News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Big laughs for all at Liberty Center
BY JESSE SCOTT
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Fredericksburg has a legitimate comedy club.
If this is brand-new news to you, you’ve missed out on three years’ worth of hearty cackles. But it’s never too late to make up for lost laughs.
The Liberty Laughs Comedy Club, on the second level of Liberty Center in Massaponax, will host Alex Ortiz and John Betz Jr. on Friday and Saturday night. The shows are open to the 18-and-older crowd.
Both comedians bring a genuine blend of real-life humor and are the latest national acts to grace the Liberty Laughs stage.
“We’ve been working to bring in bigger and better acts over the years,” said Bryan Siegel, comedy club and entertainment manager at Liberty Laughs. “We’ve basically brought the comedy club vibe and comedy club skills right here to Fredericksburg.”
Liberty Laughs first opened its doors in June 2009. The club started as a haven for local comedians needing a platform to share their material. Over time, and after a couple of promoter changes, the club has quickly evolved into a showcase of local, regional and national talent.
Liberty Laughs, itself, boasts the same vibe you’d come to expect at a comedy club in D.C., Richmond or even New York City. The only difference is the drive and/or a train ticket.
“It reminds you of the old-school, old-style comedy clubs,” said Siegel, a comedian with nine-plus years of stand-up experience. “There’s a full stage, stage lights, spotlights and candlelit tables. There are as many elements that I’ve seen on the road and the clubs I’ve worked at over the years.”
The look isn’t the only thing that’s matured at Liberty Laughs.
“When I started, we were only booking local acts—nationally known comedians that live in the Fredericksburg area, that is,” said Siegel, who has managed the club for over two years. “These days, we don’t cut out the local comics, but have a nice mix of our regulars and the comedians who make the national circuit.”
This week’s duo is a prime example of the talent Liberty Laughs is raking in on a weekly basis.
Betz Jr. is the funniest math teacher in North Carolina and Ortiz is a half-African–American, half-Hispanic comedian who has shared the stage with the likes of Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley and Damon Wayans.
“I entered the Army when I was 18, was a solider, a combat medical specialist, a firefighter and then a comedian,” said Ortiz. “I’ve had a lot of life experiences from everything that I’ve done so far.”
In addition to boasting a diverse résumé, Ortiz has a knack for bringing cartoon-like characters to life. This knack has landed him gigs on Comedy Central, BET, HBO and “Showtime at the Apollo.”
“I do Fat Albert, impersonations of Billy Bob Thornton in ‘Sling Blade,’ and so many more,” said Ortiz. “I like to make the audience rethink their favorite cartoon characters in a way they never have before.”
Just like Ortiz, Liberty Laughs has a long-term goal of bringing more laughs to more people.
“We’re halfway in between Richmond and D.C., and great comedians come through Fredericksburg all the time,” said Siegel. “It’s all about getting them to stop here and letting people know that this place exists.”
What: Alex Ortiz and John Betz Jr. at Liberty Laughs
Where: 5801 Southpoint Center Blvd., Fredericksburg
When: Friday, Aug. 24 (8 p.m.) and Sunday, Aug. 25 (7 and 10 p.m.)
Cost: $10; $5 with military ID; 18 and up.
Info: 540/710-7467; libertylaughs.weebly.com
Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native. Email him at email@example.com.