Eric Nelson knows Bemidji can support a comedy club.
He was the emcee at the former Northern Inn while it hosted weekly comedy shows every weekend. Nelson worked there from 1996 until the hotel closed in 2008.
Now, Nelson is returning to the stage as the host for a new comedy club venture at Toasty Beavers.
Toasty Beavers Sports Bar & Grill, 114 Third St. N.W., will have its first Bemidji Best Friday Night Comedy Show 7-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28.
"In this rough economy, people need a place to go and laugh and let it out," Nelson said.
The headliner for the event will be Patrick Ryan Bauer, who will take the stage after Nelson does about 15-20 minutes of his own comedy.
It will mark Nelson's return to stand-up comedy since the Northern Inn closed.
"There's been a lot of excitement," he said of community response.
He said Toasty Beavers was a good fit for the comedy club because of its clientele and events such as karaoke that have built a fan base.
Bauer, whose style is described as dark and twisted, is a founding member of the Minneapolis Comedy Death Squad and is head writer and actor on "Drinking with Ian," a Twin Cities cult favorite TV show.
Bauer, who was a finalist in the Twin Cities Laff-Off, was a regional semi-finalist for two seasons on NBC's "Last Comic Standing." He also is the son of Twin Cities comedy legend "Wild Bill" Bauer.
Tickets are $15 and include a free drink. Discounts are available if attendees, before the event, order dinner and a beverage at Toasty Beavers.
The Toasty Beavers comedy club is not related to the Comedy for a Cause shows that have been held monthly at the Hampton Inn & Suites.
Nelson said Toasty Beavers will hold about 125-150 people for its comedy night and will be held, initially, once a month or so until organizers can gauge community interest.
It has the potential of occurring weekly, he said.
"This is going to be the one that makes us or breaks us," he said of the initial program this week. "We need to see whether there is still interest in town."