Notes From a Comedy Junkie: 36 Hours in NYC with Geno Bisconte, Judd Apatow, Pete Holmes, Artie Lange and Bennington!


Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found and became a stand up junkie for life.  Eighteen months ago she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday.  Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. This is her column. In this edition, Sara returned back the the Big Apple to see , Judd Apatow, and spend an hour with at SiriusXM. While in town, she also checked out Geno Bisconte’s album recording, and went to White Chocolate Sundays at The Stand.

Read Notes From a Comedy Junkie Vol 1 here.


One thing NYC is never short on is reasons to celebrate. It was lucky for me that on this particular Sunday, Geno Bisconte was recording his first album at New York Comedy Club.

This crowd was hot and we were ready to laugh. Geno took the stage with the passion and energy of a category 5 hurricane. His energy was palpable and it is one of the many qualities that wins crowds in his favor time and time again.  Geno is more than a comedian, he’s also a tremendous performer. His material is well written and always delivered with passion and commitment. In addition to fast-paced wit, he also shared his philosophies about life, laughter, and the limitations people unnecessarily set in place for themselves. He believes that joy and sorrow are the two fundamental extremes in life and that people do too much to protect themselves from these quintessential life experiences. “Going 30mph down the highway, avoiding speed bumps is no way to live your life. Laugh!!!” I commend him for his “nothing is sacred/anything goes” approach to life and laughter. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on our political views, it really doesn’t matter. Funny is funny and maybe everyone should try to laugh more and judge less.

The craft behind the art of comedy is being able to find the funny in anything and everything. Maybe we should all try to do this a little bit more?  Thanks for the funny, Geno!

Sara with Geno Bisconte

In case you haven’t heard, Judd Apatow is premiering his newest project with HBO this Sunday, February 19. It’s a comedy series called Crashing and was created by its leading actor, Pete Holmes. Crashing is based on Holmes’ very real experience of finding out his wife is cheating on him and then subsequently going through a divorce. Pete shares some of his most difficult, personal experiences with us and somehow, through the finely tuned comedic filter that is Judd Apatow, the funny is found in even Pete’s darkest of moments.

Ron Bennington played maestro to a panel of three comedic power houses, Judd, Pete and Artie Lange,  each with their own unique perspective and style of comedy. It was a complete pleasure and thrill being up close and personal in SiriusXM’s Fishbowl studio for this momentous occasion. Here are a few of my highlights from the hour.

Judd shared a story about how he started out in this business when he was a teenager by interviewing comedians he respected. He learned the ins and outs of stand up through osmosis and eventually took the stage himself after receiving his big break by legendary comedian and club owner, Sammy Shore. After more than a 20 year break from stand up, Judd has made his triumphant return to the stage and is absolutely hilarious! I went to his show in Montreal at the Just For Laughs comedy festival and he is as talented a stand up as he is a director. I became an instant fan of his sweet and clever on stage persona. In addition to Crashing, Apatow is also currently working on a documentary honoring his friend and mentor, Garry Shandling. I am super grateful that Judd has decided to share Garry’s insights and words of wisdom with the world. Thank you for that.

Artie Lange, being the talented story teller he is, held court with stories of triumph and tragedy throughout his 30 year career in comedy. One of his stories involved “saving the Joe Buck show” and then learning on the air on The Howard Stern Show that HBO had published a story banning him from the network. I am extremely happy that HBO didn’t hold the grudge because I am really looking forward to Artie’s return to the network as he plays himself in this new series, Crashing. Maybe someone at MTV can see this and follow suit by putting Andrew “Dice” Clay back on their stage. I’d say it’s about time to make amends and let bygones be bygones. Wouldn’t you?

Pete Holmes is the creator, lead actor, and producer of Crashing and it was clear that this is his baby. This show looks into the life of a comic with a different lens than has ever been used before. This series highlights the constant struggle that are the early years into the career of a comic. This includes his desire to “get better at it” and not give up on his dream in spite of every person around him telling him he should. Holmes shared, how in reality, going through these personal hardships actually made him a better comic. He shared a joke he used in his act during his early days to highlight the point. This joke involved ice packs and bittering agents. It had a solid punch line and was well written, but emotionally empty. It didn’t give the audience any memory or sentiment to connect to. After experiencing the highs of love and marriage along with the lows of infidelity and divorce, Holmes has a much deeper pool of inspired material at his disposal. He is happy to put it to good use and is successfully doing so through his newest project, Crashing.

This Town Hall featured three strong comedians with three strong personalities. In reality, they are three branches off the same tree. Three unique roads that all lead to Rome. These types of collaborations reach broader audiences and build bridges through laughter. My DVR is set for Crashing on HBO which premieres this Sunday. Check it out.

Out of the Fishbowl and Into the Looking Glass

As Bennington wrapped his entertaining and inspired Town Hall, I began to think about how grateful I was to have had the opportunity to be there live and in the presence of such greatness. I’ve been a fan of Howard Stern since his Channel 9 show hit the airwaves in 1990 and have stuck with him over all of these years. Today, I had a reserved seat in the front row, mere inches away from the great Artie Lange. I got to listen to him tell stories in a way that I haven’t heard since he left the Stern Show in 2009. Epic.

The audience stepped out of the Fishbowl and into the lobby of this SiriusXM studio. I was completely convinced that this is as good as life gets and there was nothing that could ever top Ron’s Town Hall and the panel of comedy greats that just went down. It’s in this moment I turn around and standing in the back of the room was Shuli Egar and Scott “The Engineer” Salem from The Howard Stern Show. Holy crap! I introduced myself and even managed to get a selfie with Shuli. This is the stuff comedy nerd dreams are made of.

Ron Bennington was standing in the vicinity so I made my way over to thank him for allowing me to join his audience for this packed house event. *This is the moment where I’m convinced I must have slipped into a coma because I still cannot believe this actually happened.* Mr. Bennington invited me to sit in and watch as he and Gail broadcast “Bennington Show” live! Then he said, “we’ll put you on during the second hour”!!!! My internal dialogue was telling me I must have heard him wrong or he was just saying it to be nice… Either way I could not believe my ears!

Ron, Gail, and I left the Fishbowl and entered the studio where they record “Bennington Show” for SiriusXM Raw Dog Comedy Hits, Channel 99. I took a seat on the couch and felt like the luckiest girl in the world just for being there. I had the pleasure of watching, in real time, what goes into producing their show. Ron leads the charge and Gail is a complete rock star. They both have the power and will to draw their audience in with their chemistry, humor and well thought out opinions. The Benningtons welcome their guest, reporter and comedy enthusiast Jesse David Fox. He has an impressive amount of knowledge about comedy and a podcast called “Good One”. The premise of this podcast is the deconstruction and examination of a joke. Fox means this as an ode or love letter to the art, origin and evolution of the joke and the story of how it came to be. I love this idea! I truly enjoy watching and learning the process that goes into finding the funny, working it out in front of a live audience and then polishing it to perfection. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of having a big celebrity drop into a show unannounced has had the ability to take part in this process that Ron, Gail and Jesse are speaking of. Unless they’re filming a special, most comedians will throw a couple of jokes they are working on into their sets as well and I’m as much of a fan of the comedic process as I am of the finished product itself.

The first half of the show is over and I’m thinking about one of the questions Ron asked Jesse about the amount of time and access he is allotted when working on a celebrity interview. I began to think about people like Cameron Crowe and Judd Apatow who got their start by interviewing their heroes and how their appreciation and passion for the art and artists they were writing about lead them to their own personal success stories. I wish all good things for Jesse David Fox and this awesome path he is on. At that moment, the show is coming back on air and Ron tells me to take a seat next to Gail! OMG!!! He wasn’t kidding! I take a seat and try to keep cool. I still can’t believe this is happening. Comedy has been a spectator hobby of mine for awhile now. Being invited to take a seat at the table, next to broadcasters and comedians I respect and admire is an experience I have never even dreamt possible and yet there I was, raw and unrehearsed. Gail shared her excitement over being in the audience at the recording this weekend and then attending the after party that followed. I was dying over her stories, but did my best to not completely nerd out on air. We played a 20 questions game to try and guess the celebrity that left her star struck at the after party, debated whether or the journalist and camera man were to blame for the awkward clip that shows Murray dodging an interview after a round of golf, and then the counselor in me couldn’t help but offer producer, Chris Stanley, advise when the topic of his relationship status with “Mr. Big” was brought up. I kept waiting for them to give me my exit off air, but they kept me on for the entire second hour of the show. I had an absolute blast talking with what felt as natural as hanging out with a bunch of old friends.

Ron took a huge risk by asking me to join them on air. I know that and his trust in me is something I will not soon forget. All of the scientists throughout history have not invented the proper unit of measure, nor have poets and song writers created an adequate word for me to properly describe the amount of gratitude I have in my heart for Ron and his whole team, so I will leave you with a pure and simple, Thank you. Thank you for teaching me that right when I think things could not get any better, life has an unexpected moment or opportunity waiting just around the corner!

 

Until we meet again…

#mycomedycation #comedynerd #keeponkeepingon

Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who lives in Chicago and loves to take comedy vacations.  

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