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“Big Ray’s Rib Shack” IMPROV Comedy Finds New Home

By September 25, 2015Uncategorized

Big Ray’s Rib Shack :: “Open for Business” at Rock Brothers concert venue The Attic.

The history and influence surrounding Big Ray’s Rib Shack Improv Comedy has touched thousands of lives since its creation in the mid 90’s to its hiatus almost twenty years later. Week in and week out, they sold out Friday nights at a local coffeeshop and music venue in Largo, FL with their brand of comedy. Some of the original cast members moved on to form national touring IMPROV troupes and began individual acting careers. The dream that was once Big Ray’s Rib Shack fizzled out over time. There were a few attempts at revival, but the hiatus became seemingly permanent to all who knew of the once prominent comedy troupe.

However, two very specific people who came from two very opposite ends of the Big Ray’s Rib Shack sphere of influence kept in touch. Kevin Lilly, who as a teenager began visiting the coffeeshop and watching the show each and every week, found a passion for comedy, live music and overall show production. In 2001, he moved to Atlanta to start a coffeeshop spinoff and concert venue, but due to poor partnerships, it came to an end. It became apparent that in order to do this right, it would need to be something that was owned, operated and funded by a group of likeminded people passionate about this comedic vision.

Since 2004 and the closing of the Atlanta location, Kevin kept in touch with Craig Lawrence, the other key player in the revival of Big Ray’s Rib Shack. Craig was one of the original producers of the Big Ray’s Rib Shack Improv show in Largo, he either hosted or performed in every show and for a period ran all venue operations. Over the years, Craig and Kevin kept in regular contact not knowing if anything would ever come to fruition. In 2015 their vision finally came together through three of the most communal elements of mankind… craft beer, music and comedy.

After many years of work in and around the music industry, Kevin founded Rock Brothers Brewing Company, which partners craft beers with rock bands like 311, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Umphrey’s McGee to name a few. In 2015, Rock Brothers purchased a historic building in Ybor City that will house the full production brewery, a craft beer tasting room, cocktail bar and a performance venue on the second floor called “The Attic.”

Kevin reached out to Craig once plans were finalized for the venue and the revival began…. And the hiatus that once seemed permanent now had a new venue, new management, creative direction and serious funding. Rock Brothers Brewing and “The Attic” will now become the new home performance space of Big Ray’s Rib Shack. It was now time for Craig to bring in the other two key pieces.

After almost a year in development, Chad Zeller, an absolute favorite of  Big Ray’s Rib Shack and main writer for the “Friday Big Show” and the sketch comedy team “Stronger than Judy,” along with Charlie Thiemann, who trained at SAK Comedy Lab, iO Chicago  and held the Big Ray’s Rib Shack reins during the 2000’s era, have partnered with Kevin and Craig to completely recreate the Big Ray’s Rib Shack show.

In essence, these partners serve as the Executive Producers, Creative Directors, Venue Managers and Casting Directors for the new Big Ray’s Rib Shack IMPROV Comedy Show.

You can expect to see some of your favorite members of Big Ray’s Rib Shack performing on a regular basis, as well as special guest performances from past members as schedules allow.

Big Ray’s Rib Shack shows will begin in 2016 at the The Attic, located at 1510 E 8th Ave North right next to Centro Ybor. We will begin every last Friday of the month and call the show “Last Friday Live.” Please stay tuned to the Big Ray’s Rib Shack Facebook page for complete show details!