Great tasting whiskey and Stand-up comedy: pay it forward

Great tasting whiskey and Stand-up comedy: pay it forward

I love premium whiskey. I’m no purist, mind you. I need an ice cube – or at least a few droplets of water in there – to let it breathe. And I like it cold. But I start every drink neat, so I know who I’m dealing with. I’m also a lifelong practitioner of “bueasure,” the confluence of business and pleasure inherent in many professions. Simply put, it means making work fun. That can come in many forms, and drinking is but one of them. As a publicist and marketing director, schmoozing was a big part of the job. I’m social by nature but sometimes, admittedly, a little sumfin sumfin took the edge off my nerves and helped me become the life of the party. When I got back into standup, I experienced a rude awakening. There’s a difference between holding court and performing a show. In my early 20s, I didn’t really drink, but I’d nurse a rum and coke (that’d never happen now, with my cultured palate and middle-aged body) as I sat at the bar with Colin Quinn, Denis Leary, Dave Attell and Louis CK (whatever happened to those guys, am I the only one who made it??). In those days, there were no open mics; you just waited til 2:30 in the morning to go on at Standup NY, ComicStrip or the Cellar, or wherever/whenever Barry Katz told you to come over. Anyway, back then I was innocent. I hadn’t accrued years of experience being the funniest ad guy at client dinners and award show after-parties. This time around, I fell back on booze –...
Branded Standup Tours: Road dog eats the fame bug

Branded Standup Tours: Road dog eats the fame bug

I get a call this week from a friend of mine who runs a “challenger brand”, asking if I’ll head up a comedy tour for them. A challenger brand is a brand that may be popular in its native market but needs help competing with the big boys. I say yes, of course. I’m already well into my “20 Years to Kill” tour, which started this past November and runs through my retirement from standup on November 15, 2035. So, technically, the tour is in progress as we speak. I tell that to my friend, who says, “Hersh, I love you. But this isn’t the fame bug calling.” Ouch. With that statement, he’s explaining that by “head up” he means “put together” and he’s telling me that I’m not headlining this tour. Meaning, he’s not calling to make me the next Kevin Hart. “Look, brother,” I tell him, “I’m almost 49. I’m the same age as Will Fucking Ferrell (that said, I’m a year younger than Chris Rock, the elder statesman of standup…and a dozen years younger than Grandpa Jerry). If I’m not Kevin Hart Famous by now, I’m not gonna worry about it. The fame bug is not an issue. And anyway,” I continue, “I’m not seeking fame. I’m a craftsman. I’m a comic’s comic.” A beat, during which I can kind of hear my friend take some air in. Phone etiquette demands that I give him a few seconds to let it out. Which he does. Slowly, and with the hint of a groan. “Really?” he asks. “Which comic?” Now, I have a lot of clever friends....
Laughter Party: How I Became a Spirit Ambassador

Laughter Party: How I Became a Spirit Ambassador

I didn’t really drink until my 30s, which is when I became a businessman, a successful Public Relations exec with my own firm in a niche business, traveling the world and doing a lot of client dinners. It was also when I found my brothers – the group of guys with whom I’d share countless (mis)adventures – and though we weren’t all in the same industry, we rolled together, even forming a small marketing firm as a means of underwriting our excursions. The two things no trip was without? Liquor and comedy. We bought the former, I provided the latter. A decade or so into this journey, I decided to go pro as a standup comedian. My drinking suffered; the more you talk, the less you consume. But my love of libations remained a huge part of my act. While touring the Midwest in 2014, I befriended Keith Kerkhoff, founder of Templeton Rye and grandson of the Prohibition-era formula’s originator, Alphonse Kerkhoff (who distilled what Al Capone branded “The Good Stuff”). We filmed some fun stuff together while shooting material for The Tiny Sirko Show, and with its uncommonly smooth finish (I’m an unpaid endorser, so there!), Templeton Rye on the rocks became my new go-to drink. The distilled karma must have drifted east, because I next got a call from Randy McKinley, who runs Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, PA, inviting me to do a corporate event at his place. Given Randy’s imagination and ambition, it would be more than a corporate gig: it would be a comedy concert, free to the public, heavily promoted and filmed for...
Oktoberfest – Hawkeye Style

Oktoberfest – Hawkeye Style

I’m in Iowa shooting my new sitcom/talk show hybrid, TUPCOC – Tiny Ukrainian Poet Caught on Camera. Normally, I play little person/poet Tiny Sirko, but I took a few minutes to jump into character as Austrian TV personality, Wayne Paul Martin-Plisse. True, it’s late in October for an Oktoberfest article. But better late than gar nicht. At the very least, I have no doubt you’ll appreciate that I traveled to the epicenter of this annual festival to bring you some video. YES. I left LA and traveled to Iowa City, during Iowa Hawkeye Homecoming Weekend. Because I know where my brat is...
I Gigged in Jamaica?

I Gigged in Jamaica?

At a birthday party, my friend Shlomy takes me aside and in his hushed, selfless, sweetly conspiratorial manner barely says, “I know how busy you are but Jamaica next monf, brother?” These days, I can’t go anywhere unless it’s a gig. The amazing thing about Jamaica is there’s no Laugh Factory or Improv in sight, which is also the bad news, I tell Shlomz. He’s too kind to point out that I’m not booked ANYWHERE the week he’s talking about. But fuck him, that’s beside the point. “We’ll find a show,” says Isack, the chief negotiator for our crew. Isack is an attorney but like Tom Hagen in The Godfather he only represents one client – us. So his word is good enough for me. The toughest part of being a road comic – well, okay, ONE of the toughest things – is finding comfortable lodging. So when we walked into Travellers in Negril, more than half the battle was already won. I mean, look at the lobby and check out the grand piano (site of my unofficial third gig)! Not a pricey place, by any means, and family-owned (shout out to Winthrope and the Wellington family, mon!), but SO awesome… We went directly to the swim-up bar and frankly from there it would have been easy to forget I was a comic (especially a road comic who NEEDS gigs). But my crew did NOT forget. Now, we arrived on a Sunday and had a line on a few venues up the glorious 7-mile beach (if this sounds like a travel review, great – hire me to write travel reviews). The...

Sonny Swing

Sonny Swing is a one-of-a-kind showman, a tuxedo-ed crooner never at a loss for stories about his famous “friends”. Does he really know these people? Or is it a case of happy delusion? Either way, it makes for a wildly entertaining show. Like the man himself, Sonny’s songs are ageless: in his hands, a hit from today becomes classic, and an oldie is new again. Some are parodies, while others amuse merely because Sonny rarely gets through a song without interrupting himself to tell another story. Whether it’s a show tune or a Top 40 hit, the musical numbers are the rich filling in a cake layered with moist and creamy social satire, each song connecting the dots from one celeb story to another, until we are no longer sure what’s real and what isn’t. Sonny makes everyone in the audience feel special, and his off-the-cuff banter makes each show unique. When all is said and sung, all we know for sure is that – real or imagined – Sonny’s world is a helluva place to be. Inquire...