YONKERS, N.Y. – Katonah native Joe Praino began his career as a stand-up comedian at the age of 19. Now 33, Praino is in charge of the laughs at a local racino.
Wednesday Comedy Night at the Empire City Casino in Yonkers Raceway started out as a monthly event, then twice a month, and there is talk of making it a weekly event.
The shows began in March 2010 shortly after Praino joined Yonkers Raceway as a producer for its broadcast team.
“They knew I was in comedy and asked me if I thought comedy would work at the casino. I didn’t see how it couldn’t,” he said. “The first show we just did right on the casino floor, but since we got a great response we moved into the Good Time Room.”
Praino said the shows have been getting great crowds. The Good Time Room seats more than 300 people and has been at capacity for each show, he said. Audiences are mostly made up of Empire City Player’s Card members who can get tickets for $5. Non-members pay $15. Elite members are offered free admission. In addition to the show, each attendee gets a free drink ticket.
Praino said one of the biggest reasons for the show’s success is the lack of comedy entertainment in Westchester.
“There’s nowhere you can go in Westchester that consistently has a good quality New York City comedy club-type of show,” Praino said. “Normally, for something like this, you’d have to go into New York City, to Caroline’s or another comedy venue, and pay a lot more. You’d have to take out a good chunk of your night fighting through traffic and finding parking. I'd like to see more people from Westchester enjoy Comedy Night and avoid going through that hassle.”
Praino said he’s excited about future shows, including Ira Procter and Paul Virzi on July 25. Coming up in August are Jessica Kirson, Mark Serritella, Matt Fulchiron and Jon Rineman. Past performers include Rich Vos, Nick DiPaolo, Kevin Meaney, Tony Woods, Donnell Rawlings and Joey Kola.
“Where else in Westchester are you going to see performers like that with major credits for the price?” Praino asked.
With Empire City Casino expanding in the coming months, Praino said there could be new developments for Comedy Night. With more venues inside the casino, there won’t be any conflicts with other events. “We’ll be able to use the Good Time Room more often. We’re definitely looking to do shows once a week and eventually I can see events happening on weekends,” Praino said.
For more information on upcoming Comedy Nights at Empire City Casino visit www.empirecitycasino.com.