Steve Cooper, CooperTalk
Adam Ferrara talks comedy career and new podcast
You may know Adam Ferrara from television shows like “Rescue Me’, “Nurse Jackie” or from being the host of “Top Gear USA” but he got his start in the world of stand-up comedy. He is an internationally touring headliner, who has had three Comedy Central specials and appeared on all the late night talk shows. He currently is on tour and if you want to take a ride to Point Pleasant this weekend he will be performing at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club. I recently had a nice hour long chat with him and here are some of the things we talked about.
How did you get into comedy?
Basically what happened was, Marist College was 2 1/2 hours from Long Island so I would drive home and back. I drove home and I worked every weekend at a fence company. I was driving forklifts and digging holes and putting up sheds and stuff like that. I was working with funny people. I was working with Joe Curry who is a comic now and Anthony Cumia from the “Opie and Anthony Show”. Having a sense of humor was very coveted in my neighborhood because we don’t have anything else. You know, making people laugh was something that was valued in the in the circles I ran in and I always wanted to try it. So I got out of college and I told my parents, “Well, we’ve done one of your things and now I’m going to try one of mine” and I went to an open mic. It was Wednesday night at the Eastside Comedy Club in Long Island on Jericho Turnpike. I made the mistake of telling my mother I was going to do it, and my mother was the original Twitter. You tell her something and she tells the world. So the entire neighborhood showed up because I was a funny kid. I didn’t know it but I was. It was just what us kids do. Kids don’t know, they just do. So I was a funny kid and I loved comedy.
Under my bed was the Carlin albums, Richard Pryor albums and one of the first Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. I would always make people laugh on a school bus purely as a defense mechanism so I wouldn’t get beat up, and then when I told my mother I was going to an open-mic, the whole neighborhood showed up. So they sold out this little club and I was nervous as hell. I’m on stage and before I could say anything, a cousin or someone said something. So my five minutes was just making fun of him and everybody, so I killed it. And that’s when I got the bug.
What was your experience on “Late Night with David Letterman”?
What happened was I got very lucky because I was one of the only guys that did both. You know, I got to do The Tonight Show and Letterman and usually you only get to do one. I think I had done the Tonight Show first. I did it a bunch of times. I did it with Jay (Leno) and I did a couple with Jimmy (Fallon) and I was too young to do it with Carson. So I did them with Jay and with Jimmy, and I did Arsenio and then I got the Letterman set. The first time I got bumped. So my parents come into the city from Long Island. Now you gotta understand people coming in from Long Island to the city is like a pilgrimage, you know? Italians don’t travel well. They paint the basement red and green and they put a kitchen in and they live in their own basement and they don’t travel. Columbus had to go to Spain to get the ships. It goes back for centuries. So they came all the way into the city. Eddie Brill was booking the comics at the time. He was a friend of mine, so he got my mom and dad in early and it’s the Ed Sullivan Theater. The Beatles were on that freaking stage. I’m over the moon, right? So I’m standing there in rehearsal. Eddie brings me out and shows it to me, and I look up and my dad had gray hair, a shock of gray hair and they’re sitting front row on the balcony. This is rehearsal and my father gives me the thumbs up as I see him sitting there. So I go back in and I get bumped. I guess they ran out of time, so Dave says, “Adam Ferrara...we can’t find him. He jumped in a cab. We don’t know where he is, so we’re gonna have him back, alright?” Eddie brings my parents backstage. My mother’s loud and my father’s loud. They walk into the collective green room with everybody around. My mother comes walking in, “Will somebody tell me what the freak just happened?” I said, “Ma, calm down. They ran out of time.” and she said, “But we’re here. I’m not coming back. Let’s do this.” I eventually did do the gig another time.
What was one of the crazy things you did on “Top Gear”?
Second episode in I jumped a 1976 Coupe DeVille about 40 feet in the air. Didn’t mean to do it. Here’s what happened. We were shooting an episode with retracing the roots of NASCAR.
Moonshining. That’s where it came from. So we had to pick a car to run moonshine, and I picked the 76 Coupe DeVille because listen to me, what else should I be driving? So I get this big car, and do you know the reason I picked that car? I figure if we’re gonna be in the woods doing stuff, we’re probably gonna have to sleep in the cars and I know I can lay out in that car. I know I can lay out in the back seat so that’s why I got it because that thing was a monster. So I got this Coupe DeVille and one of the challenges we had was there was a motocross track, this little off-road track and the moonshiners would evade the police by going through the woods so we had to go on the motor-cross track. So I’m looking at it and I’m like it’s not gonna make that, it’s not gonna make that, the big girl is gonna get stuck here. And right before you go up this little ramp, this little dirt bike ramp, where you’re supposed to go up and over and everything, there’s water. You gotta go through water. And I’m like, if I get stuck in that water, there’s no way I’m gonna get out and come up that hill. So I just put my foot on the floor and hung on and I lifted and it turns and I was still sliding this thing around. It’s on bald tires. It’s old and tired, but it’s giving me everything it’s got. I punched it going right through the water and I go up the ramp and all of a sudden it got real quiet...for a long time. And we were shooting in North Carolina, and way off in the distance I hear, “Yee Haw”! Then BOOM! I hit the ground and I bent the whole front clip of the car. You can see it online. It’s called “Flying Coupe DeVille”, and it’s bent. I bent the whole thing. There was not one jar of moonshine that survived it all. It all cracked and everything broke. And then the stunt driver came up to me afterwards and his face was all white. He just looked at me went, “Duuuuude!”
Tell me about your new podcast.
It’s called “30 Minutes You’ll Never Get Back”. Here’s basically the show in a nutshell. When I was a kid the best night sleep so I ever had is when I was upstairs and I heard my mom and dad and their friends downstairs laughing. Don’t know why that always brought me comfort. So I started with a feeling. That’s the feeling I wanna communicate in this podcast because they’re important to me on the road because they keep me company. So my show opens with me, my wife, my best friend and my producer pal talking about a topic that connects to a one on one interview that I’ve done with the celebrity. And then like any group of friends we talk about them when they leave. So then we do another 15 minutes about, “Did you hear when Nathan Lane said that”, you know, so it’s like you’re coming over my house, somebody comes over and then we talk about it when they leave. So that’s the whole show. And I’ve been so fortunate to have such a wide array of guests of people that I want to talk to. I mean, like I mentioned Nathan Lane did one for me, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Ann Wilson from Heart, Gabriel Iglesias and Brian Regan has done a couple. So I get to talk to all the people I want. I even had an FBI agent that worked on the (Ted) Bundy case. I had him on and that was creepy. I had Katie Coleman, the astronaut on. She lived in a space station for six months and she plays the flute. She was in space and she played the flute with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. He’s on earth, she’s in space and they’re doing a duet! I’ve done nothing with my life.