New York Post

STAND-UP comedy is not for the meek. Though some crack and quip their way to a hit TV commercial, sitcom or movie, that shot at the big time can be years in the making.

Rodney "No Respect" Dangerfield, who quit the business at 28, returned at 40, and didn't appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show" until he was 45.

Even Tim Allen spent nearly 10 years doing comedy before he launched into comedy heaven's "Home Improvement" in 1991, at age 38.

Jerry Seinfeld landed on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" in 1981, but didn't wind up in prime time until eight years later, when "The Seinfeld Chronicles" pilot hit the air.

What are the next big comics doing in the mean time? Sharpening their lines in New York's comedy clubs, of course.

Gotham is a veritable laugh riot of up-and-coming funny folks trying to joke and hustle their way to fame. Here is the best of them:

Johnny Lampert
Age: 35
Residence: Rockland County, New York
Biggest break: Being chosen for Montreal Comedy Fest
Dream: To have his own sitcom

Johnny Lampert is "the sponge" - the kind who still lives with his parents at age 35, much to his embarrassment. So he tells dates, "Look, when we get home, keep it down. I'm renting to some old people."

Lampert's concerned about getting too successful, after being tapped to perform in July at Montreal's "Just for Laughs" festival. "If you make it big, you have to go to Los Angeles, be in movies, TV," he jokes. "Who's to say my parents are willing to relocate?"

At The Comic Strip, Lampert talks about having enough time to convert Jehovah's Witnesses and going to doctors he doesn't need to see.

His dad sometimes asks, "What are you going to do when we're dead?"

"First," Lampert responds, "I'm going to move into the big bedroom. Then, I'll take the plastic off the furniture."

-Dan Kadison