“Cadet to Comedy” Ross Bennett Shares!

This show introduces and unique guy, Ross Bennett was one of the strange comics that came through my clubs. Early life included Ross being a Cadet at West Point and transforming himself several times over his lifetime. He went from a Laughs opening act to Headliner, and at one point performed for several years as “Eddie Strange”; his alter-ego…Interesting right?! So listen to his story and a comedy set, and enjoy!

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Podcast Transcript:

Announcer: 

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee, celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here’s your host and emcee Scott and words.

Scott Edwards: 

Hey, welcome to this week’s podcast. We got an amazing show for you all the way from New York City. It’s comic writer and performer Ross Bennett. Ross, it’s so good to hear your voice. It’s been a mere 35 years. How are you doing, buddy?

Ross Bennett: 

I would say the last time we probably had any contact would have been around 1990 9190 something around there.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, it’s been a while. But you know what’s great is we’re both Well, I’m tickling my toes in the business. But you’re still an active entertainer. And that’s so impressive.

Ross Bennett: 

Oh, say I, you know, I was just pulling out. You have your old booking calendars and stuff like that.

Scott Edwards: 

Yes. In fact, I found some stuff from 85 and 86. With you coming in?

Ross Bennett: 

Yeah. The first time I did that. The first thing I have in my calendar was the week of March 25 1981.

Scott Edwards: 

Wow, that was we had just opened in 1980. That was early on.

Ross Bennett: 

Yeah. And it might have been or I might have been a gig in 1980. But my 1980 calendar is doesn’t look like it kept Good. Good notes in it. I was. I was drinking. I was

Scott Edwards: 

drinking a bit. Yeah. It’s been a bit.

Ross Bennett: 

But that was my first came in when you had the original location in it having to do with a hotel or a restaurant or

Scott Edwards: 

something. Right? We were and then basement of the Delta Queen restaurant in old Sacramento,

Ross Bennett: 

right? Go ahead, then you shifted over to that other place,

Scott Edwards: 

and the firehouse alley location which I considered the best and main room and then after that, we moved up to Front Street. So we’ve had a few different locations. But all in old Sacramento, you have a great memory Ross.

Ross Bennett: 

When I first came up, I was just on the phone with Bruce Smirnoff. Bruce Lee, he said, Tell Scott, I send my love. That’s what he said. And I’ve never heard Bruce say that about anybody. So whatever you guys got going on.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, Uncle Brucie and I have quite the history as well. And we had a chance to interview him on an earlier podcast by telling me that we haven’t had a chance Ross to talk in a while. And I’d love to hear a little bit about your feelings on Stanhope as an art form how you got into it. I know that that was about 1977 1978.

Ross Bennett: 

Well, you know, here’s the here’s the thing. I enlisted. I was in college. And you know, showbusiness is sort of where I wanted to be. But in my father, there was no way that I wouldn’t have known how to say, okay, and I graduated high school in 73. And I was University of Florida. And I was just lost there. And I ended up dropping out and enlisting in the army in November of 73, literally 47 years ago, this month right now, right now. And my time in the army, one thing led to another and I ended up being a cadet at West Point.

Scott Edwards: 

You went to West Point. Now that’s not for slackers. That’s the high end for the military.

Ross Bennett: 

The Yes. But you know, I watched a documentary on PBS maybe 15 years ago, on the history of West Point. And they actually said, of course, in the mid 70s, our standard got a little bit lower. Because they had more difficulty getting people to go. And so you know, things like drugs and other behavior problems. Were a little more present there.

Scott Edwards: 

The end of the Vietnam era, we were all Yeah, I was actually in the draft for two years. You were able to avoid the draft by joining.

Ross Bennett: 

I was not it was not as I didn’t have to worry about it. Okay, my, my year they didn’t even people born in 54. They drew numbers, but they never went. People born in 55. They never drew numbers, okay. And like within a year or two, the draft was and then next year, I think they eliminated it. But, so, while I was a year before I went to the Academy, I was at the Westlake Prep School in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. And they had a talent show and that’s the first time it had stand up. That would have been probably around April of 75.

Scott Edwards: 

Okay, you have it just being a West Point cadet, and then also doing a little comedy. I mean, that’s got to be a unique audience.

Ross Bennett: 

I don’t know, even then. I never thought about that. All I ever thought about Scott that the same thing I thought about when I worked here club, same thing, I think thought about a week and a half ago when I did a show at a winery, okay. I just want to go up and kill. Okay, whether I succeed or not. That’s my goal. And that’s the way it was in the very first show. I did, I went up and I wanted to get big laughs and I was always swinging for the fences.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, you’ve obviously had a lot of success to had a career that spans that many decades, you cannot continue and last that long in this business without being funny.

Ross Bennett: 

So what happens is in, I resigned from the Academy in 77, and I started to pursue this I was I went to South Florida, and I was I was a theater school for a year. But then in March of 78, I moved, I made the big break letter for Chicago. And it was, there was some show showcase rooms and workshops. In the suburbs of Chicago, what were called the comedy room will become the comedy cottage. I was up there six months later, I’m out in San Francisco doing the competition, the third competition and 79. I got into the semi, and by January of 79, I moved to LA, that’s when I would have hooked up with you because when the boom started to happen, you know, Scott, my take on what we went through, okay, two things. Number one, my grandfather spent like a year and a half in vaudeville, okay. He was and then he’d had enough money and he left he actually went in got on to vaudeville tours and designs over that. He didn’t he didn’t have a burning need to do this people to stay in it like I do. It serves some other purpose. Okay. I always wanted to be involved with everybody I watched on TV, Ed Sullivan Show, they were all basically vaudeville act or vaudeville style acts. I always sort of was upset or disappointed. I didn’t have I wasn’t involved. And I realized a few years ago, and up in the 80s. One book, you know, working for six nights doing 10 shows that was logged going up or similar? Yes. Yeah. And just pounding it out. show after show after show. And that’s why a lot of guys in my generation, we can really do a good job. Because we had it drummed into us. Okay, because we did so many shows.

Scott Edwards: 

And but I don’t mean to interrupt Ross. But you also were part we both you on the entertainer side of me on the producer side caught that wave. Right, right, it kicked off 7980 When I opened laughs Unlimited, it was the 12th club in the country, full time Comedy Club. And by you know, five years later, they felt like it was on every street corner. But we caught the beginning of that wave. And if you were performing by 1979 and getting on stage, you were definitely part of that initial wave working with people like Leno and Sagat. And all the guys two things.

Ross Bennett: 

Number one, I can I looked at what happened at that time, and all the guys moved to LA, because you know that it seemed like the gold rush. Okay, being like the, because, you know, the gold was people around the country were hearing that there was gold and like 1849 out in California, and they just dropped everything to go out and try and try their luck at getting some of that gold. Same thing happened like in the mid mid to late 70s. There was like rumblings in this country that something was going on. And and all these people like myself, and like Bob Saget, you know, you can, you can go through the whole list of the people who came out of that time. They we all gravitated to either New York, or Los Angeles. And that would that was our gold rush.

Scott Edwards: 

I was just gonna say and you had the unique opportunity being an East Coast guy. You were working the improv both in New York and LA. You were working class la San Francisco. Go ahead.

Ross Bennett: 

No, I wasn’t. I was not in New York City. Okay. I had gone to Chicago. It’s not go to New York City. From there. I went to San Francisco a little bit that I was out in LA. And I didn’t go to New York to perform regularly until 2000. I actually went there in the middle. I’ve actually went there. It’s 20 years. I came to this area 20 years ago to read to reinvigorate my career. I was still working

Scott Edwards: 

right. But you’re I thought I wait for from the east. So you started off as a West Coast comic, and then right, switched over,

Ross Bennett: 

born and raised my younger years in a small town in western New York State. Nothing like Manhattan. I was in Florida for a number of years I was in but I was never A New York City guy. And I remember being in LA at the Comedy Store, in around 1981, these New York acts started to come out. When and they were fully formed here. I was trying to figure out how to do this shit. And when and I summary Seinfeld coming out fully formed, you know, just just just prepared. Oh, yeah. And George George Wallace.

Scott Edwards: 

Larry Miller our shift. Yes, exactly. There was there was a whole group of them that came out from New York, all in that same year. And they all had huge success. But as you mentioned, they came out having already somewhat honed at least the beginning of their sets their material on the rough stages in New York, and came to LA somewhat already vested in you were coming up from San Francisco and LA for more, just getting started at that time.

Ross Bennett: 

My attitude was, I’m going to have to get what I have to get good someplace. And wherever I get good, if I get out to LA, it’s going to take me another year, two years to work into the Lac. So I said, I might as well go to LA, and work on getting good. Their course I already had like a 10 minute app. Okay, I had an app that was good enough to get me into the semifinals of the San Francisco comedy competition. I had an act, it was good enough that when bud Freeman saw me, he took me right over to the red book made me a regular daily spot I enacted was good enough that I could kill at the Comedy Store. And when Missy called me over, she said, don’t let that fool you. You’re not funny.

Scott Edwards: 

She was brutal. But I haven’t heard it quite like that.

Ross Bennett: 

I bought while she told me two things. She told Dennis Miller, in passing, she goes, You should wear a sweater. That was your comment to Dennis Miller, and to the great controller with David strop. But David is audition for wood Chuck Wood did a great you know, tilde. And she goes up. And he tells the story. He goes, he said we don’t we don’t use profit. And then he said, he goes, I go outside. And I’m lamenting my situation, I’m standing in front of the Comedy Store. And I look to my right. And there is a a U haul truck. And Gary mule deer is pulling garbage cans full of crap out of the U haul to take into the Comedy Store to perform. I tell comics where I work with today because I teach a class in in New York, that we have no control of who’s going to like it. Our job is to do the best we can. And I always say go where the sun is shining. Oh turn to where the sun is shining, go where the love is, you know, whatever is supposed to happen will happen. The guys who are miserable are the ones who say to themselves that I have to be I have to get some work at the comic strip. I’d have to be working at the Comedy Store, whatever. And when they don’t get it, they become obsessed with it. And it just it just wears them out.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, yeah. But you’re also bring up a good point about how Mitzi on the wave of the wind could change and what she liked and didn’t like, I mean, Dennis Miller, would not have been any funnier or less funny with or without a sweater. I mean, it was that was just an obtuse thing to mention. She also, you know, saying that she didn’t like prop comics. Well, she might not have when it was Strassman. But that she did when it was mele there. And yeah, it was again, her flipping Dennis Trotman was one of the best ventriloquist we had come through the club. And Gary meal dare was very funny as well. But for me as a producer, and of course, Mitzi was much, much more powerful in made careers. But to be, I’ve always heard how harsh she could be in how her judgments could change. So easily, you know, minute to minute,

Ross Bennett: 

I’ve been told I mean, I got to know or some. I married, I got married to my wife on the main room stage of the Comedy Store. And you really bite? Yeah, it was covered by two in the town and Entertainment Tonight. It was it was you know, it was a thing down there.

Scott Edwards: 

We had to bend in her good graces to let you do that. That’s pretty cool. Yeah,

Ross Bennett: 

yeah. She said that. She would never be disingenuous with somebody if she didn’t see it. She didn’t want to encourage somebody who didn’t have it. I could wait, who didn’t have what she didn’t have what she thought they should have.

Scott Edwards: 

I could see that and I did open mics and I would give advice and I rarely but sometimes told somebody, you know, this isn’t just, you know, maybe your thing. But normally it would be it wouldn’t be about what to wear but it would be about presentation. In material, you know, learning the art of interacting with the audience or pausing at the right time. I mean, it was technique as opposed to judgment calls on their future. It was just trying to help them to get through that set, you know, or what, yeah, might take them to the next set and help them.

Ross Bennett: 

What happens is these folks after heads after they’ve seen five 600 apps, and if they feel obligated to say something, if they feel obligated to make some sort of a comment, they feel obligated to make some sort of a criticism in order to justify whatever you know, for the fact that they don’t. But the truth is, it you just don’t do it for them. They don’t see it. You know, and you just got to be willing and able to move on.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, well, I think it’s interesting. Now we’ve kind of jumped ahead a little bit. You you got your start doing an open mic or while cadet at West Point. You went on to doing some work in San Francisco in LA as a showcase. Comic opening act. I know that you were regular at the Improv, but Friedman obviously saw some potential there, how many hours a day, it was

Ross Bennett: 

one of those things, you know, I just knocked it out of the park. And he immediately I mean, he started to work there and took me about six months to get Mitzi to come around. And

Scott Edwards: 

well, the point was, you got the bug.

Ross Bennett: 

Oh, I and the thing is, I’d had it before. I didn’t know I’d had it, you know, but I’d had it before. I’d wanted to do it ever since I was a kid. But I had an ICE line in my axe. I didn’t know how would I tell my father, my father was a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, my God really

Ross Bennett: 

is in the reserves. My joke always was, he said 28 years in the Marine Corps Reserve. If you spend 28 years the Marine Corps Reserve. What that means is, you want to be in the real Marine Corps, but your wife will let you.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, there’s probably some truth to that. But having a Marine Corps Colonel as a father had to be kind of a tough, tough way to grow up, at least in the sense that he was probably thrilled to death when you went to the to West Point, but probably not so thrilled when you left to do comedy.

Ross Bennett: 

I bought I had said in the years since his death is and then almost 30 years that made I might have gone to the academy just because I knew it would crush his soul when I left. Okay.

Scott Edwards: 

But true probably

Ross Bennett: 

did live. He did live long enough to see me do what I do and do it well. lived long enough to make a living at this thing. And, and that was cool.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, well, relationship with our fathers is always interesting. We’re always trying to get approval and a lot of us go about it the wrong way. My dad was a traveling salesman, and my whole life has been sales one way or the other mean, even as a producer of comedy clubs, I was selling the clubs and selling myself as the emcee and selling the shows each and every night. So there is some we learn from our parentage, and right take that forward, but it sounds like well, I know that you had a lot of success. Now after coming out to LA, do you remember how you did you showcase for me or what did I see you down in LA? Cuz I was going down, right?

Ross Bennett: 

No, I’m fairly certain that somebody recommended me. Okay. And I went up and I like I was I went up as an opening act. And I was always, I told Bruce this earlier, when the club started to open and 79. And I saw that, you know, openers got 150 or $200, and middles got three or $400. And headliners got 1200. And I said, So I immediately set my sights on being a comedy club headliner. And within two years, I was a comedy club headliner. Yeah. And at this point in my life, I wish I had set my sights higher. You know, because once once I’d achieved that goal, I really, I didn’t have you know, management is really people who see a massive future for you or the potential the massive future. And I didn’t have a person like that. Okay. I was my own manager, if you will. And the only goal I knew how to set for myself was being a comedy club headline. When I did, I did I did that.

Scott Edwards: 

And you succeeded though, and getting some TV as well. I know you were on evening at the Improv about four times. And I know Yeah, a number of other talk shows in comedy showcases. I mean, there was some exposure nationally.

Ross Bennett: 

Done. Okay. And I got to do I didn’t get to do Letterman. I did Letterman in 2013. I’ll tell you. I was 58 years old. I believe. I was the oldest person to do a first time appearance on a show like Letterman or the Tonight Show.

Scott Edwards: 

Okay. I saw this set and you tore it up, you did a great job.

Ross Bennett: 

It was a great night. And, you know, I’ve had a lot of the same mental challenges over the years. And I was just talking to Bruce earlier talking, Bruce, that any limitations I’ve had in my career, I are things that I put on myself, I didn’t know I was putting it on myself, but I put it on myself. And when I look at someone like Seinfeld, or Leno, these are guys who had no limits that they placed on themselves. There was like, there was no lid, like, oh, I should only be able to make $50,000 a year, or only 100 that these guys looked at anything was possible. And I admire them for that, you know? I really do they, they

Scott Edwards: 

just wonder, yeah, it is how you’re preparing and the goals you set. Now I remember vaguely, and I mentioned this in an email to you and that you didn’t respond. So maybe we’ll on the podcast, you were trying to invigorate or have some fun with your comedy writing. And you’re set. And I remember you coming in as Eddie strange.

Ross Bennett: 

Well, what happened was my wife, she passed away in 1986.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, my God, it’s been so young, I’m sorry to hear that. This is two, this is the fourth date. So getting married on the communist or stage is a amazing opportunity and thing to have in your history. It was fun. But what a couple years later had to have been?

Ross Bennett: 

Well, you’re gonna hate me telling you this. But I feel compelled to do it in what would be May of 86. I was scheduled to be at your club, like the first week of June or the last week of May. And as Jim was getting sicker and sicker, I called up you and I had to cancel the gig. And you were not happy. And I and I told you I said, I said, I said, Scott, I said I gotta cancel this. My wife is sick. And you are not anywho Okay, with a lot of problems to me. And then And then the last thing you said, But alright, buddy, you only want

Scott Edwards: 

nice and sympathetic. Well, I’m sure I wasn’t aware of how sick she was. The Jan passed and

Ross Bennett: 

yeah, I know. I know. That’s the case. But I just I on these things, I feel compelled often to, to say the truth, you know, to say it, because, you know, we’re all human beings. And it’s just a it’s a challenging thing. You know, these this live these lives that we live

Scott Edwards: 

by, right. And at the time, my focus was making sure there was entertainer for the audience’s that were sure, exactly. I wasn’t aware or to be honest, all that concerned about your issues. I mean, okay, you got a sick wife. Now, what next? Yeah, in that sounds really cold. But I’ve tried to express to the podcast audience that even though I love the art form, I was also deeply engrossed in the business aspect of short, and it was a balance of business, art, because this, because this is such a personable business.

Ross Bennett: 

And the people who are involved in it on stage and off, tend to have outgoing friendly personalities, at least they can they have that portion of themselves, at least two on stage, or they can or as a salesman, you know, you’ve got your sales face and everything. And that’s just the nature of the business. What happens is, as an entertainer, you think that it could be very immature the way I was, you thought these relationships, you thought that people not being nice to you, who you were working for? Was a friendship or you know, that it was more than that there was most of them or how that was more than that. And but the truth is, all you gotta do is fuck up one. And it’s like, you know, that’s it. I had a, I had some of those things happen over the years, you know?

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that happens to everybody. Let me sidestep real quick and tell you that I owned and managed a chain of comedy clubs and restaurants for over 20 years, I had over 100 employees. And I thought we were a family. I thought I was their friend. And I gotta tell ya, it was so fast, how those relationships dropped and changed. When I sold the club. Nobody wanted to be around me. I was just the frickin boss. And they were nice to me because I was the boss and paying them and that was it. It I was crushed. Just a little bit Ross.

Ross Bennett: 

And, you know, that’s the nature of this thing. You know, those are lessons we learned. But anyway, what happened was when Jan got sick, and she got diagnosed in around December of 84. My son was born in February of 85. That’s Nash, right and yeah, so around that time, it was very difficult for me, and I had no other way To make money and I was doing my stand up, but I was finding that I was taking a rather heavy mood up on stage with

Scott Edwards: 

me. Okay. Well, sure. Yeah,

Ross Bennett: 

I came up with the idea of what why don’t I work like as a character, and I was watching the Masters in 1985. And Curtis strange, I don’t he didn’t win. But he was in the lead for a while. Okay, good golfer, right? And I just did Chris strength. What a great name strange. I’ve never heard anybody named stranger within the strange. And then I started to try and put put up first things with it. And they all sounded phony. And common. Edie? My father’s name is Ed. And I decided to work as Eddie strange. I completely shifted my career and sold myself as Eddie strange.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, that’s what happened. And how did it work for you?

Ross Bennett: 

Well, it worked great. I mean, it’s like, all of a sudden, I was more free on stage, I was behind this mask of this character ended up becoming really big on colleges for about two years, everything went fine. And then I had a, at some point, the what would you call the break between reality and this character and everything cracked, I was working out in Hawaii for Bob Fisher had a gig out there. And I’m not able to bring it. And my own they act in front of me was that he was just destroying it. And I didn’t have it in me, I remember the the the people at the club, pulling me into the kitchen, and going, listen, I don’t know what you’re doing out there. But this is not what we paid for you to do. Cuz I was doing my act. But I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the zip I was just completely down. I remember saying that. I mean, I said I’m sorry. I said, this is all I got this, this is this is who I am. And this is what I do. And they weren’t happy with the rest of the week there. And the thing is, they’re paying, this was one of those games where they paid you $500 But you’re in Hawaii, right? Pull you out. But it’s $500. And it’s like they’re busting my balls over. You know, we’re basically a $500 gig and I get it. Okay, but they were not happy. And of course, Bob Fisher wasn’t happy, because he was one of

Scott Edwards: 

booked. But still Ross is the character Eddie strange gave you as you pointed out a mask to help you get through a couple tragic years after the death of Jan, and help you cope. And I think that I was not aware of that. I knew that you would develop this character and you were doing something different. But I was young and dumb and didn’t realize the emotional reason for it. I just thought, you know, I had a lot of comics that said, Well, you know, I want to try this. And I loved letting people try different things. Sure. And because it helped grow the club or in the comic, artistically. And so I didn’t put any emotional value to what you were doing. I didn’t get it. But I’m glad that you had it. And it worked for you. And the fact that it fell off while in Hawaii. Well, tough.

Ross Bennett: 

So eventually, what by 88, or 89 I was now I’m just me doing under a different name. And I sit there you know if I’m gonna do that, and I had to go back to Ross and so in fact, Ross says these were not good choices, career choices, okay. Because it made it for people to like, you know, this guy’s nuts, if I was at work is Ross Bennett. And I moved around a lot in about in Chicago in the early early 90s. And getting work on the east coast, but the one guy said, he said, Now listen, I ain’t got no work for Ross Bennett. But I would I would hire I would hire Eddie strange. Okay. And so I opted to go back to Eddie strange a second time.

Scott Edwards: 

Because persona that you provided on stage worked well,

Ross Bennett: 

more method name. Because it because there were people who knew it. And I what I did is I did it i What’s your my attic took all my best bet. And I didn’t do the character as I did it before. I just did myself. And this was right around the time that the boom was beating the bus. Okay,

Scott Edwards: 

early 90s. Right.

Ross Bennett: 

And what I did is I started going over England. So like 92 and 2000. I made about a dozen trips over to England, I’d say anywhere from a month to six months. I mean, that saved my ass like the money kept, you know, there was whatever I earned, was being sucked into expenses. But I just know the important thing was to get through this and to keep performing to not to not lose those chops that that you that you develop only by working the amount that I work. Well. I

Scott Edwards: 

think it’s interesting that you share that because I did a little research before the podcast There is this kind of blank zone in your career, because I know you did a lot of Stand Up For me and other clubs up through there early 90s, then there’s kind of a gap. And then I know you were back at it in 2000. And getting Letterman and moving on with your career, and there was kind of an eight year gap. And what’s interesting is I just interviewed Kelly Montes, and he was saying how the audiences in Europe and England particularly, were so receptive to American entertainers. I’m sure that helped boost your ego and what you needed to get back into the Ross Bennett show.

Ross Bennett: 

I had forgotten how good my material was, frankly, a lot of the club audience that we had started to get started to dumb down and state, okay. And I remember one time I was, I was headlining, zany, in Vernon Hills, and doing you know, to their audience there. What’s his name? headliner Jake Johansen, he came in on Saturday night, and he headline, and I middled. Okay. But all of a sudden, they walk out on that stage. I’ve never seen these people before. This is a completely different audience. They, they dress better, they smell better, they drink better. Their wells do their bays, their hairs comb, they look great. And they’re all like college educated, smart. And all of a sudden my materials is hitting in a way it hadn’t hit all week, the kind of audiences the club audiences that I would be getting, for the most part where they weren’t necessarily. I was doing, I got my lap. I did my show, I had my big finish. I always had big finish. It just became rope. Okay, right right over to England. And the audience is stuck and loved me. And they were really, and they admired what I did. Well, and they talked about my material and I had forgotten to buy stuff was all really well crafted material.

Scott Edwards: 

And you’d honed it over, you know, all those years. I, I think that a lot of entertainers forget or sometimes get, in your case distracted by losing your wife, you lose some of that focus on what you were working on. And building on. Eddie Strange was a bit of a vacation. And now you’re back to finding the audience and finding your act the way it was. Now, do you have any particular memories of working laughs unlimited? Did you work with anybody extra fun?

Ross Bennett: 

The I’ll say one thing I’ll just say, in 2000 is when I moved to the New York City area, and I went back to Ross Senate and I’ve been there for 20 years. I’m going to stay there. So if anybody was interested in the lookup Brock Bennett, on Facebook, or my website, Ross senate.com. You’ll find that all about

Scott Edwards: 

okay. Go we can book today.

Ross Bennett: 

That’s right. Laughs Unlimited. One of the best memories I had. I had become a headline. I was headlining up there. And Kevin meany was the middle. And he was just so delightful. He was just so delightful. He wasn’t he had not received his level of celebrity yet. But he was just playful and fun and funny material. I remember to remember two jokes of his one of them was that his father not having a map in the car. He had a globe. Okay. Okay. And the other one was about how kids are always going in the backyard digging a hole to China could go dig a hole to China. And he goes, I burned my hands on the mantle.

Scott Edwards: 

Trying to get to China. Kevin Meany was a strange guy but very funny came from his writing and his material from a different direction. Very San Francisco. Very Yeah, he was Andy Kindler was the same. There was a few guys that came from that batch.

Ross Bennett: 

The a lot of San Francisco comics. But they were all very unique. Very, a lot of men very odd. And a lot of them couldn’t work outside of San Francisco. They couldn’t. It was just too big of a challenge.

Scott Edwards: 

You know, mainstream kind of vanilla. I hate to put it that way. But you knew it had

Ross Bennett: 

to. You had to I always took pride in the fact that I live in LA. I started going out and working in you know, the punch line in Atlanta, your club, Dallas, the Comedy Spot. Comedy works in Denver. I always took pride that I could play around the country. I was not a regional act. I could do a good job every place. And that that time the only place I couldn’t do a good job was New York was the New York, the East Coast northeast. i It was intimidating to me. And so when I moved to this area in 2000, that was my I’ve been working for 20 years I’ve worked with 2223 years. And that was my last hurdle was I wanted to get so I could knock it out of the park, or on like the at the comic strip, you know. And I did. And I ended up working at the comedy cellar for seven years. And I got so I could really pound out a set in Manhattan. And that’s what got me the Letterman Show.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s cool. And I want to hear about New York. But before we leave laughs Unlimited, I got to share with you one story to tell me I need you to tell me if it’s true or not. My partner Bob Stoneburner, was picking up a headliner. This is real early on in the early 80s. And he said he got to the condo and which I think was at the apartment at governors square. And he said he walked in and Ross Bennett was lying spread eagle on the floor naked verging and both Bob in the in the headliner, just kind of looked at you stepped over and went back to the room. I mean, there was no interaction, is it? He said it was the most bizarre thing. Now do you remember that? Was that you?

Ross Bennett: 

It would i First off, I would not have been naked he was whatever it was, was he was what would you call it, he was embellishing the story. Or he had he had a creative memory. However, I do vaguely remember, at that time, I would have been very much a pothead. Very much a pothead and very much, drinking quite a bit. So I have no doubts about that. And I remember it so to remember that be very, I was not naked, that wouldn’t be my style. Well, I don’t know. It was just it might have been I might have been in my underwear.

Scott Edwards: 

We were talking about you and what we remembered from your set and Eddie strange and the years you worked for us. And that was his recollection that you would you were opening or feature act at the time. And he was bringing in the headliner, and that was the the welcome that the other act got. It was just hilarious moment. Now you I know that since 2000, you’ve been really rock in the New York area. Have you been doing I know you worked a lot of the clubs there. You mentioned a couple Do you have some favorite clubs in the New York area like to work?

Ross Bennett: 

I don’t really work in the city anymore. Okay. Okay. At this, you know, I and I know a lot of people, you know, you, you you go through stages in your career, where you’re in different places, and eventually you grow out of places, you know, I frankly, I feel that I aged out. Not that I don’t look my age, there’s so many young, young comics. Right. I went when the when the spots started being there, and I used to work. Like, you know, six nights a week in the city. I worked. I worked mainly at the comic strip. And at the comedy cellar, you know, and it was great. It was great. And then was so funny, right about the time I got Letterman, that also was I was I was very, I was really weird. It was really weird. You know, I mean, I, I advertised the comic strip when, you know, on Letterman, he introduced me, you know, from the comic strip and everything. And that weekend, they didn’t they didn’t even use me on their stage. And you know, and there were people I know who were there because they’ve seen the show. It’s just it always just kind of that that’s just them, you know, and I’m really not wiped up. I’m so I’m so grateful for what I got out of these clubs. Because it rains my game. I always looked at New York as being like a gym. Okay, it’s a big gym, and each of the clubs was like a different machine that somehow exercise the different comedy muscle.

Scott Edwards: 

Okay, interesting and good analogy.

Ross Bennett: 

So I was very fortunate, I worked at all of them, some more than others. And then, but around 2003 I started getting some cruise work. And I did cruises off and on. I think I did two and a half years total week, so like 150 weeks or 20 weeks. That’s a career right there. from 2003 until 2007. So the beginning of 2017.

Scott Edwards: 

Okay, that’s

Ross Bennett: 

and that was good work for good night was the best money at a guy who’s not a star can make other than corporate work, you know. Now, what about a lot of comics?

Scott Edwards: 

I was just gonna say I did a little bit of research and I know that you were teaching a little bit teaching some writing skills.

Ross Bennett: 

Well, what it is, is I work in a place and Manhatten comedy school,

Scott Edwards: 

when, again, the Manhattan Comedy School,

Ross Bennett: 

yeah, Manhattan Comedy School. That’s their website and everything. Wow. And didn’t know. I started teaching in 2017. i It’s a six week course that I teach. I teach about five or six cycles a year. I had great success with it a great you know, my students and I really connect there was we needed to shift to online I never thought I would I could I’ve never seen doing it online. Okay. My online class is just booming. Okay, I’ve developed techniques to do with, with my class online, are extremely, extremely effective. And that’s my modulations. It’s called comedy writing boot camp. And then I started a second class, which is all about how to perform stand up comedy on Zoom comedy shows.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s interesting. Yeah, cuz I was, that’s one of the things I wanted to dig in dig into was, were you trying to teach technique in being a comic, because there’s really two way you know, there’s two things you need to perform live, which is the techniques, how to hold a mic, how to interact with the audience, how you know, where to stand, where to look. And timing, timing is so important. But then there’s the writing side, and the writing side does have to come from the person, but somebody like you, is able to teach the techniques to help you find your writing.

Ross Bennett: 

My, what I do in my writing class, is, I got a number I have lectures each week, one of the lines I use is we write jokes, but we create material. Okay, good word and the creation of material is, is because what we do is stand up. Writing a joke is just the beginning. And then there’s the honing that goes on. And it goes back and forth between basically, between performing and editing, performing an editing going back and forth. And so I drive that into their, into their noggin. And then I’m having them perform every week. So when I first took the class over, it was all about sitting around a table and writing and I lasted about, it’s like that, that’s that’s not going to happen. Because boring is horrible. We were it was just painful for all of us. And I started to put in a graduation show, not to the public, but for each other. We just, I just had them do the material we did last week. And then I had them stand up afterwards. We do like a little round robin and I tell them how they did for the week. And I remember I I gave one guy to do that joke. Try doing it this way. He stood up. And I said, take that word off, try it again. And all of a sudden, the joke got right. Okay, got correct. And it just exploded in the room. Everybody felt it. And after the class, this guy said, he goes, I enjoyed your class. It was fine. But I’ll tell you right now, if what you did with me for those three minutes, is what the whole class was about. I would take it again tomorrow.

Scott Edwards: 

And he saw that oh, you Yeah,

Ross Bennett: 

just completely restructured the class. It’s about writing and performance. And the Zoom performance class, is I’ve watched a zoom show. And I was shocked that good comics look so weak. They didn’t they weren’t well lit. They weren’t. The backgrounds were horrible at lights behind them who were that were destroying that the exposure. And they were standing up. They were they were doing all these things that just made it to their performance was just tedious. And an interesting and in one personal fear, Eisenberg went up. And she just exploded. It was like everybody else in 2d Season 3d Technicolor. And I said, I need a class specifically about this.

Scott Edwards: 

Whether you’re onto something that was really needed now. Right? It’s the Manhattan School of comedy, because what’s nice about being online is you don’t have to be in Manhattan to take it right.

Ross Bennett: 

Hold on. Oh, yeah, I got the Manhattan comedy school, Matt Hancock.

Scott Edwards: 

I just wanted to get the plug. Correct. So if anybody listening to this, wanted to take your course, and learn about comedy writing in in performance, they can sign up the next session that

Ross Bennett: 

they need to have some experience. Okay, I know I don’t have people, but the first class. They have no experiences of Karen Berg green, wonderful comic, and she handholds them and get them so they have an act, okay. So when they come to me that they haven’t done anything else to her class, at least they have an ASIC and start working.

Scott Edwards: 

You’re like phase two. You’re like, I would say that you’ve you’ve got a kernel of of information. Now let’s blossom it into an act.

Ross Bennett: 

And the performance class which like I’m the next one for that when it starts in the January is all about how do I cuz I go on the assumption, Scott, the way, the way the world is right now, it’s always going to be like this. Okay? And I’m not going to wait until things get back to normal. And then put my life on hold or my career on hold until them right so I decided to, I’m going to, I’m going to assume that this is the way it is and I want to look as good as I can When I perform on the show,

Scott Edwards: 

we are adapting. And that’s the those that adapt are the ones that succeed. I mean, that’s been proven over and over in history if you don’t adapt, yeah, hi, you, same thing.

Ross Bennett: 

The other great thing about these, these performances that we do on these zoom shows, is, it’s really, it’s a combination of stand up and broadcast. Okay, I can see you’re playing to a camera, right. And I’m telling my students that so many of the skills that we hone performing on in front of the camera on the Zoom shows, will transfer over to broadcasting work, because some of the best jobs the comic has been broadcasting, you know, you segue into a talk show or you get yourself a C, you’re doing a bit on the Daily Show, you know, like, like Louis black, did, you know, and are all right, well, the sitcom isn’t broadcast.

Scott Edwards: 

I was just I was just saying that we are teaching can open up a lot of doors, right?

Ross Bennett: 

But specifically, sitcoms is about acting in front of the camera. Okay. The Zoom shows is really about more broadcasting, it’s about performing stand up directly to dope camera lens.

Scott Edwards: 

I think it’s impressive that you’ve been able to adapt and grow. And, you know, it’s interesting as we listen to this podcast Ross is that you’ve transformed yourself through your career, much like a person’s life, his things happen and change with age and time, you’ve been able to adapt and adjust. And in some cases, what life threw at you forced you into unique situations. But you found a way to stay true to yourself into the art form. And here you are in your 60s, still involved in stand up comedy. And I think that’s something that you should be really proud of. And I think your dad would be proud of

Ross Bennett: 

the two things number one, thank you. Thanks for all that is that, you know, I’ve been clean and sober for 33 years. It just taught me that. It’s like one day at a time I got I got today, what am I going to do with my life today? Okay, I’ve been with I became willing to adapt a long, long time ago. And you know, the, the other great thing is, I now have many irons in the fire, I still get stand up the gigs I get are like really? Well paying gigs, which is the kind of gig that you have, if you have an act that can go up and you know, get a standing ovation in front of 700 people.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, good. You have an act like that.

Ross Bennett: 

That’s exactly it corporate work so valuable. I can do corporate I can do. I do. I’ve done churches, I do all sorts of, you know, conferences and stuff like that.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s awesome. Well, you know what we’ve shared your path. What I’d like to do now is share some of your comedy. So Ross, before I throw into comedy set of yours, I’ve got a nice four minute set lined up to let people hear what you were like on stage. This is an older set. So I know you’ve gone through a lot of transformations, I was just gonna say is somebody that’s now teaching about comedy, you’ve had these 40 years of experience as a stand up comic, and like me, as somebody that appreciates and loves the art form, before we end this podcast and pass it off to a comedy set. Is there anything you’d like to share to our listeners about stand up comedy and what it’s meant to you?

Ross Bennett: 

I will say that it probably saved my life. Okay, because it gave a guy who was sort of lost and know what he wanted to do. Something that to aspire to, and to become good at and to make a living with. You know, it’s I’ll tell you one thing is, is it keeps you it keeps you young, it keeps you I love the creative process. I’ve been able, you know, there’s one guy tell you one thing, I got an email about 10 years ago, from a guy and he said, I was I was gonna kill myself, I’m not making this stuff. I had the email, said I was gonna kill myself. I was so depressed. I was in Colorado Springs. And I’m driving around trying to figure out how I’m going to do it where I’m going to do it. And I saw the sign that said, Comedy Spot On wherever wasn’t in Colorado Springs. And he said Edie strange, because I came in. And I watched the show. And it changed my life. Wow. And he then went on to say that he ended up becoming a comic. He worked as a comic for a number of years. You know, it’s like, you never know. One reason I always go up and I always do the best show I can is that you never know who’s watching you what impact you can have on people.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that’s a great story. Ross, thanks for sharing that and it’s so true that what we do in our lives, but also onstage entertaining people can have an effect far reaching than we read. lies. And that’s a great way to end this. Thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today and sharing your story. Ladies and gentlemen, be sure to check out the Manhattan School of comedy.

Ross Bennett: 

Did I get that? Right? No, the Manhattan comedy school.

Scott Edwards: 

You know, it’ll they’ll find it. And look for Ross Bennett in his classes, you guys. Thanks for listening. But Ross, thanks so much for sharing your time. We’re going to sit back and enjoy some stand up comedy. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s some material by our star interviewee today, Ross Bennett.

Ross Bennett: 

We are Real Americans. And real Americans live close to Walmart. It’s hard not to. It’s hard not to I mean, statistically. 85% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart. Isn’t that an amazing number? We live within 15 minutes of a 24 hour store. Anything we want in America 24 hours a day for Americans. And let’s be honest, sometimes we wake up and we need shit. beds, oh god. roofing nails. I can’t wait. I said I can’t wait woman. Don’t hold me back. Anyone like me sometimes when I shop at a Walmart, I don’t know what I need. Until I’m in the store. Because I don’t shop like my parents shop. My parents were very frugal people. They had gone through the Great Depression. They they I look out here and I see there’s some people here who look like they were from my parents generation. You actually some of you who look like you might have actually caused the Great Depression. My parents generation when they went shopping, they always would would take make a list. They didn’t just buy what they wanted. They made a list. And when they had they would make they had to have cash. We need a credit card a VISA credit card. They save their money when they had enough money. They take the money and the list to the store and they would only purchase what was on the list. See when I go shopping a little different. When I go shopping, I don’t have a list. I have an hour I grab a cart. Let’s see what happened. Next thing I’m in the checkout line I look in my cart. It’s like coming to out of an alcoholic blackout got like a six pack of bacon flavored Maalox. tube socks weed whackers. Like stuff. I don’t mean I got a nursing bra and a canoe. And this is when I’ll often abandon my shopping cart. And who amongst us has not abandoned a shopping cart? Because they’re all over the store. little plaques. This is where a shopper came to his senses.

Scott Edwards: 

Hope you enjoyed that. That was Ross Bennett live on stage. Hey, it’s been a great interview and a little bit of comedy. I know you enjoyed it. Thanks for being a listener. Thanks for sharing and rating our podcast. And we’ll see you next week we’ll have another new show. Bye.

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