The idea that sunset is coming earlier and earlier now that summer is officially over need not be something to dread. In fact, it opens up even more possibilities to explore the varied and rich nightlife in Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa.
Local restaurants dim the lights, enabling diners to linger over coffee and dessert. Bars and clubs, on the other hand, spark in the dark, when the dance floors pulsate to the driving tempo of the music. Even our shopping venues and main streets take on a different vibe when the stars are out, encouraging long strolls past lighted windows of illuminated wares.
Among our nightlife hotspots, the Valley Forge Casino Resort is a vibrant draw. Sure, it's a great place to try your luck at a table game or slot machine. But more than that, the entertainment calendar has options that range from concerts and shows to DJ dance parties to sporting events.
My wife and I extend an invitation to friends of for a night out. Gambling isn't on the agenda this time; instead, we opt for the Double Headliner Comedy Show at the Waterford Ballroom.
Despite numerous visits to the resort (including the casino floor, various restaurants and the enormous convention space), I have never been to this particular performance space. The Waterford is not what I expect from an entertainment space in a casino. I imagined a large-scale seating arrangement with booths and tables, à la a Las Vegas showroom. Instead, the Waterford offers a much more intimate experience. Rows of chairs accommodate the audience, and the vantage point is very close to the stage.
Drinks are issued from a bar in the back right-hand corner, and as seats began to fill on the ballroom floor, a balcony handles the overflow. The design of the room features many architectural waves and smooth lines, and the stage lighting is housed in a large oval on the ceiling.
The lights dim. The crowd applauds. The packed house is ready to laugh.
First up is J.J. Ramierez, introduced as "The Latin Lunatic." He is, we are told, a regular at comedy clubs such as The World Famous Comic Strip, The Improv and Carolines on Broadway.
Ramierez is energetic, fast and smart. He plays off the audience's energy with great skill and precision, riffling through numerous accents to poke fun at the ethnicities represented. The jokes are very broad, but no offense is taken - he is an equal opportunity comedian, and every background is ripe for comment.
As his set continues, Ramierez comments on fairly familiar ground, but in a way that is insightful and fresh. "Now they've got these signs that talk to you at intersections," he sets up. "When I'm trying to cross the street, the last thing I want is a machine telling me: ‘Walk...' ‘Walk...' ‘Walk...' I'll walk when I'm ready to walk!"
Airlines, too, are skewered. "I like to take the emergency exit seat for the extra leg room," Ramierez says. "When the attendant then tells me I may have to perform certain tasks in the event of a crash, I want to tell her, ‘Of course. I'll hold the door as everyone exits. ‘After you, sir...' ‘Go right ahead, ma'am...' ‘By all means, go before me...' I can even go back to the baggage hold and get their bags and carry them out if they'd like," he says, dripping sarcasm.
After a brief break, Jeff Pirrammi takes the stage. His pear-shaped physique becomes the source of his first volley of jokes. "I hate shopping at the big-men's store," he complains. "They have exactly four styles of shirt there. If you see five fat guys walking down the street together, two of them are going to have the same shirt on!"
Pirrammi's material makes more use of the local angle than Ramierez'; he weaves in references to Kennett Square, Pottstown and Plymouth Meeting. To waves of audience laughter, Pirrammi does an eerily accurate imitation of seagulls on the Atlantic City Boardwalk scavenging for food.
Both comedians delve into jokes that definitely qualify as "adult humor": unprintable here but very, very funny.
The show ends with thunderous applause. We exit the theater and, wanting to stretch the evening just a bit further, stop in the Valley Tavern, for coffee and dessert. The crème brulee, I can happily report, is delicious.
As nightlife options go, Valley Forge Casino Resort makes a great choice: We found it welcoming, easily accessible and benefiting from ample free parking. The entertainment was a welcome break from the usual options for two couples out for an evening, and ending the night with a snack gave us the chance to enjoy each other's company for a while.
A second run of the Double Headliner Comedy Show is coming October 3 to the Casino Resort's Independence Ballroom. Roundboy Jimmy Graham and Kevin Lee are the headliners, and host Joel Richardson will keep things moving. The night's performances benefit the Upper Merion Football Team.
Longer term, Valley Forge Casino Resort is reviving the former Valley Forge Music Fair, which provided stellar performers that lit up the local nightlife. R&B legend Smokey Robinson kicks off the series, appearing in concert December 13.