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Laughter's up in Surf City

Pair open a comic emporium that so far is keeping its audience in stitches.

January 30, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Business partners and comedians Bob Perkell and Jeff Capri entertain the crowd at the Surf City Comedy Club.
Business partners and comedians Bob Perkell and Jeff… (Courtesy Surf City…)

The first joke Jeff Capri played on his future partner was a practical one.

In the 1980s, when Bob Perkell was producing comedy shows in Southern California, he got a phone call raving about Capri. The voice on the phone, which claimed to be that of Capri's agent, David Gladstone, praised the comic's talent and urged Perkell to book him for a night.

Perkell took the bait, and Capri, sure enough, put on a show that had the crowd in stitches. Two years later, the comedian finally revealed the truth: He had posed as his own agent to get the booking.

Rather than being mad, Perkell reasoned that any comedian who could pull off a trick like that had a savvy mind for business. So when he sought to open the Surf City Comedy Club in his hometown of Huntington Beach slightly more than a year ago, he enlisted Capri as his co-founder.

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Perkell homed in on an available location within the 46,000-square-foot restaurant and entertainment center Endless Food and Fun.

When he initially approached Capri with this idea, his immediate reaction was, "I got into comedy so I wouldn't have to work in an arcade!"

After hosting a crowd for the first time on New Year's Eve, the venue has become the city's only official laugh space and has picked up a loyal fan base.

"There was a real boom of comedy clubs in the '80s — they were so popular," said Capri, 45, of Hermosa Beach. "We have tried to capture that format and offer a warm and intimate atmosphere."

Capri, who comes from a show-business family, decided to follow in his father's footsteps and pursue a career in comedy. According to him, the most rewarding part is the ease with which he can travel to different corners of the world — something he might not otherwise have been able to do.

"It takes a long time to get good," he said.

Perkell, a Huntington Beach resident, echoed the sentiment, calling to mind the first time he told a joke at a public venue and, under the spotlight, forgot the punchline.

Only after starting over three times could he overcome his nerves and recall how to make the audience laugh.

"When I was done, people applauded — I'm pretty sure just to get me off the stage," Perkell, 53, said with a chuckle.

Twenty-four years later, Perkell, who by his own admission was an "attention-starved" middle child, is a full-time stand-up comedian and familiar face with troops overseas as well as at 12-step conventions.

For both him and his partner, daily life provides unparalleled performance material.

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