No Bankruptcy – Only Big Names

Comedy Works South celebrates 10 years

In 2008, Wende Curtis secured a portion of the necessary financing and found a banker at Vectra Bank to loan her the rest of the money to launch her Comedy Works South Club. 

Unfortunately, construction for her second act – an attempt to duplicate her Downtown Comedy Works success – went south. Years-long leases on furniture and commercial restaurant paraphernalia were due well before the south club opened its doors. 

The nation was reeling from the mortgage and financial crisis, and Curtis quickly abandoned her personal goals of relocating her family or moving herself from a condo to a house between 2008 and 2009. She, instead, wondered if her leap of faith would result in bankruptcy.

A decade later, the community came together and Comedy Works South was celebrated.

A 10-year, invitation-only anniversary party was packed with celebrities, comics, the beer and booze delivery guys, Curtis' personal trainer, the Vectra banker and any one else who had given their time, energy, humor or hearts to make that dream a reality.

"Ten years ago construction was delayed and then delayed again," Curtis recalls. "I had bills to pay, no matter the delays and I was at the club 70 hours a week. Once we did open the doors, it didn't take off from the get-go. It was grueling, everyday, dealing with a dozen things: Broken toilets, people calling in sick, getting to the bank."

Today, Curtis gets the last laugh. 

She opened the September 26 celebration by delivering her own performance in front of a crowd that included comedians Tom Papa and Nancy Norton, the recent winner of the 2018 Boston Comedy Fest. A montage of comedy professionals singing her praises opened the evening's event, with clips of talented community members expressing their sincere gratitude for what Curtis achieved personally, for them and for comedy in general.

Though some headlines suggest the comedy club business is experiencing a boom, many clubs closed or succumbed to corporate takeovers in recent years, including Portland, Oregon's Harvey's. In addition, Levity Entertainment Group bought the Improv brand, a chain of 20 clubs across the country, earlier this year.

"She's been able to have remarkable and admirable success," says Brad Williams, an actor and stand-up comedian. "She puts comedy and the comics first. She builds a local scene. Too many club owners just put up big names. Wende invests in the future."

Her past begs the question: What's next?

The good news is Curtis relies on her instincts and intuition, rather than a business model or plan. 

"I don't see a third club in Denver right now," she says. "I don't want to travel to build another club. I'm not the kind of owner that can do this from afar. But I do entertain ideas. I get ht up a few times a year about projects in town, in the region or around the country and I listen because you never know what might be out there."

Whatever Curtis' next steps, it is sure to be hands-on and will likely follow the careful and caring path that's won her success.

"We treat our acts right and those people talk," Curtis says. "No one pays them better or puts them in such great accommodations. We go out of our way to bring them whatever they need. They need cold medicine? We'll go get it and bring it to them."

Williams speaks of Curtis' ability to make comedians comfortable.

"Wende Curtis is a woman who rolled up her sleeves in a man's world and busted her butt and worked harder than everyone else," he says. "It's really admirable. If I have a daughter, I hope she's just like Wende."

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