The Naperville Sun

For Johnny Lampert, comedy is serious business. "I like to shoot high," explained the New York comedian. "You only hear about the people who make it.”

He hopes to make it with his one-man show, Separation Anxiety, a semi-autobiographical presentation which gives structure to his stand-up routine about living at home. Separation Anxiety will be presented this weekend at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Naperville.

“It's standup with a beginning and an end. It's an outgrowth of my act - an adult who lives at home with his parents," he said during a recent telephone interview. It's a fuller view of my humor."

Yes, Lampert still resides in New Jersey with his parents, which provides much of the humor for the show.

"After college I came home and got very comfortable. I thought, I may never live this way again.' My parents are well-to-do, so I might as well take advantage of it.

"Now I feel like I can't leave. That would ruin everything. Now there's no guilt involved; it's part of my profession."

Lampert was not the class clown or even interested in becoming a comedian as a kid growing up in New Jersey, "the Garden State, where they grow tumors and cysts." He liked basketball - until realizing his mother's diminutive stature (which is why he calls her Dr. Ruth) meant finding another career. In high school he was a shot-putter.

While attending Boston University, he would go to comedy clubs, which began to fascinate him.

"Every time I saw it I wanted to do it," Lampert said. “I began writing things down. I became more interested in doing it than watching it."

In 1986 he debuted during an open mike night at a New York City club. Since then he's been bitten by "the bug."

“I gain confidence as I go along. That was at a time when comedy was at its peak. It seemed more feasible (to succeed) than to new guys coming along now."

At first his routine consisted of the usual comedic material, such as dating. Then, while playing basketball with a friend, the friend came up a suggestion.

He said, 'Talk about your life - it's funnier than your material.' He must have said that five or six times, and it must have finally clicked. As soon as I began to explore aspects of my life, (the supply was) inexhaustible."

That was four years ago, and Separation Anxiety has developed from that idea. Thankfully, his parents are good sports, particularly when Lampert reels off such jokes as, "My dad asked me, 'You're 30 years old. When are you moving out? I said, ‘I was going to ask you the same thing. You're 65, you get out.’”

They've seen different versions of this," Lampert said. They liked it a lot. As long as it's funny, they don't care."

The show has enjoyed successful runs in both New York City and Washington, D.C. Lampert also has appeared on HBO Comedy Showcase and Caroline's Comedy Hour on the A&E network. He recently had a development deal with Walt Disney Television which “lined my pockets" but didn't produce a show, Lampert said. He is still working with others on a possible television deal.

He'd also like to write screenplays. Right now, though, he wants to work on his one- man show to the point where it's drawing well.

“It's my vision," he said. "People may not remember my name, but they’ll remember, “That’s the guy who's at home.' It makes me feel unique."

As for his love life, he does have a girlfriend, of whom he describes as too understanding for her own good. However, she does have reservations about moving in "She seems to have a problem with it. I don't know why. I told her, 'I'd be happy to marry you if you move into my room. Otherwise, I’ve got three meals a day and snacks -I’m not movin’.”

-Brian Kleeman