You can’t keep a good woman down – especially when she’s the unshakable, unbreakable Wende Curtis. Curtis, owner of the Comedy Works in Larimer Square, and the much anticipated Landmark South location in Greenwood Village, has put herself out there many times and taken big risks. In spite of the economy, the construction delays and the zooming expenses of opening a second Comedy Works, it has all paid off. To Wende’s credit, both clubs are thriving and growing in popularity. All of this is a tribute to Wende’s tenacity, business savvy, and a belief in her vision and – her hunches which told her it would all work out.
Wende Curtis was in college at Colorado State University in their Business program when she sensed she wasn’t on the right track and needed to go back to her first childhood love – the world of show business and entertainment. She switched her degree to Performing Arts/Theatre. As fate has a way of bringing people back to where they belong, Wende started working as a cocktail waitress at the Comedy Works in Fort Collins, and step by step it lead her to her destined path of fully owning the Comedy Works in Denver. Today Wende books (and has developed close relationships with) the likes of such great comedians as Bob Saget, George Lopez, Kathleen Madigan, Josh Blue, Jimmy Fallon, Lewis Black and on and on….
Wende has received such glowing remarks as: “I don’t think of Wende Curtis as a comedy-club owner, I think of her as a friend.” George Lopez. “It’s a fantastic place and one of my favorite clubs in the country.” Bob Saget. “I really like her! She’s helped the careers of many comics, and she sets a standard for what a comedy club should be.” Lewis Black. And, from her best friend, Kathleen Madigan: “Wende really does a good job with picking who’s going to make it, before they make it! She has treated us so fairly and has done such good work for us over the years.”
Wende hasn’t forgotten her roots and credits her Dad & Mom with giving her the work ethic and drive to succeed. Wende says: “I absolutely without a doubt think that a contributing component to my drive, entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic was working with and watching my parents.”
Wende Curtis loves where she’s at in life, and it shows. The people she surrounds herself with are crazy about her. When you meet Wende Curtis, she’s so warm, sincere and easy to be around. One of her employees praises Curtis by saying: “I couldn’t ask for a better role model or mentor. She has a deep love of people, and Wende treats us like her family.”
Whether attending a charity event, or just enjoying a fun evening out at either Comedy Works, it’s a sure bet that Wende Curtis will see to it that you are in for a memorable night filled with lots of good healthy laughter!
What yearly Denver event do you always try to attend? Furry Scurry of course
You are so nice to contribute Comedy Works tickets to non-profit organizations. What are some of the ones you give to on a regular basis? Well, any organization that is non-profit, and if not non-profit, any organization that deals with kids and/or education.
Aside from your own, which other restaurants in town do you like to frequent?
I love Barolo Grill and Rioja. They are my favorite. And nothing beats brunch in the warmer months like the patio or Bistro Vendome. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Keeping the present economy in mind, are both of your clubs meeting your expectations, and doing what you would like them to do at this point in time?
They are…the clubs are doing well.
Isn’t your business just as good in a down economy – because people can always use a laugh? It is. That has always been the case in the past. We provide an amazing service…and a service that is definitely in need when times are grim.
Who is the wisest person you know, and what advice did they give you?
Well, Dick Greengard, who passed away last May was probably one of the wisest people I’ve ever known, and he told me not to be so trusting. And I hate to say it, but he was right. And he was right about a lot of other things too. I miss him very much.
Do you have a favorite quote? I always remember Winston Churchull’s famous quote, “Never, never, never give up” That’s super important to me. And it’s the biggest difference between my own success and failure.
If they were to make a movie about your life, who would you suggest play you? Sandra Bullock – with a sprinkle of Dan Aykroyd….
How have you changed since you first got into this business? Well, I was 22 when I got into this business, and I wanted to be a performer myself…so I’ve spent more than half my life in this business, and I wound up on the other side of the business. My hair color has changed a few times, and the length of my hair comes and goes. I’ve lost 130 pounds since then. And I’ve grown up just a little. Not all the way, I hope. But I do feel like I’ve softened over the years. I had a hard edge, and that edge, let’s face it, got me where I am…but now, I think I’m a lot less hard. Maybe I’m just weary.
What comedian(s) has always had you in stitches? Larry the Cable Guy…because he’s so polictically incorrect…he’s so bad. And since before the Larry the Cable Guy character, he’s always made me laugh hard.
What famous people have visited the Comedy Works through the years? The list is endless…Chris Rock, Rosie O’Donnell, Jamie Foxx, Ellen DeGeneres, Louie Anderson, Dave Chappelle, Tim Allen, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Fallon, Darrell Hammond, George Lopez, Kevin Pollak, Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle, Bob Saget, Kevin Nealon, Tommy Chong, Kathy Griffin, David Brenner, Rita Rudner, Lewis Black, Jeff Foxworthy, John Pinnette, Larry the Cable Guy, Jon Lovitz, Mark Curry, Ron White, Dennis Miller, Margaret Cho, Richard Lewis, Caroline Rhea, Carlos Mencia, Lisa Lampanelli, Brian Regan, Charlie Murphy, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Engvall, Robert Klein, Jim Breuer, Arsenio Hall, David Alan Grier, Norm MacDonald, D.L. Hughley, Chelsea Handler, Gilbert Godfried, Jerry Seinfeld, Mitch Hedberg, Roseanne, …..and that’s the short list. There are so many.
In your opinion, what qualities should a person have to be in the entertainment business? Eccentricity or a proclivity for being of accepting it! And if you’re on the business side of entertainment, it helps to also be good with people. Anti-social behavior doesn’t work well with entertainers.
What do you do to find balance in your life – in other words, how do you keep it all together? I work out regularly, although lately, I have bounced in and out of exercise routines, because I haven’t been sleeping very well or very regularly. But I also knit. And all I know how to do is knit and purl and I don’t want to count stitches or increase or decrease…I just want to knit. So I end up making a lot of baby afghans…ha! But it does seem to calm me. It’s very methodical…over and over again…the same thing over and over.
How has comedy changed since let’s say the early days of Don Rickles, Henny Youngman, Rodney Dangerfield, etc.? Well it’s changed like our society. Our arts tend to be a reflection of what’s going on within society and stand up is no exception. Thirty five years ago Lenny Bruce was being arrested for saying curse words that we hear commonly in movies everyday now.
How have the audiences changed? The audiences have changed in that, I believe that almost all of the audiences years ago would have been well behaved, but now some audiences think that they are the show. So SOME audiences are more aggressive.
What has kept you motivated to stay in your line of work through the years?
I think in the early days, I just wanted to win. I wanted to be the best I could possibly be. I wanted to do the best work I could. Now, I’m not sure what motivates me.
The Comedy Works has been such a long-running tradition for outstanding comedy shows in Denver. What are your secrets to maintaining such high standards?
I don’t know if there’s any secret about it. But we do have very high standards and it attracts high standards. One comic referred to us as the Nirvana of comedy recently. And that’s what a lot of them think about us. We are the top. We are the best of the best, and if they play for us, they have arrived.
What performers are coming to your clubs in the future? John Oliver from The Daily Show and Joan Rivers for one night in June and Dave Attell, and Bob Marley and Jeffrey Ross and Louis CK and Bill Burr and Kevin Pollak…all kinds of the usual suspects…big comics…
Is it difficult to get the really big name comedians to appear at a smaller club venue, i.e., Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams…? It is. There has to be a connection for or from their past, or perhaps an agent or a manager that is helping me to get that famous artist in. Like Joan Rivers is coming because my ICM agent came for the grand opening and saw how amazing the new south room is, and he helped to push and for me to get her. George Lopez comes in when he wants to work out some new stuff, and of course, to help out. He’s a gem. He made our grand opening spectacular. But yeah, mostly, the artist has to have a special affinity or relationship with the club for some reason.
Where do you see yourself – and the Comedy Works – 10 years from now? I see myself getting more sleep, and if I had to call it now, I would say in ten years, there will still just be the two clubs…downtown and south. I am too exhausted to even think about more clubs or restaurants, etc…but I’m sure that will change. Oh gosh, but I hope not.
But I see us still running hard and strong, and still being the force in our industry that we are now.
What “uncharted waters” would you personally like to explore in the future?
I’d like to design apparel…specifically dresses and t-shirts, and use the Lila B. logo and name…that’s the name of my martini lounge, and I named it after my grandmother, Lila Beatrice. They called her Lila B. I just love that.