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Billy Portman in a scene from the 1994 short film ‘No Time,’ directed by Darren Aronofsky. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


After his mic-drop win in the Red Bank Democratic primary last month, Billy Portman enters the general election campaign as – in all likelihood – the first mayoral candidate in borough history with an IMDB listing and a “filthy” rap record on his résumé.

It turns out the 53-year-old building contractor/cover-band singer has had a long involvement in comedy and films, too.

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The cast of ‘The Dining Room’ is mostly under the table as the Monmouth Players present A.R. Gurney’s engagingly experimental ensemble comedy for six performances.

When last we looked in on the Monmouth Players, that longest-running of all area community stage troupes was offering up a holiday-season production of A Long Christmas Dinner, a Thornton Wilder playlet in which a single dining room serves as the setting for a century’s worth of action, with a small cast playing multiple generations of characters in the life of an American home.

When the players resume their Season of Classics this weekend (their 63rd overall, if you can wrap your head around that), it will find them still lurking about the dining room — or more precisely, The Dining Room, an ensemble “comedy of manners” that packs its own playfully experimental edge.

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tracy-morgan-mag-1Tracy Morgan brings his standup act to the Count Basie stage for two shows Friday night.

“I’ve tapped into something, man, that nobody else can talk about,” Tracy Morgan said in an interview with a national wire service earlier this year. “I went to the other side and came back bearing gifts… and I’m gonna share all those gifts with my fans.”

In case you missed the headline-making news, the Emmy nominated cast member of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock was referencing his near-death experience in a June, 2014, limo crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, an accident that killed his friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, and left Morgan comatose with multiple injuries, necessitating a lengthy process of physical therapy and speech rehabilitation.

Undaunted, the Bronx-born “cringe comic” (and co-star of films like Cop Out and the forthcoming Fist Fight) has taken to the road once more on a route that leads to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night.

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kathy-griffin-at-tyler-shieldsKathy Griffin, the flame-haired comic with the celeb-roasting style, returns to Red Bank for a Friday night funny-fight at the Basie. (Photo by Tyler Shields)

She’s got a trophy case full of accolades — including two Emmys and a Grammy — but Kathy Griffin didn’t get where she is by making nice with the targets of her comic flamethrowing.

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Food Network star Alton Brown takes the Count Basie stage for a presentation that just might get a bit messy.

morsels smallThe last time the Count Basie Theatre designated a “splatter zone” in the front seats was during the farewell tour of the notorious melon-mauling comedian Gallagher. But when the TV personality and best-selling author Alton Brown visits the venerable venue this Wednesday night, the patrons in row A (and maybe B and C) will sit duly forewarned — while the plastic ponchos, we are assured, will be “larger and more protective.”

The occasion is the Red Bank whistle-stop of Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science, an audience-engaging stage presentation that the Food Network star is in the process of bringing to some 40 U.S. cities.  More →


David Cross“Making America Great Again” has been a rallying cry for more than one TV-tested public speaker this season — and if there are, as suggested, two Donald Trumps, then there must be as many iterations of David Cross as the market will bear.

Back on the road for his first large-scale standup tour since 2009, Cross backs the campaign bus up to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for an appearance Wednesday night.

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Repeat Basie favorite Kathleen Madigan returns to Red Bank for an encore Saturday evening. Here’s a sample bit

Long before there was an internet bubble and a housing bubble, there was a comedy bubble — the Comedy Explosion, they called it back in the 1980s, when a hole-in-the-wall “chuckle hut” sprouted up in every other vacant storefront, and when even Monmouth Street in Red Bank boasted two brick-wall standup spots at one brief point in time.

While the explosion became an implosion before long, the wreckage produced a hardy new crop of savvy young performers — among them a cheerfully cheeky native of St. Louis named Kathleen Madigan.

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  rbhs theater 020615 4rbhs theater 020615 3Now playing in the lobby display case at Red Bank borough hall: photos of Red Bank High School thespians, believed to have been taken in the 1950s.

The exhibit, the latest in a series of works by RBHS photography teacher Anthony Trufolo, was assembled by volunteers from the public library, and spotlights kids in rehearsal, getting ready backstage and hitting their marks at showtime.

We’ve got lots more after the ‘read more.’ Do you know any of these folks? (Photos of photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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sinbadDavid “Sinbad” Adkins brings his famously family friendly (yet still somehow engagingly edgy) brand of comedy back to the Count Basie for an umpteenth encore this Friday night. 

His major motion picture career (Houseguest, First Kid, Jingle All the Way) is largely behind him — although apparently so are the multi-million dollar financial woes that dogged his highest-profile years. But for the standup stalwart known as Sinbad, the live stage is his first and foremost port of call, an environment in which his signature style of observational, often stream-of-conscious humor works in sync with broad-based audiences in theater-scale venues that he continues to fill from coast to coast.

Here on the greater Green, the venue of choice is the venerable Count Basie Theatre — and it’s to the Basie boards that Sinbad returns for a repeat engagement Friday night, with a set that promises a full-length dose of clean, yet cutting comedy.

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on borrowed time 4‘On Borrowed Time’ continues its run at the Two River Theater, above. Judith Krall Russo, below, talks tea and women in history at the Eastern Branch Monmouth County Library Saturday. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, September 27:

SONY DSCSHREWSBURY: Alexander Saulon leads a discussion about social media sites and how to use Skype and Facebook to stay connected with family and friends at the Monmouth County Eastern Branch Library. The discussion begins at 11 a.m. 1001 Route 35 North.

RED BANK: Keep up with the Jonzes at the Walt Street Pub for some Friday night entertainment. The Jonzes are sure to please with their eclectic musical range from heavy metal to reggae, pop, dance, and more. The music begins at 8 p.m. 180 Monmouth Street.

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The orchestra seats have been covered in plastic at the Count Basie for tonight’s appearance by fruit-smashing comedian Gallagher. Still: pity the housekeeping crew. Troubador Pat Guadagno, below, is at Jamian’s Saturday. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, August 8:

SHREWSBURY: Take a ride over to the Monmouth County Eastern Branch Library as big rigs from Shrewsbury Public Works line up for touch-a-truck. Big Truck Day is both kid and adult friendly, and begins at 11 a.m. 1001 Route 35 North.

SHREWSBURY: The Master Gardeners of Monmouth County demonstrate vermicompost, using worms to make nutrient-rich soil at the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch. The compost demonstration begins at 11 a.m. 1001 Route 35 North.

MIDDLETOWN: The Manga Club gets a special visit from voice actress Michele Knotz – voice of May in Pokémon as well as video games, audio books and more – at the Middletown Main Library. J*Con: A Manga Club Special Event, features food, games, anime, manga, prizes, cosplay, as well as a Q&A with the manga star. Register in advance online, the event begins at 12:30 p.m. 55 New Monmouth Road.

RED BANK: Dig Into Reading at the craft party hosted at Red Bank Public Library, where kids can create rock paintings and animal fossils. The party lasts from 3 to 4 p.m. 84 West Front Street.

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Reunited once more for their most ambitious tour in over 25 years, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong take it to the boards of the Count Basie on May 1 for an evening of  mirth, music and munchie-inducing classic routines.


Is this any way to observe 420 Day? If you’re the elder stoner statesmen Cheech and Chong, you’ve spent that nationwide celebration of cannabis culture in seemingly uncharacteristic fashion —  up before the sun, doing tightly scheduled rounds of press, and interfacing with fans on social media platforms that range from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and everything short of Christian Mingle.

Truth be told, Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong have a collective work ethic that’s seen them embrace new tech, new formats and new channels of distribution almost as fast as they’re dreamed up — and, with their first big tour in over 25 years now underway, the Grammy-winning kings of most media have a lot of lost time to make up.

On Wednesday, Cheech and Chong’s Third Reunion Tour finds the gold-plated “cult” stars of stage, screen and stereos heading into Red Bank for an 8 pm appearance at the Count Basie Theatre in which the pair recreate many of the classic, bongwater-basted sketch routines from their smash comedy records of the 1970s — a post-Woodstock era that routinely saw single releases like “Basketball Jones,” “Earache My Eye” and “Sister Mary Elephant” crashing the Top 40 charts (and causing as much angst among radio programmers as among parents of the nation’s easily corrupted youth).

It’s a debut for the duo, in the borough that claims a couple of their spiritual offspring — Jay and Silent Bob — as “homegrown” favorites. It’s also a chance for the veteran comedy team to promote the first new Cheech and Chong project in a generation — the soundtrack to the feature-length Cheech and Chongs Animated Movie!, with nine all-new songs augmenting a cartoonified collection of vintage vignettes from such discs as Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album, Los Cochinos, and Big Bambu (coincidentally, Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie! kicked off its tour of screenings and podcasts on 4/20).

With Marin having stretched his mainstream chops in recent years (through projects that ranged from playing cops on network TV series to producing a series of children’s music albums) — and with Chong’s intermittent screen appearances overshadowed by a controversial 2003 federal prison sentence (documented in detail here) for selling drug paraphernalia online — the stock characters of the street-savvy Chicano and the eternal hippie look to take on new dimensions of time and tide and life experience.

4/20 came and went without a scheduled phone interview — but an apologetic Chong called the Comedy Desk at redbankgreen the following evening to bring us up to date. Flip the record over for more, man…

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Push is at the Downtown tonight.


Friday, March 29

RED BANK: The Woman’s Club of Red Bank hosts the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation‘s Juke Joint Johnny’s Birthday Bash to raise money for the JSJBF and Woman’s Club Scholarship programs. The Anthony Reckless estate will be open for a night of entertainment and relaxation. Guests can sit on the porch or roam through the beautiful rooms of the estate while listening to jazz and blues music in a warm setting. The event is BYOB and light snacks will be served. The event will run from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. and admission is a suggested $10 donation. 164 Broad Street.

RED BANK: There’s free yoga at Red Bank Public Library, with a session led by Amy Novak from 1 to 2 p.m. No registration is required, but you will need to supply your own mat. 84 West Front Street.

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My Wonderful Day‘ star Susan Heyward, above, plays a 9-year-girl in Alan Ayckbourn that debuted at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Saturday night. Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, right, was among those in attendance. The show runs through June 3.  (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)


covertCovert operations: Elsie’s Subs co-proprietor Chris Covert (pictured in his night job as stand-up comic) brings the latest in his ongoing Comedy Night Live series to the Dublin House on Friday, August 26.


Maybe you like your humor DRY, and your subs WET — maybe vice versa. Either way, he’s got you covered.

Most days of the week, Chris Covert presides over one of the most beloved institutions within the Red Bank state of mind — Elsie’s Subs, the 52-year-old Monmouth Street landmark that’s been owned by his wife Tish for over 20 years.

As the steward of a brand about which native Red Bankers tend to get territorial (it’s not uncommon for in-the-know visitors to grab an Elsie’s special immediately after coming in from the airport — and to order a no oil/vinegar “dry” sub for the flight back home), Covert loves nothing more than to keep serving a loyal clientele that consists of “99 percent repeat customers – the best kind there is.”

That said, the honorable earl of sandwich has been known to have his other pursuits and fancies — not the least of which is an artistic bent that’s manifested itself in a series of quirky mosaic portraits, as well as a cutting-edge flair for custom-carved Halloween pumpkins.

As if he weren’t in danger of slicing himself too thin already, this Caravaggio of the capicola has an altogether separate, nocturnal calling — as a practitioner of the art of stand-up comedy, and ringmaster of a regular series of Comedy Open Mic events at the equally iconic Dublin House. It’s to the second floor of The Dub that Covert returns this Friday, August 26, for the fourth and latest in a monthly menu of Comedy Night Live events.

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Friday night lights: Standup guy “Soul Joel” Richardson (left) hosts another COMEDY ON THE EDGE extravaganza in Red Bank, this one starring Reese Waters (right).


They used to blanket the map of this great land from coast to coast — places with names like The Chuckle Hut, the Guffaw Garage and the Heh-Heh Hovel. Comedy clubs, they called them, back in the days of the Comedy Explosion, and just like a video rental or a Fotomat, you could be sure to find one in any town you happened into.

Yes, even Red Bank — though we’ll leave it to you to guess which Monmouth Street storefront once housed a short-lived spot for live laffs about 20 years ago.

Here in 2010, the laughs are back within borough borders — and on Broad, no less, as River’s Edge Café plays host to a weekly session of standup (comedy) and sitdown (dinner) produced by Staten Island-based Soul Joel Productions.

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit spotlights a guy who’s got the ear of “titans of industry, Hollywood celebrities and leaders from around the world” — America’s Fourth Leading Motivational Speaker, Mr. Donny Clay.


Actually, we couldn’t get the busy self-help guru to sit for a lengthy interview, so we did the next best thing — rang up his good friend Jason Alexander, the star of stage, screen, sitcom and stud (poker) who travels with Clay wherever he goes, including an appearance this Thursday at the Count Basie Theatre.

The actor who will forever be linked (by fan devotion as well as residual checks) to Seinfeld‘s George Costanza discusses the origins of the Donny Clay phenomenon on the corporate-seminar circuit — along with why the self-help set aren’t all phoneys, what he might have done for a living in an alternate reality, and what might have become of the characters from Seinfeld in the age of the life coach.

You can do it; you can click on that link and go to that place and let Donny Clay show you the way; here in Red Bank oRBit!