When you arrive at 599 S. Collier Blvd., and first enter Captain Brien’s Seafood and Raw Bar, the aromas of fresh seafood and seasonings waft through the air in a family friendly, casual dining area. It is equipped with simple wooden tables and chairs, with nautical and fishing gear decor.
Owner and operator Brien Spina gets his seafood flown in directly from New England or purchases it fresh from local purveyors. “We filet the majority of our fish in-house,” he says, “and you can tell the quality of the fish, doing that.” House specialties are scallops Florentine and macadamia encrusted mahi mahi.
The restaurant also has a raw bar, with clams and oysters that are either seasonal or newly developed and unique recipes. “They take on the flavor of the water they’re found in,” he adds.
Spina has personally overseen all activities since day one. He added the Off the Hook Comedy Club as a way to bring in new business and new clientele. “People ate dinner and then said, ‘now where do we go?’. It’s been a whole new entity of business,” he says.
Spina selects all the talent for the club. “The comedians pitch to us now,” he says, explaining that the club now is a top-rated, A club. “Big names come through here. They (the performers) enjoy the intimacy of the room.”
By 9 p.m., the bar fills and the dinner guests are happily seated. But, a half-hour later, the scene changes and the anticipation of a few hours of serious adult humor kicks in.
In a room seating 200 people, the club is still conducive to interaction with the comedian on stage. With a comedy show, the audience is a distinct and essential part of the performance, and can dramatically effect the direction that the show and the comedian take with it, Spina offers.
A typical show may include one or more warm-up comedians, who give short performances before the headliner takes the stage.
Appearing in December, Joe Shelby pondered the improbability of the first time anyone ever milked a cow, followed by Maija DiGiornio, who shared the joys of being an Italian from New Jersey.
Tim Wilson was the main attraction of the evening. Called the “sarcastic hillbilly” of comedians, the Georgia native has a distinctive twang that belies the sharp wit and intellect behind it. Insisting that the audience lacks a sense of humor, Wilson honed in on a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch trousers worm by an audience member, and then on a 23-year-old beauty queen he claimed he didn’t know.
His edgy interaction with the audience was hilarious. Later, Wilson brought out his guitar and proved to be an accomplished musician, although the guitar was primarily a comedic prop. Wilson performed a number of takeoffs on well-known personalities; not exactly impersonations, but more amusing mimicry. Although the audience interface was somewhat aggressive, the crowd was delighted.
The January lineup of comedic talent looks promising. Appearing in the upcoming weeks are Tommy Davidson, of “In Living Color” fame and an impersonator of various African-American personalities.
X-rated hypnotist Rich Guzzi will appear, exercising his skills as a provocative mesmerizer and motivational speaker. His shows are known for surprises and audience involvement.
Mitch Fatel, a veteran of appearances on Leno and Letterman will be appearing too.
Actor and comedian star Brian Callen will be showcasing his stand-up talents, as well as impersonation skill.
Dale Jones, of “Last Comic Standing” and an actor appearing in “Out of Time” with Denzel Washington will be a must-see show, as well.
February will start off with an appearance by Robert Schimmel, comedian, author and cancer survivor, who is known to make comedy out of the most painful of life’s experiences.
Off the Hook also features Open Mike Night, which allows local amateurs a chance to play before a live audience and hone their skills or try out new material. Amateurs should bring 10 minutes of material and four guests to appear on stage.
The typical crowd at Off the Hook can vary wildly. “The crowds are talent-driven,” explains Spina. “Marco residents prefer the older, more conservative and clean shows, while the urban or high energy acts will attract half of their crowd from other areas.”
Spina now owns the Louisville, Ky. Improv, seating about 400 people. Another venture, the West Palm Beach Club, is due to open in January. That club includes a 200-seat restaurant, and a 700-seat theater-style club.
Longtime Marco residents, the Spina family is involved in the restaurant and club; his dad is his partner and his wife and mom work in the business, too.
“We’re very family-oriented,” he says.
A simple business philosophy of offering a quality product at a reasonable price has been highly successful for the Spinas. They have worked to keep the prices level, even during these unstable economic times. “That’s helped us the most in this economy, keeping costs steady,” he adds.
Spina recommends checking ahead of time to determine the appropriateness of the talent scheduled and to ensure that guests will not find that particular comedic material offensive.
If you go...
Off the Hook Comedy Club
599 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island