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Where The Laughs Are

LaughMy wife does this thing where she laughs so hard for so long that she stops making any sound. There’s part of me that is worried she’s choking. The other part of me is jealous.

Laughter is one of the few things that can immediately change your mood from bad to good. (Others include free ice cream and a box full of puppies.) A terrible day can be erased when a friend tells you something funny or someone posts videos of people falling down on Facebook.

With that in mind, I set out to discover the best places to find a laugh in Southwest Florida.

Five Minutes with Compton and Bennett

If you can’t laugh at it, it’s enough to make you cry. That statement seems to be the mantra Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett live by. The dynamic duo of Gulfshore comedy has made a living (or at least a nice sideline) by applying their razor-sharp wits to life in our area.

They’ve made fun of developers, newspaper publishers, county commissioners and assisted-living facilities. And now, in their latest two-man show, Fleabitten, they’ve cast their view of things on our bargain hunting culture.

“Honestly, this is the hardest I’ve laughed in months,” Compton says of their days in the writers’ studio at his house in Golden Gate Estates.

The show takes a look at a cast of characters based in stereotypes and perceived foibles or “fatal flaws,” as Bennett likes to call them.

Their success locally has been pretty universal, since they started putting on a show called A Cracker at the Ritz more than a decade ago. And while their bits might include a few groaners (we’re talking Catskills level here), overall even the people they are mocking seem to be in on the joke.

It’s not too hard to think of which local developer was the basis for an old character called Jack Raykitinagain.

“You wouldn’t think he would be too pleased,” says Compton. “But for one of our performances, he was there with his whole family. And he was laughing as loud as anyone else.”

And that could be saying something. One of Compton’s favorite stories of the duo’s success at getting guffaws involves a woman at Fred’s Food, Fun and Spirits who came to see a show and ended up floored, literally.

“This was not a small woman,” he says. “And not agile either. She laughed so hard, she slid off her chair. She fell down while laughing at our jokes.”

They do this for a living

Although it’s not a great hot bed for local comedic talent, Southwest Florida does get a fair number of professional and semi-professional comedians to drop in. Here are the best places to catch an act.

Capt. Brien’s Off the Hook Comedy Club: What started out as a way to get more people to come into a Marco Island seafood restaurant has blossomed into one of the best little comedy clubs in the state, and maybe the country. The staff continually books big names, both of the up-and-comer variety and of those with a formerly national profile. This year alone, the club has featured Carlos Mencia, Tommy Chong, Kevin Nealon and Pauly Shore.

599 S. Collier Blvd., Suite 218, Marco Island, captbriens.com/off-the-hook-comedy-club

Laugh In Comedy Café: This is the little club that could. The folks who come on stage aren’t even household names in their own homes. But the upside is that comedians trying to make a name for themselves are willing to push the envelope just a bit farther. And, if one of them does make it big, you can say you saw them back before they were famous.

8595 College Parkway, Suite 300, Fort Myers, laughincomedycafe.com


Droll duo: Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett have been getting laughs for more than a decade with their two-person shows, such as Fleabitten, left, and Assisted Living: The Musical, above.


Naples Laughter Club

You have to make your own fun; otherwise, it’s entertainment. For Gigi Felicetta and friends, there’s no reason to pay someone for chuckles when you can guffaw on your own.

Stop off at the white gazebo at Lowdermilk Park in Naples on Wednesday evenings and look for the Laughter Club members who are enjoying themselves while they practice Laughter Yoga. You may see members pretending to play golf, enacting karate chops, or you may hear them arguing and making up in gibberish; what looks like child’s play is actually exercises in stretching combined with play–acting, and lessons in learning to laugh.

The Naples group was founded in 2007 by Felicetta, who learned about Laughter Yoga while living in San Diego.

“Laughter is the best medicine, and the physical and psycho-social benefits of laughing are numerous,” she says. “For one, it releases endorphins that produce a feeling of happiness. It also reduces cortisol, which are harmful stress hormones.”

Date and time Second (or third) Wednesday of the month, 6–7 p.m.

Place Lowdermilk Park Pavilion, 1301 Gulf Shore Boulevard North, Naples (time and location may vary during summer months).

Membership information Adults or children nine and older. Free.

Affiliations Laughter Yoga International, www.laughteryoga.org

Contact Naples Laughter Club—Gigi Felicetta, (239) 404-6306,

Other locations Fort Myers Beach Laughter Club—Meg Scott (614) 216-9371, (Summer contact: Debbie Dunlap—
debkaydunlap@comcast.net), Lynn Hall Park, 950 Estero Blvd., (by the pier—rain or shine—parking is $2), 89 a.m., Fridays, http://laughteryogawithmegscott.net. Cape Coral Laughter Club, Linda Minsky, (646) 662-0586 Four Freedoms Park (in building/classroom on left), 4818 Tarpon Court, Tuesdays, 6:157:15 p.m.
—Ann O’Phelan

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