I started comedy 25 years ago in NY, during the middle of the “Comedy Club Boom”. we (Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, John Stewart, Jeff Ross, etc…) would go to all clubs in NY and Brooklyn for stage time, clubs were popping up all over and we (comedians) were able to work on our craft night after night and fine tune our act adding up the minutes till we felt ready to start showcasing for paid gigs. There were a few club bookers during the day that all the comics in NY wanted to get with…Tony Comacho with Top Draw Ent. was among the top. Tony booked Rascals Comedy Club in West Orange,NJ. and Ocean Twnshp. NJ., if you played those clubs you were making money and had status and everyone wanted status and money…plus Rascals had their own TV show called, Rascals Comedy Hour and for most of us back in the day, that was our first credit. (Comedy Central bought us out and we never made a penny after the first night, but it was worth it to get your first TV. credit).
I started at Pip’s Comedy Club in Brooklyn. Pip’s was the first comedy club in the country founded by George Shultz (personal friend and mentor to Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny Bruce and David Brenner). The who’s who of comedy launched their careers at Pip’s, i mean the best of the best (Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield, Andrew Dice Clay, Billy Crystal, basically everyone from that generation) and the first club outside of NY City that paid back in the 60’s and 70’s so it was worth taking the train in to perform for the weekend. A lot of comics way back before me considered Pips to be their first road gig. Pips was my home room, night after night i honed my act, I was house MC, feature and headliner at pips, I did it all at Pip’s and owe the beginning of my career to this great club. I was thrown every curve ball possible while working that legendary stage, the audiences were tough, mostly Brooklyn Italians, that would heckle you in a second to gain the respect of the chick on their arm and if you were not quick witted and fired something back, they would bury you and you bombed big. I was fortunate to be one of the ones that did not take any shit from them, gained the respect of “JOEY” and kicked ass.
Back in the day Stand-up comedy was new to American Pop Culture, you had to go to the clubs to see comedians that were performing night after night preparing themselves for the big shot on Johnny Carson. Later we all wanted to move to Los Angeles to make it big and eventually get on television or movies. Standup Comedy was not watered down like it is today with every cable channel exploiting it. It was an art for that you had to watch live. You went to the comedy clubs like, Pip’s, Improvisation in NY and LA. The Comedy Store, Catch a Rising Star in NY, The Comic Strip in NY, etc… these were the places to be seen! Then around the late 80’s early 90’s, comedy clubs were popping up all over America, we as comics were now given the opportunity to make money from our craft. Back then the clubs would pay you a substantial amount of money based on your status (MC, Feature or Headliner) and or the amount of time you were able to perform, you were given travel allotment, a hotel or condo owned by the owner and pretty good money, it was great to go on the road and entertain America. We all worked the road clubs back then, making money to put toward our dream of moving to Los Angeles and “Making it” at the Comedy Store, Improv or Laugh Factory.
I finally made it to Los Angeles in 1990. During the time I got there I had some heat on me because i was working with Andrew Dice Clay and I just landed a role in the movie Dice Rules as Dr, Slaughter. I went to the comedy store and showcased for the owner, Mitzi Shore. Having Mitzi pass you on to paid regular back then was probably as big as getting on the Carson Show or at least a close 2nd. I was a nervous wreck my first time that memorable Sunday night. I was given 3 minutes to do my best and kill in front of the “Queen of Comedy”, Mitzi Shore. I thought to myself “What the fuck am i going to do in 3 minutes” but those were the rules and I guess I was playing by them. Mitzi sat in the back of the club with a list in front of her, the MC would bring you up and you would do your thing till the “Blue Light” off to the left of the stage went on and you made sure you never went over the light…you get off in 10 seconds and that was it or you had to wait 6 more months for the opportunity to showcase again. OK, here I go my name was called out “Michael Wheels Parise”. I hit the stage and thought I did pretty well. I was wearing an apple bop hat and I did a 3 minute act on being fat. As I was leaving the stage i kind of glanced over and noticed my name crossed off the list. Usually she would put a star next to your name and that meant you made it. a line crossed through meant you did not. I guess , I did not and i wondered… why? I heard that night from Danny Stone, (Mitzi’s boyfriend at the time) that i reminded her of, Mitchel Walters and the store only needed one “Mitchel Type”. I was like… what the fuck!? ” who the hell is Mitchel Walters?” (i found out later, we are friends now) anyway for some weird reason, I was able to get a showcase 2 weeks later. did the same 3 minutes without the hat and passed! Mitzi called me over and said, in my best Mitzi impression, “Call in Monday for spots” “Congratulations you passed”. Needless to say, I never wore that hat again. Mitzi had her way of doing things and you never questioned them, you just went along with the program. She without a doubt made more Comic, Stars then anyone in the business and I am extremely fortunate to be a part of the Comedy Store family and personal friend of Mitzi’s for 22 incredible years. Having my name on the “Comedy Store Wall of Fame” is an honor that I am very thankful for.
I have been in Las Vegas headlining the Kings Room at the Rio now for over a year now. Night after night 6 nights a week. I have the “Michael Wheels Parise Presents” showcase every Sunday and I have to say after a long lull in stand-up, it seems to be on the rise again. Comedy in Las Vegas is starting to develop a “Comedy Culture” much like LA and NY. Comics are flocking to Las Vegas, comedy clubs are opening in record numbers. comedians are developing like never before. I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending some of the local comics. like, Jeremy Wieand, P.j. McGuire, Lou Magelowitz, Anthony Padilla, Jim Basset, Derrick Stroman,Lynn Yafchak and a slew of others that have worked my stage at the Rio. Even comics from LA like my friend PJ Standsbury and Brent Strong moved to Vegas to better themselves as they work my room night after night, developing themselves for the road and making money. I have also had the pleasure of meeting my old friends all over again, Vegas is a place us comics, work, live and come to for the week. Almost every comedian headlining the club and casino circuit in Vegas, are my friends, we get to hang out again like we did in the early day of stand-up…maybe not as much or as often, but when we are in town, we drop a hello or a message from us to stop by. It feels great to see my old friends again and make new ones. Carrot Top, Shayma Tash, Geechy Guy, Vinnie Favorito, Harry Basil, Andrew Dice Clay, Louie Anderson, George Wallace, just to name a few residence comics that you can see night after night, earning a living, doing our passion, running our business, our lives our love and our families in the new frontier of comedy. The comedy boom in Las Vegas.On any given night in Las Vegas you can see me and all my friends, old and new and enjoy true live stand-up comedy, the way it should be presented, and after the show when you all leave, us comedians just hang out talking about you, bouncing ideas around, reminiscing and just hanging out. when you are in Las Vegas, make sure to come to one of our shows, wherever we may be. You will have a great time and so will we! Comedy Clubs in Las Vegas are still the most economical ticket in town and worth every penny. See you at my room at the Rio, The Kings Room! I am there 6 nights a week at 8:30 and if you cannot make it to my show…go and see one of my friends down the block.