Jessica, blinking in the on-stage spotlight and casting her gaze meticulously about the audience. "I feel like we're on an awkward, uncomfortable orgy-date. Where people come to talk about their problems on stage." She flew through a couple of good jokes, made the drunk birthday girl at the front laugh obnoxiously when she mentioned that drinking Cape Cods were a great way to prep for a night of dancing and simultaneously cure UTIs, and called out the cuddling couple a few rows back.

"Van-eth-a," she said, replicating the woman's Spanish accent. "That thounds thooo thexy. You must have like 20 kids."

Next on stage was Sean Beagan, who pointed out that the downstairs of the club resembled a scene from Easy Rider and the upstairs of the club wasn't handicap-accessible. He promptly used that as a segueway into making jokes about handicapped folks. But that was OK, he told us, because he has his own personal handicap to contend with: he only has vision in one eye. ("What do me and a hurricane have in common?" he asked. "One eye.")

He was followed by Chris Flanagan, a comic from Georgia with a bowl haircut. He claimed that the bartender in the back of the room had Roofied him the other night and complained that "someone" had already used up all the one-eye jokes.

By now, the cotton candy vodka was shredding the shit out of my liver.

"You look like Zach Galifianakis," Chris told my friend, Beard. "Or maybe his older brother. I bet your cock is bigger." There was a pause. "Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that."

When Jessica regained the stage, she facilitated the distribution of on-the-house shots called "Red Death." I really hoped this tasty, very potent shot would control the cotton candy churning around inside me. It made me sway and giggle more, sometimes before someone had even made a joke.

Finally Jessica summoned Wendi Starling to the stage. "I have only two days left of being bitchy," she announced with exaggerated sadness in her voice. "I love my period. I see blood and I start biting people, throwing stuff, and eating everything." I let out a whoop. (After the show, I high-fived her and gushed how, OMG, I totally relate.) She wore jeans, a flowing scarf, and moved with comfort around the stage; she joked about bra shopping (in the little boys' department of Target), anal sex ("I'm saving my butthole for marriage"), wine selections ("Um, what goes best with Ambien?"), and teased Dominic, the drunk hillbilly at the back of the room, in a way that was both clever and loving.

Wendi also mentioned the Grossest Thing Anyone Ever Said to Her During Sexy Time, but you will have to catch her next show if you wanna find out what that is.

My assessment: National Lampoon Underground is bad ass: a fun and unique place with a (mostly) hip crowd. The comedy and potent mixtures of alcohol will make you forget all your pain (no Ambien required).

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Tara Nieuwesteeg

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