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A Little Bad Luck Won't Stop Bret Ernst

By Gary Wien

This article was originally designed to be read in the October 2014 issue of
New Jersey Stage magazine. To read it in its original format, click here

Growing up in New Jersey, comedian Bret Ernst moved around an awful lot as a kid. He estimates he attended about 15 different schools before moving to Florida for high school. As anyone who was ever the new kid knows, it can be a little rough; but, it also helped him find his calling.

"When you're the new kid, you use your sense of humor to meet people," explained Ernst. "And when you're standing in front of the classroom that much, you sort of get used to that feeling of being uncomfortable."

Ernst admits to regularly being the class clown and a trouble maker in school. He played sports all of his life (even going on to play football in college and try out for an arena football team once) and says he was that guy in the locker room cracking jokes. He always knew he wanted to be a comedian, he just didn't know how to actually enter comedy. So, he developed his own method. He went to karaoke nights and hijacked the microphone to do comedy bits and talk to the audience.

"I had no idea what open mics were," said Ernst. "When I moved back to Florida after college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was thinking of doing comedy because I had done college radio and was always writing jokes and stuff. The one day I ran into someone that said they were a comic. I said how do you do that? They told me to just go to open mics. I was just about to do it when I got a letter in the mail from a kid I knew. He was in New York and he said I should really try standup comedy. It was someone I was friends with, but not best friends with. For him to write me, I took it as an omen and from that point on I haven't stopped."

His biggest break to date was being one of four comedians featured in Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland. Ernst was in the show along with Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, and Sebastian Maniscalco. That tour took him from playing clubs with 250 people to venues filled with 3,000 and was filmed as a documentary every step of the way and released across the country.

"The beautiful thing about the show was that all of the comics really brought it," he recalled. "The way Vince designed it, he set everybody up to win."

Unfortunately, the movie was released just before a writers' strike hit. The cast had all sorts of press lined up that they weren't able to do. Ernst told the crew that it was his fault, he's always got bad luck. An example of his bad luck was the first time he was shown on national television. At the time he was delivering pizzas for a living and wasn't able to get off work. A delivery led him to an apartment building where he caught the last few seconds of his tv appearance where he said "good night!". Ernst still remembers the guy who ordered that pizza.

"The look on the guy's face was almost like ‘Wow, this is cool and fuckin' depressing!'" he said. "I didn't know what to say, so I had said, ‘Yeah, I'm fast!' I was trying to make light of it and he kept asking me questions. I'm like ‘Come on dude, just give me the cash and let me get the fuck out of here, this is embarrassing enough!'"

Another example was when he got a phone call from Jimmy Fallon's people that they needed him to headline a show in Nashville. Basically, Jimmy was starting a new tour but he hadn't been on stage in a while, so he wanted to come in as an unadvertised special guest. The show was billed as "Bret Ernst and Special Guest". The problem was when Ernst showed up to the club, the place was packed and there were TV cameras and equipment. "I thought you didn't want me to advertise Fallon was going to be here," he asked the owner, trying to figure out what was going on." The owner replied, "They're not here for Fallon."

It turns out that the real surprise of the night was that CBS was filming a new TV show called, "Secret Talents Of The Stars" in which people were supposed to perform in a manner different than what they were famous for. In this case, Clint Black, the famous country singer, was supposed to do stand-up comedy.

"So, the whole room is packed and the emcee goes up and greets the crowd," recalls Ernst. "I know some of you may be wondering what's going on because the network brought people and this was supposed to be a surprise, but ladies and gentlemen we have a special surprise for you - Mister Clint Black! The dude comes out and, being in Nashville, you'd have thought Jesus came down. The place just lost it! And like all country singers he starts out, "Hi, I'm Clint Black." It's like we know who you are, there's no need to say your first and last name. People were just going crazy and he did 10 minutes strong."

After Clint's set people started to get up to leave, but the emcee returned to the stage. "You guys want to stay seated, we have another special guest," said the emcee. "Mister Jimmy Fallon! And the guy does an awesome 25 minutes. He kills. When he's done the emcee is like ‘Are you ready for your headliner? You may have been one of the dozen people to see him in a recent documentary...' "

If you can't remember that show, you're not alone. It was cancelled after just one broadcast. Since then, Ernst's been building his name in comedy and hoping to get his own tv show. He had a tv pilot last season that didn't get picked up and another the year before.

One of these days his luck is sure to turn. He may be living in Los Angeles these days, but he's got too much Jersey in him. We're all used to being kicked around, but we keep getting back up.

Don't miss Bret Ernst at Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club in Point Pleasant October 22-25

For more by this author, click here

NJPAC Presents Maria Bamford
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents stand-up Comedian Maria Bamford on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 8:00pm. The stand-up sensation starred in the semi-autobiographical Netflix comedy series Lady Dynamite, lauded as “revelatory” by Entertainment Weekly and one of 2016’s must-see shows by Variety and Rolling Stone.
Newton Theatre Presents Big Apple Comedy Club On January 18th
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Big Apple Comedy Club returns with four of New York City's freshest comedians for a show on Friday, January 18, 2019 at 8:00pm. The lineup includes Matthew Broussard, Chris Coccia, Drew Fraser, and Mike Speirs.  Don’t miss the chance to see these hilarious, high energy comics in action! Tickets start at just $19.
Patton Oswalt To Perform At Beacon Theatre
(NEW YORK, NY) --  Patton Oswalt will take the Beacon Theatre stage on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 7:30pm. A comedian, actor and writer, Patton Oswalt continues to find success in all areas of entertainment. From his award-winning comedy specials to his many memorable film roles and guest appearances on his favorite TV shows, Oswalt continues to choose work that inspires him and entertains audiences.
Craig Ferguson To Bring His Hobo Fabulous Tour To Mayo Performing Arts Center
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Craig Ferguson's Hobo Fabulous Tour comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, December 4 at 7:30pm. The show, which will be 100% new material, will never be recorded for any form of broadcast or streaming outlet given Mr. Ferguson's new (ironically) Luddite mistrust of digital technology. Tickets range from $49-$79.
NJPAC Presents Candice Guardino: Italian Bred
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) Presents Candice Guardino: Italian Bred on Saturday January 26 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Created, written by and starring Candice Guardino, Italian Bred is based on true-life events seen through the eyes of a little girl.

A Look At 2 Guys From Jersey
In issue 50, New Jersey Stage gave readers the opportunity to learn more about the writers who contribute to the magazine and the daily site. We’d like to give you the opportunity to learn more about the two shows that are featured in our magazine each month.  One is a podcast called 2 Guys From Jersey that runs a new episode every Wednesday. It involves Dr. D, Rocky, and Erin (a recent addition to the team) trying to settle trivial bar arguments that have plagued mankind for centuries.
"Legal Immigrant" Alan Cumming Brings His Cabaret To State Theatre New Jersey
It was the fall of 2008. Barack Obama had just been elected president. And Scottish-born actor Alan Cumming was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.
“Hysterical!” Gallagher LIVE! at The Strand Lakewood
Gallagher is joking with patrons in the lobby of Lakewood, NJ’s historic Strand Theater this Thursday, May 24, 2018 evening. In his audacious style, he’s grabbing cameras out of the hands of patrons who want to take great selfies with him, while also taking the time to sign T-shirts for stand-up comedy fans waiting for him at the merch table.
So You Want To Be A Comedian?
“I feel I have the kind of life where people think I’m making things up all of the time, but weirdness is kind of attracted to me,” said Jess Alaimo, a comedian from Monmouth County.  “So, I just go with whatever happens to me.”
The United States of Russia
Rutgers alum, Ben Rosenfeld released his third comedy album in January.  Entitled, The United States of Russia, the album was released by Comedy Dynamics and continues the Russia born, American raised comedian’s style of mixing tales of his immigrant parents and outsider childhood with topics ranging from millennials, terrorism, politics, and adjusting to life as a newlywed.  We caught up with Ben to talk about the album.

Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

View all events

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