Comedy Retreat to draw comics to Indian River County this month

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Pete O’Neil thought he had come up with a great idea to complement the Comedy Nights he had been promoting Saturdays at the Surf Club and to help local hotels with one of their traditionally slow weeks of the season.

He and partner Victoria Jackson decided to put together a comedy boot camp and invited comedians, booking agents and others in the business to a retreat in Vero Beach from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15.

“I guess in January there is low occupancy at some of the hotels and the idea was to try to put something together,” O’Neil said. “We wanted to do something unique that would benefit the comics. We want it to be something like the Sundance Film Festival in Vail, (Colo.), but for comics.”

O’Neil and Jackson planned on holding the event at the Surf Club and had made arrangements with the previous management group running the hotel to host the event. However, late last month the hotel reverted back to the owners Jon and Mark Bates and they chose not to participate in the comedy retreat.

“For whatever reason, we were not invited to stay going forward,” O’Neil said.

With the holidays upon them and the loss of what was going to be their host hotel, O’Neil and Jackson have been scrambling to put on the retreat as some of the participants had already committed to it in their schedules and made travel arrangements.

O’Neil and Jackson said the retreat will go on with a scaled back schedule, though details had not been finalized.

Among the events they have scheduled are three comedy showcases, Jan. 9 (at the Quilted Giraffe), and Jan. 14 (at Filthy McNasty’s Pubbery) and Jan. 15 (at the Vero Beach Italian American Club).

The latest information can be found at their Web site at The public may purchase tickets to attend these events either individually or as a package.

As of Monday, O’Neil said he had about 40 comics and 40 industry representatives coming for all or part of the week-long event.

Among the events planned are a comedy party at Waldo’s on Jan. 12, comedy bowling at the Vero Bowl on Jan. 11, golf, volleyball, skydiving, kayaking, a river boat cruise and on Jan. 14 a screening of director Ron Howard’s film “The Dilemma” at the Matjestic Theatre.

For those who want to learn more about the business of comedy, there are seminars for club owners, beginning comics and those who have been in the business for some time as well.

O’Neil admits trying to make the new arrangements on the fly and with a short deadline has been a challenge.

“I really like the way Marc Zimei, a local comic who used to be out on the road for a number of years, stepped up and helped us talk to the venues,” O’Neil said.

There will be an international flavor to the event as O’Neil has received bookings from comics in Amsterdam, Beirut and London as well as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta.

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