Tempe Improv Closing on June 1

Categories: Culture News
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The Tempe Improv, which will close after 23 years in operation at the end of this month.
The owners of the Tempe Improv announced Tuesday that they're packing their gags and closing the doors of the venerable Valley comedy club on June 1.

And here's the punchline: They're alleging that comedy competitor Stand Up Live, which opened last summer at CityScape, had a part in the Improv's downfall.

In a vitriol-filled press release was sent out Tuesday afternoon to Valley media outlets, the Improv's proprietors play the blame game with Stand Up Live and accuse the downtown Phoenix club of poaching all the big-name comics who used to perform regularly at the legendary Tempe comedy spot, which opened in 1988.

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Tempe Improv
Homegrown comedian David Spade performs at the Improv.

The Improv's closing is the final chapter in the club's long storied history, which stretches back 23 years and includes hosting numerous tapings of HBO and Comedy Central programs, as well as performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Janeane Garofalo, and countless other top-shelf comedic talent. Such major names have been relatively non-existent over the past year as former Improv regulars like David Spade, Norm McDonald, Jay Mohr, and Kevin Pollack instead performed at Stand Up Live.

"In one year, Stand Up Live has taken virtually all of the comics that the Tempe Improv developed during its 23-year history," the release states. "You can't be a comedy club if you can't get any comedians."

Per the Arizona Republic, Stand Up Live co-owner Joel Bachkoff is accused of doing so by tapping onetime Improv talent buyer Robert Hartmann for "proprietary business information," regarding booking certain big-name comedians.

There also have been numerous unconfirmed rumors swirling around the Valley comedy scene about how former Improv co-owner/manager Dan Mer has also worked behind the scenes booking comedians at Stand Up Live. There's also plenty of scuttlebut concerning supposed bad blood between him and Improv founder Mark Anderson, which was one of the reasons why Mer defected to a competing comedy club.

Debbie Keller, a PR representative for Stand Up Live, declined to comment on any of the allegations made by Tempe Improv's press release.

"I'm afraid the only comment we have forthe club right now is that we're surprised to hear that the Tempe Improv is closing," Keller says. "As with any story, you know, there's always two sides and we look forward to sharing ours at the appropriate time."

While calls to Anderson seeking additional comment have not been returned as of this writing, he told the Arizona Republic that portions of the comedy club will become a nightlife spot called the Upbeat Lounge.

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Tempe Improv Comedy Theatre

930 E. University Drive, Tempe, AZ

Category: General

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And now mark Anderson has been missing since May 12th. Very sad.


They saw this coming for years. The Improv has been running on it's name and squeezing whatever profits it can from it until they run it into the ground. Some franchises even turning into "Fat Fish Blue" restaurants/blues/comedy club with a definite generic (insert Applebee's, TGIF's, Chili's, etc... here) kind of feel.  It could have been better if they would stop turning their backs on the managers who helped make the clubs a success.  Greed has propelled this into it's demise.  I stand behind Dan Mer, 100% if he is behind Stand Up Live's success.  Dan being let go from Tempe was the club's biggest loss.  

- Former assistant manager for an Improv (Not the Tempe Improv)


I never had the chance to attend a show at the Tempe Improv.

But let me say this about Stand Up Live.  I don't think a place with such horrible customer service such as is Stand Up Live can survive for long.  It definetely takes the fun out of a night on the town, catching a comedy show.

First, the line is huge! 

Second, they have to sit one group at a time (a couple, 3 person, 6 person group).  This takes forever!  I was there for the Carlos Mencia show a few weeks back, and the show didn't start until close to ONE hour later than scheduled.  I wouldn't be upset if in the meantime the wait staff could get me one of 2 (REQUIRED TO PURCHASE) drinks, but HELL NO, they took our drink order as soon as we sat down and believe it or not, we didn't get our drinks until close to an hour and a half.  And to top everything off????  She got me the wrong drink!!!

They also took our food order ( a couple of appetizers) which again, didn't arrive until 15minutes after our drinks!  That's almost 2 hours!  This didn't happen just to, the group of 4 sitting infront of us were so pissed that they talked one of the supervisors about the LONG waits.

AND NO, this is not the first time this happened to us, we were also there some time ago to see D.L. Hughley and pretty much the same service, the same line, the same late start time.

We like comedy, but one would think that in this day and age these people would have figured out how to better serve their patrons.  After all, once a lot of people start getting pissed off about these situations, people will no longer make the effort to come-To come spend $40 for a ticket to the show, $10 for parking in downtown, $20 for the 2  required drinks....watered down drinks at that. 

The people I went with and I don't mind spending good money on drinks/food, but we do like to be treated nicely.  God forbid the waitress forgets something in your order....you're totally screwed. 

So for the amount of money and the aggravation I think am done with Stand Up Live for now.  Catching a funny movie is a much better experience for now.  Maybe I'll consider it again come October and cooler months as to avoid stainding in line for so long in this heat.  Or maybe avoid it all together, 'til they get their act together!


This giant metropolitan area definitely isn't big enough to have 2 small venues where comedians might perform. 


ummm...playing stand-up live for taking all the comedians is like blaming the herberger for taking all the actors.

Tubes Fan
Tubes Fan

Good riddance. Expensive, pretencious, bad accoustics, and full of drunks. Bleh.


It is very sad. The IMPROV, has opened its arms to local comics just starting out as well. I am one of those comics, who would like to day, thank you for the opportunities you have given us

Jeff Moriarty
Jeff Moriarty

Sorry to see it go, but the Improv has been coasting for years. Blaming Stand-Up Live is sad. If the Improv had kept to the top of their game there would have been no way to poach, but they relied on being the only game in town and when people have options they'll go to the best available place.

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