Comedian Ross Bennett finds his voice with clean material
What: Stand-up comedians Jodi Miller and Ross Bennett
When: 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2
Where: The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Cost: Friday tickets range from $15-$25; Saturday tickets range from $19-$29
Comedian Ross Bennett, who will perform Friday and Saturday with fellow comedian Jodi Miller at the Egyptian Theatre, didn’t fully discover stand-up until he saw Steve Martin on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975.
Bennett was home for Christmas vacation during his first year at West Point, and as he watched the show, he was intrigued by the “Not Ready for Prime Time” players who included Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Gildra Radner.
Although Bennett had seen comedy of Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby on TV in the 1950s and 1960s, he didn’t connect with it until “SNL.”
“These people were two, three or four years younger than I am, and while I’m watching them, I realized they were like me, but having so much fun,” Bennett said.
A short while later, Bennett told his father, a Marine lieutenant colonel, that he wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
“It was like I told him I wanted to leave the human race to become a cloud,” Bennett said. “I mean, how do you process something like that?”
Bennett, who spent most of his youth in Deerfield Beach, Florida, committed to his decision, and after dropping out of West Point, wound up in Los Angeles in 1979.
“Stand-up comedy in the 1970s was like the Gold Rush in 1849,” he said. “There were hundreds of people in my generation who lived in the east and had to go west after it.”
Upon his arrival in the City of Angels, Bennett hit the Comedy Store to catch some acts.
“It was the second wave of stand-up and I saw George Miller, Skip Stevenson, Tom Drayson and Tommy Dark, along with David Letterman, Bob Saw and Robin Williams all on one bill,” he said. “I saw all of these guys on one show, and they would go on stage and beat the audience to death.
“It was wonderful.”
After seeing the show, Bennett embarked on a mission to find his comedic voice, which he says is geared toward a general audience by being clean.
“I’ve done cruise ships and people have come up to me and told me they like that I’m clean,” he said, “But then there was this one guy who said, ‘You’re OK, but I know you have some dirty stuff. Will you bring out that stuff later?’ And he’s saying this while he’s holding the hand of his 7-year-old daughter.”
Bennett, who has performed on Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn,” “Just for Laughs” comedy festival and “The Late Show with David Letterman,” understands in this day and age, comedians can say nearly anything they want on a comedy-club stage.
“But as time has gone one, I have found there are subjects, languages and tones that don’t serve my career,” he said. “When an audience comes to see me, say in Park City, some have seen me or have heard me on Sirius XM or saw my special and Dry Bar. But there are people who don’t know me, and I want to entertain people who are sitting in front of me.”
To make his audience laugh, Bennett culls ideas from his personal life, including family and experiences.
“I teach a class called ‘Stand-Up Comedy Boot Camp’ in New York, and my theory is in order to become the most authentic presence on stage, you have to work from your personal sense of humor,” he said.
In order to do that, Bennett tells his students to go through their lives with a notepad. “When you see something that makes you smile, you jot that down,” he said. “Now, that’s not the joke. It’s just the genesis of the joke that adds an authenticity and cohesiveness in their unique comedy personalities.”
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