By Jason Tanamor
I’ve been covering stand-up comedy for a lot of years and have yet to come across Vinnie Brand. But I’m glad I did, because the comedian showcases his own ‘brand’ of hilarious comedy, even though there’s a very small percentage that it could be about you.
I recently chatted with the comic about his life in the business – literally.
Q – You once owned a construction company and flower shop. That’s kind of a contrast, isn’t it?
A - When I owned the Construction Company and the flower shop there was a lot of conflict! I’d have to answer the phones in different voices with different attitudes. It was supposed to be my ex wife’s (we were still married at the time) flower shop but I ended up doing most of the work. Turns out she doesn’t have that rosy personality.
Q – Do you find yourself missing these businesses?
A - I love construction but don’t miss the business. My dad, who was a union Steamfitter and master plumber, told me one day “Stay the fuck out of this business, it’ll kill you.” He died at 60 after 44 years in construction. He was the funniest guy I ever met, and whenever I go by one of his projects, I think of him and smile. He built lasting stuff, and that really means something to me. I’ll see big construction projects and I’m really in awe of those guys - the architects, engineers, workers, all really proud symbols of American ingenuity and know how. Still, I don’t miss it enough to want to do it again.
As for the flower business, I don’t miss that at all. I know a lot about flowers, but I don’t talk about it much. I’ll plant stuff with my daughters and they’re excited about it growing and that’s the only thing in flowers I need.
Q – Why did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy?
A - The comedy boom was on in the late 80’s and I thought “I can do that; it’s easy compared to what I’m doing now.” I went on stage at an open mic and fell in love with performing on the first night. I killed. The next time on stage was so bad that I was ready to quit. Another comic talked me into trying a third time and I was really hooked again.
Q – How would you describe your act for those who haven’t seen you perform?
A - I’d say this, I’m in the moment. I have a set, but it isn’t canned. Nothing I have is written down, it’s in my head. Little lines evolve over time and I let my mood take me wherever it wants. So, if you see me in a happy mood, it’s a happy set. If I’m pissed off, you’ll see the same stuff but angry. It makes performing a lot of fun. I don’t have to pretend or act at all. The material part is mostly about my family or the world as I see it and as it pertains to me so you get a personal show no matter what.
Q – Back in the day, being on the Tonight Show was a monumental feat that could change your life as a comedian. Now, with all the specials and networks devoted to comedy, do you think the market is over saturated with stand-up?
A - I don’t think so at all. There’s certainly a lot to choose from, but there’s lot of people out there! The late night shows don’t do comics every night, so they’re great to catch when you see them. The biggest difference now is that Comedy Central puts out a lot of specials so it seems that there are more than ever. They are a comedy network so naturally they view it as their platform. As for over saturation, the news every day is tough - that’s oversaturated! I can’t get over saturated laughing, but worrying about the Iranians and North Koreans having nukes, thanks, but I’m full already.
Q – How often do you stray away from your material in terms of how the flow of the show? I mean, do you ever completely go off course given the circumstance?
A - Yes, I go off topic frequently. Like I said, I know what I want to do but I don’t go on like a robot. Guys that do that bore me. I like the art form. I like being off the cuff and I like being in the moment.
Q – Have you ever said a joke that offended someone so bad that you later regretted it?
A - I’ve offended people but I can’t really recall regretting it. Comedy has to offend sometimes. Most of my stuff is autobiographical, so if someone is offended they’re offended by my life, and that offends me. It’s comedy. If someone gets offended, and they have, my general attitude is that person is too serious. The world has a lot going on, if you find yourself upset at a comedian, chances are you need to read the papers more.
Q – Tell me about The Stress Factory Comedy Club. How did this come about?
A - The Stress Factory came about because I was doing stand-up at some open mics around the state but wanted more stage time. At this point, I already had three kids, so doing the road was rough. I started a little open mic, ironically it was in the building I now occupy but back then it was a dance club on Sunday nights. It was for Rutgers kids and had a five dollar cover. When the clubs around the state found out I was doing this they blackballed me from ever working there again. That was completely ridiculous. Since they blackballed me and I couldn’t work anywhere, I decided to open my own place. I named the club because at the time I had the flower shop, the construction company, three kids, I was trying to perform and I was preparing to get divorced. My life just didn’t feel like the “Chuckle Hut,” it felt like The Stress Factory, hence, the name.
Q – What are you working on now?
A - I’m working on material all the time. I’m also very active with my family and they’re my priority. As for comedy, I’m writing and producing a pilot. Won’t tell you what it’s about till it’s in the can, which will be August of this year. I will give you a scoop though when I get it done.
Q – Anything you wanted to add?
A - If you’re my ex wife and you’re reading this, STOP. IT’S OVER. Anyway, the jokes about you are hysterical even if they’re personal and real. (I particularly enjoy the cremation jokes and the headstone jokes, crowd favorites, thanks for the inspiration).
IF MY KIDS ARE READING - If I do some joke about you that you don’t like, think of the crap you put me through to make me write it!! I’d rather have not gone through the crap, but since you made me, you’re in the act.
If you’re not in my act, congratulations, you probably haven’t annoyed me much.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor