Tonight (Thursday, April 14), comedian Gilbert Gottfried will appear at Michael Anthony’s, downtown JC’s waterfront eatery with the fabulous views of -- what’s that entertainment hub across the river?
Gottfried is a nationally known talent who hit the big time in 1980 as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
A late-night regular, he’s appeared in a number of movies, including The Aristocrats, about the “dirtiest joke of all time.”
The brains behind luring big-time comics to the West Bank is lifetime Jersey City resident Suzy Yengo.
Yengo, an entertainment attorney, is president and partner of Catch a Rising Star Comedy Clubs and Productions.
“I bring the talent and they serve the food and beverage.” – Suzy Yengo
Catch a Rising Star, the flagship comedy club in New York, launched the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Rosie O’Donnell, among many others.
More recently Gottfried made headlines for what some have charged were inappropriate jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It was this indiscretion that got him fired as the voice of the Aflac duck.
Along with Joan Rivers and Howard Stern, Yengo has come to his defense. “Once you start using censorship in comedy it’s a bottomless pit,” she said. “It’s a slippery slope when you can’t laugh about everything. It’s a huge infringement on everyone’s First Amendment rights to censor at any time.”
As well as booking comedians, Yengo has also booked gigs for boy bands and Sopranos cast members, such as Vincent Pastore who played Sal Bonpenserio and Tony Lip who played Carmine Lupertazzi.
Getting her start
Yengo has booked entertainment for such legendary New York City venues as the Russian Tea Room and Tavern on the Green, which was her second job out of college.
“I was always organizing events ever since grammar school,” she said.
She went to St. Aloysius girls’ school and then to the co-ed St. Aloysius, both in Jersey City. She still lives in the home near Lincoln Park where she grew up.
“I loved Jersey City,” she said. “I didn’t want to move to New York. I couldn’t do any better. I love the block. I have a big back yard, a dog, and a parking lot.”
She graduated from Boston University and New York Law.
“I was never thinking in terms of being in the comedy business,” she said. And being raised in Jersey City she never would have picked downtown as a spot for glittering nightlife.
“Growing up we were afraid to go downtown,” she said. “It was really scary. My father would take us to the Colgate clock and tell us the same story about how in high school he swam across to New York City.”
As soon as Yengo came on board at Catch a Rising Star she started thinking about alternative venues.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” she said. “A lot of restaurants are booking comedy. It’s a great moneymaker. I bring the talent and they serve the food and beverage.”
It’s a win/win situation. “I have comedians looking for dates,” she said. “It’s an easy production. They’re less expensive than musicians.”
With the cable comedy shows and comedians becoming talk show hosts on radio and television, Yengo said, “Standup comedians have a platform in every single media. They’re superstars right now.”
And moneymakers. “I’m astounded and thrilled,” Yengo said. “It’s amazing how they sell tickets.”
The Gottfried connection
As for Gottfreid, Yengo said, “We do tons of work with him.”
Enough trust has been built up over the years so that “he may have taken a step back when told he was going to work in New Jersey,” Yengo said, “but he knows it’s a great venue and he’s happy about that.”
Jersey City resident John “Nutsy” Fagan will warm up the crowd.
Chris Ryan of Michael Anthony’s said the venue is well suited to live entertainment. “The back room is a good fit,” he said. “It has a stage, spot light, and sound system.”
In the past they’ve hosted comedians such as Robert Klein and Mike Marino, New Jersey’s “bad boy of comedy,” who is a Jersey City native.
“New Yorkers don’t even realize that the city is so close,” Ryan said. They also appreciate the free parking at Michael Anthony’s and the convenience of the PATH train.
Yengo said that they will be wrapping up the season with Gottfried.
Said Ryan, “Why not come down, have dinner, laugh a bit and have a good night out?”
Michael Anthony’s is at 502 Washington Blvd. Call (631) 591-3042 for reservations.
Kate Rounds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..