Late-night comics make it at State
A comic is said to be on the path of “making it” in showbiz once they have booked a spot on a late-night TV talk show.
During the heyday of the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” an appearance there could launch a comedian’s career, especially if the legendary talk show host asked the comic to “take the couch” after their set.
At minimum being able to add “As seen on the [such and such TV show]” after one’s name can increase a comedian’s bookings at rooms and provide club owners with a valuable tag on the marquee to fill seats.
The State Theatre of Easton hosts “Comics of Late Night TV,” at 8 p.m. Oct. 20. Taking the stage for the evening’s performance are Carmen Lynch, Jon Fisch, and Shaun Eli.
“We’ve got two great comics I love working with,” says Eli during a recent telephone call. “They have practically the same resume. They’ve been on Comedy Central, they’ve been on [‘The Late Show with David] Letterman’ and they’ve been on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’
“‘Colbert’ is kind of an honor because he’s only been doing the show for three years so there haven’t been that many comedians on the show so far.”
While Eli has not had an appearance on any late-night TV programs, you more than likely have heard a joke or two he’s written. He sold jokes to Jay Leno when the comedian took over as host of ‘The Tonight Show’ following the retirement of Johnny Carson. He has also sold monologue material to other late night talk show hosts. Leno has referred to Eli as an author of “smart” comedic material.
Eli also has the noteworthy distinction of having had two of his letters to the editor of the New York Times published on the same day (June 2, 1991).
The three comedians each have their distinct styles of stand-up. “The thing about working with comics that have been doing this a long time is you never know what they are going to say when they get up there.” Eli says. He has been performing with Lynch and Fisch for a decade.
“I can tell you what I talk about is my family, things that have happened to me and stories. My style is sort of a mish-mash of everything.
“Carmen’s had a pretty interesting life. She’s lived back and forth between Spain and the United States and Jon is from a very foreign background. He’s from Massachusetts.”
When asked about his experience performing on the late night TV stage, Fisch says, “‘Letterman’ was my first and so it was a big deal. I was so nervous. I’m from Boston and my Dad was going to come down [to New York City] but I was too nervous to be worrying about him traveling down, so he stayed at home.
“When I finished, he was my first call. He said, ‘I’m outside.’ He had taken the train down to surprise me when I was done.
“I was nervous with [performing on] ‘Letterman’ because that was the dream and my first big TV set. But for the ‘Colbert’ set I knew I’d be nervous, but also I knew I’d like my parents to come see one of these [late night appearances] and they did come down. It was nice to have that.”
Fisch’s comedic material includes personal experiences, his family, navigating life in New York City and growing mellower with age as he journeys through his 40s.
Fisch is not new to performing in the Lehigh Valley. He has performed in Bethlehem at Lehigh University on several occasions and at SteelStacks. In 2005, he also performed at the State Theatre in the “Nobodies of Comedy” tour.
“I’m just happy to be there [at the State Theatre]. It’s always good audiences in Pennsylvania and I’m looking forward to it.”
Eli hopes people won’t miss the opportunity to see the “Comics of Late Night TV” on stage.
“I would like to be able to tell them [the audience] that tickets are free and we are going to be handing out hundred-dollar bills at the door, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
“What I will tell them, though, is they are way going to get their money’s worth and it’s a lot of fun.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132