The New York ResidentOlympic Jokester - After Losing His Athletic Dreams, Johnny Lampert Makes It Big in New York Comedy.
As a high-school student, Johnny Lampert had ambitions of making the Olympics. He had the pedigree - his father, Stan, held the world record for the shot put in 1954. Unfortunately, a herniated disc shelved the younger Lampert's Olympic hopes.
Now Lampert is back performing in front of big houses - Manhattan's comedy-clubs. Lampert performed recently on Comedy Central's "Premium Blend" and is a regular at the city's top clubs, including the World Famous Comic Strip, where he headlined the Christmas Eve extravaganza "Moo Shoo Meshuginas," a show he also produced. "He's very funny," says Greg Judge, the Strip's talent director. "He's like the guy next door. He has very broad appeal."
Before he started chucking out one-liners, Lampert was an all-county shot-putter at Demarest High School in New Jersey, winning a partial scholarship to Boston University. After his injury, Lampert floated through business classes, uncertain of his true calling.
When he returned home, Lampert gave stand-up a shot. At first, he mostly performed juvenile, ribald material on dating. "I'd say I'm into what I call fantabation," Lampert quipped to audiences. "It’s sort of a combination between fantasy and masturbation. It makes things real easy because if I ask a girl out and she says no, I say, 'Look, babe, I'm gonna have you either way, so you might as well be there.'"
Eventually, a friend prodded Lampert to do material on his living situation - living at home with no plans of moving out. " A lot of people thought I was a loser when I lived at home, but somebody has to be there when the cable guy shows up." Lampert told audiences. "You needed a UPS package signed for, I was your man. I was home all day watering plants, feeding cafe, talking to Jehovah's Witnesses. If they wanted to talk, they made a big mistake with me. I'd convert them!”
Almost immediately, the routine caught on. In 1995, Lampert was selected for Montreal's "Just For Laughs" comedy festival, which spawned the careers of such luminaries as Kevin James. In comic parlance, Lampert "killed" in Montreal and Walt Disney Television signed him to a lucrative development deal to develop a sitcom around his act.
Back home, everyone wasn't thrilled with Lampert's living situation, though. Specifically, his girlfriend, Debbie, a former travel agent with beauty-queen looks, wanted him out of his parent's house.
Lampert relented and they married and moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Nyack. It wasn't long before Lampert began riffing on marriage. "My wife and I still look at each other like the day we met - like two perfect strangers who think they could do way better," Lampert often tells audiences. The marital material earned him other spots in "Just For Laughs" in 2001, 2004 and 2007.
Nowadays, Lampert resides in a Rockland County house with Debbie and their two children. While he looks like the typical responsible adult to the outside world, part of Lampert remains - and probably will always be - that guy living at home.
In the basement of his modest three-bedroom home, Lampert keeps what he refers to as "the bunker” a little bed, a small lamp and dresser. On his bed stand, he keeps a fresh stash - of comic books. 'It's almost like living at home again," Lampert says wistfully. "I knew then that in many ways those were the best years of my life."
- Ben Seiden is contributing writer to New York Resident