Comedian to share laughs with Detroit Lakes on Thursday
A self-described "humor consultant," comedian Jeff Gerbino has been entertaining crowds at comedy clubs, state fairs and corporate events, as well as on radio and television, for over 25 years.
I've been married for 27 years, and doing comedy for 28 years," he said in a telephone interview, adding after a beat, "There's no correlation between the two."
But one thing Gerbino can be sure of is that his wife didn't marry him for his fame.
"She knew me when I was just starting out," he said.
The couple met in New York City, "through a series of happenstances," he said.
"I was from New York, she was out there visiting," he said. "My brother was just back from the Air Force, and was bartending across town."
One night, Jeff and his brother met a girl from Iowa who was house sitting in a mansion on the wealthier side of town, and she invited them back there for a swim. Her friend, a girl from Minnesota, was also there for a swim.
"We met there at the pool," he said of his first encounter with the woman who would become his wife. "After that, a series of dominoes all fell together, and I found myself moving to Minnesota."
Though his first job in the Twin Cities was as a radio announcer for WCCO FM, Gerbino quickly realized that comedy was his true calling.
"I had wanted to get into radio, but I decided there wasn't a lot of future there for me," he explained. "I decided I really wanted to be a comedian.
Gerbino became one of the founders of the Twin Cities comedy scene that included Scott Hansen, Louie Anderson, Jeff Cesario, Joel Hodgeson (founder of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000") and other future luminaries -- in fact, as he put it, "I was the first professional comedian in the state of Minnesota."
Gerbino started doing Saturday night shows at a club called Mickey Finn's, then added a Friday show, and then Tuesday... "Within three years, we were going 3-4 nights a week," he said.
In 1980, Gerbino decided to try his luck in Los Angeles. "I spent most of the 1980s in L.A.," he said. "It was hard at first, but I got an agent, and started doing some commercial work."
Gerbino's greatest claim to fame while in L.A. was as a commercial pitchman, he added.
"I did a lot of national commercials... National Car Rental, Hardee's, Pepsi," he said. From there, Gerbino began hitting the national comedy tour circuit, working his way from a warm-up act to headliner.
"That was an adventurous time, traveling all over the country," he said.
But then, the Gerbino family began to expand.
"We started having kids," he said. "In 1990, when they were just hitting school age, we decided to come back here (to Minnesota)."
His daughter is in the process of finishing up coursework for a degree in art from Columbia University in NYC (where she earned a scholarship). Meanwhile, their youngest son graduated from high school last year and earned a baseball scholarship at the University of West Virginia, where he is currently a rookie pitcher.
"I'm pretty proud of my gene pool," he said, an undertone of seriousness temporarily overcoming his humorous conversational bent. Even with the scholarships, sending two kids to college at the same time "is still costing us a fortune," he added.
But now that he no longer finds himself running around to his children's baseball games and various school functions, Gerbino finds himself back on the road, performing at corporate functions as well as shows like the one he will be doing this Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Historic Holmes Theatre.
The 7:30 p.m. show will open with special guest comedian Dennis Anton, whom Gerbino describes as "the kind of man you'd find standing on a street corner, talking -- and then you realize he's not talking into a cell phone, he's talking to himself.
"He (Anton) has a weird way of moving but not going anywhere," Gerbino said. "When he's on stage, he's like a nervous guy in a phone booth, pacing. He only moves around within a space of about four square feet, but he uses all of it."
As for his own brand of comedy, Gerbino prides himself on being able to adapt his humor to whatever venue he's in.
According to information available on his Web site, www.jeffgerbino.com, Gerbino's philosophy is simple: "Adjust your material to the audience you are playing to instead of making the audience adjust to yours."
When in Minnesota, for instance, he tends to focus more on material about hunting and fishing; he also talks about politics and Internet-based information services such as Google and Map Quest.
"I'm so sick of going to Google and Map Quest and having them say, 'Did you mean...'" he said, adding, "No, I meant what I wrote."
Of U.S. government policy toward the Middle East, Gerbino noted, "They say we can't cut and run -- well the history of our country shows we've been cutting and running since the days of the Civil War."
Gerbino will be presenting many more examples of his dry humor at Thursday night's show. Tickets are just $12, but you can also see comedian Scott Novotny on Thursday, Jan. 11 for the cost of $20 for both shows, by purchasing the theater's "Comedy Combo" package. Call 218-844-SHOW for more info, or buy tickets online at www.dlccc.org.