When stand-up comedy ruled on Long Island

Prolonged Island loves to laugh. Stand-up has often been a potent attract in both equally Nassau and Suffolk. The comedy lifestyle began in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when clubs like East Side Comedy in Huntington, Governor’s in Levittown, Chuckles in Mineola and the Brokerage in Bellmore ruled the working day.

“We utilised to say, ‘Comedy is the disco of the ‘80s,’ ” suggests Jeff Sussman, current manager of comedians Kevin James and Joe Rogan and previous booker of the East Aspect Comedy Club. “On Saturdays, we’d do three demonstrates 7 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. People would be lining up outdoors in the winter to get in mainly because it was first-come, initially-served for seating. The demonstrates would promote out a 7 days in advance in just a few of hours.”

Despite the fact that stand-up comedy was not a new art kind, it was evolving and getting to be more in tune with suburbia.

“There was a new fashion of comedy that went past the Catskills one-liner jokes,” suggests comic Peter Bales, 66, of Northport. “Our comedy was additional conversational and believed-provoking. We ended up following in the footsteps of Robert Klein and George Carlin.”

Using in an night at a comedy club became a popular date night time of the era.

“Ordinarily you’d have to go to the metropolis for this form of entertainment. Now it was ideal in your neighborhood,” states Sussman. “The exhibits were being packed and we didn’t even want to have massive-identify headliners on the bill.”

IN THE Commencing

Stand-up commenced on Extensive Island at Richard M. Dixon’s White House Inn in North Massapequa which held a selection clearly show on Wednesday evenings. (The club was operate by Dixon, a comedian who bore a solid resemblance to previous President Richard M. Nixon.)

“It was incredibly intimate and quaint. The dimensions was so smaller you practically didn’t will need a sound procedure,” claims comic Bob Nelson, 62, of Mt. Sinai, who made his stand-up debut at Dixon’s. “The to start with night I carried out, I massacred the area simply because my close friends were in the viewers. But, I did not even have an act. I was fooling all around with the curtains and candles on the table.”

In the late ‘70s, there ended up no specified comedy golf equipment on Prolonged Island. Even so, there would be unique comedy evenings at various areas.

“We had been seeking for destinations to do one particular-nighters due to the fact stand-up comedy was obtaining type of warm,” says Nelson. “All people experienced a diverse comedy night time at locations like Whiskey Red’s in Farmingdale or Winner’s Circle in Westbury. Even discos would have a ‘Gong Show’ night time and the comics would compete for initially position ($50-$100 prize).”

Comic Jackie “The Joke Gentleman” Martling would conduct audio at Neptune’s Pub in East Meadow and notify jokes in among songs. He’d even have his comic buddies like Dave Hawthorne, Richie Minervini, Bob Woods and a teenage Eddie Murphy do guest places.

“The guys employed to appear to the place I was doing the job mainly because there was no spot to do comedy,” states Martling, 73, of Bayville. “Then Richie requested the dude at Cinnamon if we could appear there 1 day a 7 days.”

Cinnamon, a cafe/bar, owned by boxer Gerry Cooney’s brother on the corner of Routes 25A and 110 in Huntington, began a Tuesday evening comedy show in 1979.

“Cinnamon was packed from the beginning,” suggests Martling. “We experienced a excellent sound program. Richie would host and I went on last. Word bought all-around like wildfire.”


The achievements at Cinnamon prompted Minervini to spend in opening his own spot, the East Facet Comedy Club, located on West Jericho Turnpike in Huntington. Opening in November 1979, it turned Very long Island’s first full-time comedy venue.

“When we initial started carrying out stand-up comedy, we would pack the joint seven nights a week,” says Minervini, 67, who grew up in Huntington. “Opening evening highlighted Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, Eddie Murphy, Bob Nelson, Jackie “The Joke Gentleman” Martling, Rob Bartlett, Dave Hawthorne, Jim Meyers and myself. Jackie Mason did our Grand Opening a 7 days afterwards.”

LI vs. NYC

East Aspect became a residence base for Prolonged Island comedians, a distinctive breed apart from Manhattan-dependent comics.

“There was a definite difference between Lengthy Island comics and town comics,” states comic Adam Ferrara, who grew up in Huntington. “Town comics have been all about set up-punchline-segue-set up-punchline while standing still at the mic in a accommodate. We were animated storytellers. It was a present.”

Comedian Bobby Collins, 69, who grew up in New Hyde Park, provides, “Lengthy Island has a down-to-earth excellent. Comics from Long Island give the group an insightful appear of not only who they are but how they ended up brought up. Men and women enjoy that.”


Even Sunday nights ended up preferred at East Side as Nelson headlined each individual week featuring his prop-dependent act loaded with a series of varied people.

“Bob Nelson was the king of Long Island comedy. He bought out my Sunday nights from 1985-1995,” states Minervini. “His string of figures drew a loyal admirer foundation. People today would come to see him around and about once again.”

An additional king made his mark at East Aspect, “The King of Queens” star comic Kevin James, 55, who grew up in Stony Brook and informed Newsday in 2013: “The East Side Comedy Club was the 1st place I at any time went up at. While most club owners would turn me away and it was difficult to get phase time, Richie Minervini was entirely the reverse. He was the 1 coaching me to get utilized to getting on stage and he would force me out there. I was like Bambi strolling throughout the ice. But I’d get much better and much better with each individual overall performance.”

Several individuals cite the particular bond amongst Very long Island comedians was centered on the camaraderie-around-level of competition ambiance.

“I have 30-to-40 calendar year-outdated associations with some of these men. We’ve been in these foxholes collectively,” says comedian Joey Kola, 59, of North Bellmore. “We generally experienced every single other’s backs. We would even generate for each individual other by giving tags to each and every other’s punchlines. You grow to be genuinely excellent buddies that way.”

As the time moved on, clubs began popping up all around Lengthy Island these types of as Governor’s in Levittown, Chuckles in Mineola, Laffs in East Quogue, the Orphanage in Patchogue, McGuire’s in Bohemia, Lighthouse Comedy Plaza in Miller Location, Giggles in Merrick, Konkoma Komedy in Ronkonkoma and The Brokerage in Bellmore.

“Lengthy Islanders know their comedy,” suggests James Dolce, owner of Governor’s Comedy Club. “You just cannot faux a Long Island comedy crowd. If you are not skillfully honing your substance, they see ideal as a result of it.”

HEY Ladies!

On the other hand, the scene was a little bit of a boys club as there wasn’t much gender diversity. But comedian Joan St. Onge, 63, of Huntington was ready to consider on the male dominant forged of characters.

“I grew up with a few brothers as a result I experienced no unrealistic expectations about gentlemen so I blended in fairly very well,” suggests St. Onge. “But if you are funny, that is all that matters.”


Like each individual superior mounting wave, then came the crash. By the mid-‘90s, the comedy increase began to wane. East Aspect shut in 1995.

“Tv was saturated with stand-up comedy all about each other cable channel,” suggests St. Onge. “A lot of individuals felt, why go to a comedy club when you can just flip on, ‘An Night at the Improv’?”

But, a lot of comics forecast a different comedy growth is on the horizon publish-pandemic.

“People today are determined to get a laugh these times. They want to listen to just about anything but the information,” claims Kola. “I have a feeling stand-up is likely to arrive again difficult. It is achievable we are heading to return to the heyday of the ‘80s when people today ended up filling the clubs on a Monday night time.”

Teenager TITANS

The 1st two superstars to start from the East Facet Comedy Club were the youngest. Both equally Rosie O’Donnell of Commack and Eddie Murphy of Roosevelt came to the club as teenage mavericks.

O’Donnell got laughs both equally with stand-up and undertaking in improvisational comedy troupe, The Laughter Company.

“Rosie was very intense and audiences beloved her,” claims East Facet owner/comic Richie Minervini. “She experienced a seriously good feel for characterization and could lock into an outdated particular person or younger individual – male or woman. It was astounding.”

In addition to stand-up, Murphy was doing skits at East Aspect with his comedy trio, the Similar Triplets showcasing fellow comics Bob Nelson and Rob Bartlett, prior to hitting it large on “Saturday Evening Live.”

“Eddie was destined for greatness,” says Minervini. “Even when he turned popular, he would drop by to do a guest set. The crowd would explode. It was the most extraordinary point you’ve ever seen. It was like Elvis walked in the area. Persons could not have by themselves.” – DAVID J. CRIBLEZ