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Funny thing happened in Davenport

Dispatch/Argus File Photo

Comedian B.T is one of many who ply their trade at the Funny Bone, in the Freight House at 421 River Drive, Davenport.

DAVENPORT -- Since The Funny Bone opened on Aug. 19, 1996, things have been getting funnier and funnier in the Quad-Cities.

After all, the national Funny Bone chain is where many comic superstars got their start. It's continuing its fine tradition of making people laugh on an almost nightly basis in the Quad-Cities, with local and national comics.

The Funny Bone started in St. Louis 14 years ago. Now, with thousands of laughs under its belt, the club has 14 sites.

The man behind the good times at the local club is co-manager Gary Menke, no stranger to the stage himself. He was a comedian around the United States for seven years, even working in the Quad-Cities, which led to his current job.

``I was the featured act this summer,'' he said with a chuckle. One thing led to another, and the fast-talking comedian was hired as co-manager. He moved here from San Francisco last July.

On top of his managerial duties, he emcees and occasionally takes the stage.

The Funny Bone is the only comedy club of its kind in this area, and according to Mr. Menke, business is good. The club is open Wednesday and Thursday with shows at 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday with shows at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

The Funny Bone also has special engagements, usually Mondays and Tuesdays, featuring big names like Pauly Shore and Jeff Dunham. Jamie Foxx (formerly of ``In Living Color'') will appear Feb. 23 and 24.

``Since I came, crowds have increased, bigger names are playing here, and we've done a lot of different things,'' Mr. Menke said. ``It's not just comedy.''

The Funny Bone also hosts local and national bands. Piggy Lounge Night starts out with the usual laughs but ends on a groove.

``It's real casual,'' Mr. Menke said. ``People who pay for the show can stay and see a band.'' They try to keep the music ``real roots-oriented,'' he added.

Local groups that have taken the stage in the past include Burnt McMelba Toast and The Vipers.

While mixing bands and comedy may sound like a strange combination, it really isn't, he said. ``It goes back to the beginning, because vaudeville is where it started, with a plethora of different things. It's like watching The Ed Sullivan Show live; there's a guy telling a joke, there's a guy on a unicycle -- oh, and Joan Jett's going to play.''

This month, The Funny Bone started open-mike night, featuring the Funniest Person in the Quad-Cities contest. The grand prize will be emceeing an entire paid week of shows at The Funny Bone.

``We want creative, original material,'' Mr. Menke said. ``The `Two guys walked into a bar...' jokes will be better left at home during this contest.''

Aside from comedy at open-mike night, they will feature a bit of music and poetry, but the main focus will be comedy and the contest. ``It could be a really good break for somebody,'' Mr. Menke said.

For information, call The Funny Bone at 323-7977.

-- By Toni Wilson (January 22, 1998)

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