Written by Jeanne Crump
Vinnie Brand is a comedian. And a funny one at that. He owns New Brunswick’s Stress Factory comedy club, has appeared on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Comedy Central, and is hoping to debut his very own TV show on Nickelodeon this winter.
But he’s also on the Board of Education in his hometown of Middletown, NJ, is a father to five, and is helping the Middletown Arts Center raise money to support their cultural and musical programming. In between hanging signs for his upcoming board election, he gave us the scoop on his comedic (and real life) adventures.
Pop-Break: Tell us a little about the fundraiser event coming up this Sunday. What prompted you to host this event?
Vinnie Brand: Well, I’m a Middletown resident, and a comic, and a big supporter of my town. I was born and raised here. The Mayor asked me to do a fundraiser and of course I said yes. The Middletown Arts Center is a great place and they put on great programming. My attitude was simple: If they need to raise money I’ll help them.
PB: Being a Middletown native, tell us a little about the Middletown Arts Center and why you think it’s an important organization to support.
VB: I like live performance and I like that kids can be inspired by live performance. If what I’m doing can help support the people of my town who might not have a larger audience, or the ability to get out there and do the things they love, how could I not support that? It’s a beautiful building and they really have great programming. There is a guy who is opening for me, Mike O’Keefe, and he does wonderful programming for the kids, such as learning programs. There are so many things I love that they do there and so many things I want to keep alive. Now, money for the arts is tighter than it’s ever been, so I definitely support the arts and what the arts center is doing.
PB: You’ve been described as a civic leader in Middletown. What other types of volunteering or activist work do you do?
VB: Well I’m on the Board of Education, and as we speak I’m driving around putting up signs for my election on the board this year. I’ve been on the board for 3 years, and we’ve got a lot of great things done. We were able to build new fields for the kids, a new curriculum, and have great teaching staff with a lot of new innovation in teaching. Education is changing almost daily and we have great administrators and great teachers who are contributing to that. So I’m on the board of people who help get these things done.
PB: What’s coming up on your calendar this winter?
VB: I have a television show going into development with the TV network Nickelodeon Mom. We hope to get that on the air in early 2014. I’m a very funny family-oriented comic, but it’s not boring at all. Nickelodeon saw it and wanted it on their network. I’ll be the only guy on the network. My wife was very happy to hear that.
I’m also in the midst of finishing another TV show with Jim Breuer and Bob Marley that we’re hoping to find a network for. When I’m not at shows in the city or coaching soccer, you can catch me at the Stress Factory. What I’m having a lot of fun doing right now is creating shows.
PB: What up and coming comedians should we catch at the Stress Factory before they’re too famous to see in an intimate setting?
VB: You know it’s funny because we have so many great comics, and it’s a loaded question because we just had Whitney Cummings, Amy Schumer, and we may have an appearance coming up with Chris Rock. But, as for up and coming comics, Dan Shoder is very, very funny. Brett Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco are two phenomenal comics. And of course, Vinnie Brand, haha. Really anyone on my club should be seen. I don’t bring comedians in unless they’re really funny, and I mean that. Oh, Carli Aquilino, Chris DeStefano, and Jessimae Peluso are three comics that I absolutely adore. They’re going to be big.
You can catch Vinnie Brand this Sunday, September 29th at the Middletown Arts Center. Doors open at 7 pm. All proceeds from the event will go to the arts center.General admission is $20.