NEW YORK, NY — Richie Byrne, known for crowd-pleasing hilarity as the warmup comic for “The Dr. Oz Show,” is returning to his longtime roots at one of the world’s most iconic clubs in the world, hosting a new comedy showcase at Dangerfield’s in New York City.
The show, “Richie Byrne & Friends at Dangerfield’s NYC,” is presented by Soul Joel Productions and debuts on Wednesday, March 11 at 8 p.m. The club is located at 1118 1st Avenue at E. 61 Street.
Hosted by Byrne, the lineup also includes headliner Shuli Egar and features comics Mike Kegan, Melissa Diaz and Brendan Donegan. Tickets cost $20. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets, click here.
The showcase is the next chapter for Byrne, who has taken the stage at a glittering array of New York’s most notable comedy venues, including not just Dangerfield’s, but also, Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club. He has also headlined many clubs around the country including Hilarities in Cleveland, The Ice House in Pasadena, The Borgata in Atlantic City as well as the Tropicana in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
His comedy television credits include Comedy Central, VH1, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”, “Good Day New York” and “Gotham Live” on AXS-TV. Other daytime warm-up credits include “The Rachael Ray Show”, “The Chew”, “The Jane Pauley Show” and the sitcom “Murphy Brown”.
Byrne has also spent time pursuing his passion for acting, both on the stage and screen, with high-profile credits including “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and “Conviction,” as well as the feature film “Good-bye Baby”. His variety show, “The Richie Byrne Show,” is a spot-on meld of theater, Broadway, comedy sketches and big band grandeur.
Dangerfield’s, however, represents a true homecoming, Byrne said. “It’s legendary,” he told Patch.
The world-renowned comedy club, “often imitated, never duplicated,” according to the Dangerfield’s website, has been voted # 1 Comedy Club in America and is said to be the longest running comedy club in the world, with 50 years of legends and memories.
Visitors walking through the door, under a caricature of famed comedian Rodney Dangerfield and his signature words, “I don’t get no respect,” enter a space where comedy greats including Jay Leno, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Andrew Dice Clay, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and so many more have graced the iconic stage.
“There’s definitely a sense of making it, when you say, ‘I’m playing Dangerfield’s,'” Byrne said.
Byrne remembers being a young actor in the 80s doing dinner theater in Pennsylvania when a friend told him about Rodney Dangerfield’s Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special, which debuted on HBO in August, 1985, and spotlighted an array of talent including Dangerfield, Sam Kinison, Rita Rudner, Bob Nelson, Bob Sagat, Louie Anderson and many other rising stars.
“I saw that show — I wasn’t even a comedian yet — and it was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in comedy. I remember thinking, ‘God, I want to do that.'”
And in the years after, Byrne did end up working his act at Dangerfield’s. “The first time I was onstage there, it was very, very scary. I kept thinking about that HBO special and who had been on that stage,” he said.
It was about 7 years after the HBO special he’d seen that Byrne got “passed” at Dangerfield’s, given the proverbial golden ticket to join the ranks of a glittering who’s who in comedy. “It was the first real club that I got passed at and I’ve consistently worked there ever since. The one constant in my career is that I’ve always worked Dangerfield’s. In a lot of ways, it’s my home club,” he said.
And then, recently, longtime owner Tony Bevacqua, who established the club with Dangerfield, and manager Mohammad Hasan contacted Byrne about producing his own show at Dangerfield’s. “To walk in that club, to get on that stage, to host my own showcase, it’s a great honor,” he said. “When they contacted me to do this, it just seemed like a no brainer.”
Describing his vision for the show, Byrne said he hopes the crowd will come to see, not only him, but a new lineup of great talent at every event, including up-and- coming new performers and some who are established headliners such as Shuli Egar.
Over the years, Byrne said he has worked at Dangerfield’s with new comics who’ve evolved into the next generation of heavy hitters, including Jim Gaffigan and Jim Norton.
Today, he feels honored to help shepherd a new generation of comics into Dangerfield’s. “The way I felt when I first got on that stage, hopefully, I can give that to young comics. The only difference is when I started, Rodney was alive,” Byrne said.
The memories of Dangerfield echo in Byrne’s rich stories about the comedy legend and the club he created. He speaks with reverence of meeting Joe Ancis, Dangerfield’s best friend and the man Lenny Bruce said “changed everything” in his career. “Lenny loved him,” Byrne said.
But when he first met Ancis, Byrne said, “I never knew any of this. To me, Joe Ancis was the nice old man who came downstairs to talk.”
One day, there was a private show, and Rodney Dangerfield showed up and invited all the regulars, Byrne said. “When everyone else left, Rodney Dangerfield hung out with us,” he said.
Dangerfield told Byrne that Ancis had been watching his act and reporting back to him — and then, Dangerfield proceeded to give him some tips. “He told me, ‘You’re one of Joe’s favorites,'” Byrne said. “That meant a lot to me. And I told Rodney — we were drinking, all of us — ‘I got drunk with Rodney Dangerfield. Now I can retire.’ And Rodney said, ‘You should.’ That made me laugh. I got zinged by Rodney Dangerfield.”
Byrne’s stories of Dangerfield’s are laced with the names of comedy greats. There was the night a young comic was bemoaning his fate because he bombed in front of George Carlin. “George Carlin told him, ‘You think you bombed tonight? I’ve had entire arenas get up and walk out on me. That’s bombing. Tonight was nothing. When you have entire arenas walk out on you, call me.’ It was so classy of George Carlin to do that,” he said.
Reflecting on the years since he first walked through the door at Dangerfield’s, Byrne said, “I’ve probably been working there longer than anyone who’s there performing now.” And, he added, “Dangerfield’s is timeless. They haven’t changed a thing since they opened.”
Egar spoke with Patch about headlining Byrne’s first showcase at the iconic spot: “Dangerfield’s is a legendary club in New York, one of the staples for comedy — at least, for me. When I got into comedy, I saw Andrew Dice Clay on Rodney’s special, Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld. You name them, they all played this stage. It’s like The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. For me to be able to get on the stage, the hallowed grounds of comedy where giants once roamed, it’s amazing. You can feel the energy.”
Hasan said he’s known Byrne for more than 20 years and is thrilled to have him back home at Dangerfield’s. “Richie was a regular back in the day.” Hasan personally called Byrne and asked him to produce a show at the club. “I like Richie. I like his jokes. He’s very professional. He knows what to do with the audience. I like him as a comic, and I like him as a friend. I wish him luck.”
And, he added, owner Bevacqua is a big fan of Byrne’s. “The boss wanted Richie to come back to the club. He loves Richie.”
Joel Richardson, the force behind Soul Joel Productions, said the show, which all hope will become a monthly event, is a great opportunity for Byrne. “Dangerfield’s is an iconic comedy club in New York. It’s always great to showcase your talent in New York City.” And, he said, it’s a great chance for fans to see not just Byrne but other powerhouse headliners such as Egar performing together in Manhattan.
“When you get to New York, a part of you comes to life,” Richardson said.
With his own show bringing new lineups of comics to the legendary stage, Byrne said: “I feel almost a little bit like I’m carrying on what Rodney did on HBO in the 80s. If you had told me 30 years ago when I was first starting out in comedy that I would someday be bringing a show to Dangerfield’s, I would have felt that I’d really accomplished something in this business.”