Comics meet with politicians to discuss the return of funny in NJ (Opinion)
To me, the definition of comedy is where we look the world right in the eye and laugh in its face. Those who do it best are in new Jersey and last Monday night a group of comedians, politicians including Governor Murphy, and one radio host which would be yours truly got together at Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick's home, better known as "O'Brammnick's" to discuss the situation of comedy in New Jersey.
Among the comedians in attendance were Julia Scotti, Jay Black, Mike Marino, Rich Voss, Erin Jackson, Melvin George,, Gary DeLena, Buddy Fitzpatrick, Vince August, Rodney Laney, Stress Factory owner and comic Vinnie Brand, Comedy Cove owner Gene Nagel, and Catch a Rising Star owner Suzy Yengo.
Among the politicians Bramnick "New Jersey's Funniest Lawyer" who also does standup, Murphy, Senator Richard Codey, Governor Don DeFrancesco, and former attorney general Chris Porrino.
What we talked about, how to bring the laughter back after so many have been shut in for so long. How to deal with the pandemic. The personal struggles of financial survival. What do you do when you make your living making people laugh and then they shut down the comedy clubs? The eagerness to get those clubs open again and get back to work. Bramnick came on my new Jersey 101.5 show on Monday night, May 19 and summed up why he held this event.
"If you get that type of creative in a room, four or five, in this case maybe 14, 15 comedians," Bramnick said when he called in. "It is almost the most magnetic, creative, exciting environment, because they're all so good. You throw a topic out there and it's almost like a painting. They have so much energy that it's exciting. So my idea originally was to do that."
Catch a Rising Star owner Suzy Yengo had her club go on hiatus a few weeks into the pandemic, When will Catch return?
"Catch is starting to book again in theaters, in Catch Princeton," Suzy said when she called in. "We've been talking about a grand reopening in September."
Gene Nagel, owner of the Comedy Cove in Spring Lake, talked about trying to draw people during the pandemic and how hard it is to make money when people cannot sit at the bar.
"It's been an adventure, like the Navy, you don't know what to expect," Nagel said when he called in. "Guys that sold out your place, couldn't sell out their place. And it wasn't because of the show, it was because of, there were people concerned about being inside. Hopefully now with the mask maybe being dropped soon and different things happening, they'll be a bit more confident in people. Because people were willing to sit outside in the in the fall, but they didn't want to come inside."
Gary DeLena, whom I used to watch perform at the Osprey back in the day when he played guitar with a band called "The Other Side" then hosted Philadelphia's "The Comedy Works" in the comedy height of the 80's. Currently when he's not playing places like the Borgata he's traveling the world doing comedy on cruises. How's that been during the pandemic?
"It's actually late for me right now because I'm getting up in the morning to uh, clean pools," DeLena said when he called in. "I'm a pool boy now...I'm not lying, it was either that or run for governor...I also started doing a course, I'm becoming a mortgage loan originator."
Vince August went from being a judge in a courtroom to being judged on stage and the verdict has been guilty of cracking people up. What sentence would he give to a comedian who steals jokes from other comedians?
"Oh that's the death penalty," August said when he called in. "And that's a South Carolina newly enacted death penalty of a firing squad. We can give a bunch of comedians guns and you let them shoot 'em."
The jury is out on what will happen when comedy returns this summer. I'm expecting the verdict to be a huge thumbs up because the one thing we need to do when we finally go out is laugh. If laughter is the best medicine, comedy clubs have the cure. Do yourself a favor and visit one. You could use a good laugh.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.