The Record

While growing up in the Haworth a generation ago, Johnny Lampert dreamed about being profiled as "Athlete of the Week" in The Record.

"My goal in life was for Charlie (Charlie McGill, since retired) to draw me," Lampert said. "That's all I wanted."

Lampert, who distinguished himself on Demarest's Northern Valley Regional High School track and field team in the shot put, came close. "I took second for Athlete of the Week once," he said. "Some girl threw three shutouts in softball that week." Lampert, who now lives in Rockland County, graduated from Boston University with a business degree in 1986 and caught the comedy bug after stepping onto a Manhattan club stage during an open-mike night.

"It was just something that clicked with me," Lampert said. "It was apparent from that moment on that I would be a comedian."

While coming of age, Lampert, 39, never thought about comedy. He was into sports. His father, Stanley, was an All-City Basketball player in Brooklyn, and broke the world shot put record in 1954.

"He held the record for about three weeks," Lampert said.

"That's very impressive."

Lampert was following in his father's footsteps. During his freshman year at Boston, he suffered a herniated disc while lifting weights. "Just like that, I was retired," he said. "I had been an athlete all my life and all of a sudden I had no direction."

After school, Lampert would occasionally pass the time at Boston comedy clubs.

"lt had an effect on me," he said. "l remember seeing one of Bobcat Goldthwait's early shows. It was great. There was something about comedy which connected with me. But it didn't really hit me until I tried it in New York."

Toward the end of 1986, Lampert decided to give comedy a shot. He shared the stage with such fledgling comics as Jon Stewart and Dave Attell. When you start out, you're usually either cerebral and not funny or dirty," Lampert said. "I tried to be dirty, and then I found out that I wasn't so shocking, since so many others were doing what I was doing."

By 1994, Lampert found his voice, and he started rendering self-deprecating material. He called himself "the sponge" for living off his parents, which he did until he was 31. "Once I tapped into who I was, I found that I had a wealth of material," Lampert said. "I was mining gold every night" In 1995, Lampert had a development deal with Disney.

A sitcom never panned out. Nevertheless, he got face time on MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour, Comedy Central, HBO Comedy Showcase and "Caroline's Comedy Hour" on A&E.

"It was fun being on TV," Lampert said. "I would love a sitcom, but we'll see what happens. But I'm happy as long as I have a stage to perform on."

These days, Lampert, who will perform tonight and Saturday at Laugh City in East Hanover, pokes fun at his life as a married father of a 5 year-old. "You have a kid, you have a lot of material," he said. "I have a lot to talk about when I go onstage."

-Ed Condran