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In 2019, Annie and Levin O’Connor tossed around the idea of opening a comedy club.

The O’Connors, a married couple who had spent the majority of their careers as improvisors working in Chicago and Los Angeles, had been living in Bozeman for about a year.

Although there were venues, like the Verge Theater or local bars, the pair wanted a dedicated place to perform and gather likeminded people.

Annie O’Connor was performing at Colonel Black’s, a now-closed bar in the basement of the Bozeman Hotel building, with fellow improvisor and friend Molly Hannan.

The two noted the bar would be perfect for a comedy club. The basement venue was a “dream location.” Not long after, Colonel Black’s and the neighboring Zebra Cocktail Lounge went up for sale.

“It was kismet,” Annie O’Connor said.

The three approached the bars’ new owner to rent the space at 321 E. Main St. In March 2020, just days away from drying the ink on a lease, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We had gotten ourselves worked up in a frenzy to start this thing — a lifelong dream — and then it’s gone. And for a year the whole art was gone,” Levin O’Connor said.

Live performances, workshops and improvisational classes were canceled. They abandoned plans for the club and bunkered down for a long year of isolation, Levin O’Connor said.

This spring, with the pandemic waning and vaccines rolling out, the trio revisited the idea, but there was still fear and uncertainty around opening a business in the middle of a pandemic.

But improv is all about saying yes. And that’s what the O’Connors and Hannan did.

Last week, the three celebrated the Last Best Comedy Club’s grand opening. The newly remodeled club features weekly live comedy performances and is open to anyone 18 and older.

The venue has a full bar, serving a wide array of cocktails and mocktails, open during its performances. The club is open 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday, and open Tuesdays for open mic night — although hours may be expanded in the future, Hannan said.

Levin O’Connor said the comedy club is much needed in Montana’s comedy community. The dedicated venue should help draw national sketches and comedians and give a place for Bozemanites and Montanans to perform.

“There are a lot of very funny people in town and around the state,” Levin O’Connor said “Artistically, this is a reason, hopefully, for people to be excited and motivated.”

The club will also produce its own long-form and short-form improv routines, with eventual plans to produce sketch comedy shows and musical improv. In addition, they want to host events like comedic trivia nights or karaoke with a live band.

Ultimately, Hannan and the O’Connors want the space to be warm, welcoming and inviting for Bozemanites.

“We want to have a culture that people can come and call this their own — a home away from home, and know they can be themselves and supported,” Annie O’Connor said.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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