Catch a Rising Star Back in Area With Mike Marino and Bobby Collins

Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Supplied

 

Catch a Rising Star comedy is back in Southern Ocean County and, significantly, Beach Haven’s Surflight Theatre.

A Catch a Rising Star favorite, “New Jersey’s Bad Boy” Mike Marino, will appear at Surflight Monday, Aug. 7, at 8:30 p.m. Then another Catch regular, Bobby Collins, will do a show at Little Egg Harbor’s Sea Oaks Golf Club at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10.

Founded in 1972, the original Catch a Rising Star comedy club in New York City was legendary, helping to launch the careers of iconic comics such as Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Joy Behar, Andy Kaufman, Ray Romano, Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler.

The comedy club craze of the 1970s and 1980s, spurred in a large part by “Saturday Night Live,” finally burned out. Catch a Rising Star moved to another NYC location but struggled and eventually closed, although it had spread to Las Vegas.

Enter Suzy Yengo, a Jersey City native who spent her youthful summers on LBI. She went off to Boston University where she majored in public relations, returned to Jersey and worked as a fundraiser for St. Clare’s Hospital in NYC and for the Bronx Zoo and then, at the tender age of 23, became the special events coordinator at the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant, where she remained for 18 years. She took time off to study entertainment law at New York Law School, became Suzy Yengo, Esq., ended up managing the European tour of the Chippendales and became “a small investor” in Catch a Rising Star. When the comedy club chain’s president, Stan Bernstein, passed away she became Catch a Rising Star’s CEO in 2006.

Her base has been at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, but she spread out to Reno, Rhode Island and Maine. Her primary goal was always to “have the biggest comedy footprint in New Jersey” so it was only natural that, having spent her summers on LBI as a girl, even managing Beach Haven’s Turquoise Tepee at the age of 15, that she found a home at Surflight Theatre earlier this decade, bringing in comics such as Kevin Meany, Pat Cooper, Colin Quinn, Ben Bailey, Caroline Rhea, Judy Gold, Josh Blue, Jim Breuer, Uncle Floyd and, perhaps most memorably, Gilbert Gottfried.

Of course bankruptcy forced Surflight to close the past couple of years. But Yengo never left the area. She moved her shows to a rather unusual venue on LBI, the Jewish Community Center, and to off-Island locations such as the Stafford Township Arts Center and Sea Oaks.

She’s thrilled to be back at Surflight, however, considering it is just about the perfect size for her shows.

Mike Marino, like Yengo, is a Jersey City native. He’s an actor, having appeared in over 200 national TV ads and on television shows such as “As the World Turns,” “One Life to Live,” “Becker,” “Frasier,” and “Party of Five” as well as movies such as “Crooks,” “Pizza With Bullets,” “Hangin’ in Hedo” and Steven King’s “Lucky Quarter.” But he’s best known as a comic, having appeared in clubs, theaters and event centers across the United States and around the world.

Marino’s shtick is based on his Italian and Jersey heritage, thus his nickname.

“When I was growing up in New Jersey coming from an Italian family with blonde hair and blue eyes we had a hard time convincing everybody that we were Italian. We always proved that we were Italian by saying ‘OK, I’m 45 years old and I’m still living at home, that’s Italian.’”

Bobby Collins was a high fashion salesman in the 1980s, advancing to be a vice president at Calvin Klein. But at the same time he was launching a comedy career at – you guessed it – Catch a Rising Star in New York. Comedy won out, and he quit his day job to become a full-time comedian. It apparently worked out considering he soon did about 200 stand-up gigs a year, opened for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Cher, Tony Bennett and Dolly Parton, performed alongside friends such as Chris Rock, Ray Romano and Drew Carey, and appeared on TV with David Letterman, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, earning the reputation of being a “comic’s comic.”

Having moved to California, the NYC-born comic derives much of his humor these days by comparing the coasts.

“Oh, it’s good to be on the East Coast again. It really is, it really is, we’ve got the same sensibilities. I love California, these people – oh, this is taped. Nice people (rolling his eyes), not that high up on Brain Mountain. The big thing out in LA, they found a tiny sliver, a tip of a finger, in a Wendy’s fast food restaurant. Every news channel for two weeks – ‘is it a male finger, a female?’ I’m from New York City, I once found a head in my baked macaroni and cheese. We know the rules – ‘eat around it!’”

Tickets for the Mike Marino show at Surflight are $24.50 and may be purchased online at surflight.org, by phone at 609-492-9477, or at the box office.

Tickets for the Bobby Collins show at the Sea Oaks Golf Club are $35 and can be purchased by phone at 609-987-8018 or 856-776-0993. Part of the proceeds benefit NJ Freemasons, 20th Masonic District.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

 

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