Louis Lee gets a pat on the back before 20th anniversary show in 2011.
Louis CK's name was dropped several times during Acme Comedy Co.'s 25th anniversary party Sunday, but the club's most famous fan failed to make a surprise appearance.
It may have been for the best.
The three-hour performance was all about the regulars, from the packed crowd who seemed to know every inside joke about the venue to the lineup, which included Jackie Kashian, Mary Mack, Cy Amundson and Pete Lee. None are huge names, although Tracey Ashley did fly in from New York where she had just opened for Tracy Morgan at Carnegie Hall, but each exemplify the kind of comedian that Acme owner Louis Lee has supported over the years: Smart, well-polished and relatively clean.
Lee may have grimaced a bit when Amundson and Chad Daniels roasted him with some racial slurs, but both added that the unassuming, modest businessman (he declined to take a bow at the end of the evening) was the most important guide and mentor in their solid careers.
Ashley even choked up a bit when reflecting on her early days, when Lee would let her sit in the back for free, after her shifts as a sales rep for WCCO TV, just so she could study the craft.
Tim Slagle, wearing a tuxedo, emceed the fast-paced event and wryly remarked on the changes over the past two decades in which he has been a club mainstay.
"I was a punk rock anarchist," he said. "Now I'm a cranky old man -- and I'm doing the exact same act."
At the end of the evening, Slagle compared the party to Robin Williams' 2008 appearance at the Minneapolis venue. That's a bit of a stretch, but the night did properly celebrate a milestone -- and had you itching to go see the club's most solid regulars when they have more than 10 minutes each to riff.