For more than 20 years, the Stress Factory Comedy Club in New Brunswick, N.J., has been one of the top places for comedians to perform outside of the Big Apple, with a who’s who of comics taking its stage. Everyone from Brian Regan to Drew Carey to Chris Rock has grabbed the mic and delivered a weekend of comedy entertainment.
Vinnie Brand, the owner of the club, has long wanted to branch out and offer a similar space in Connecticut, and on May 3, he’ll finally get his wish with the opening of the Stress Factory in Bridgeport, with former Saturday Night Live star Jim Breuer performing during the grand opening weekend.
A well-known comedian himself, Brand has appeared on “Last Comic Standing,” Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd,” and has performed at the New York Comedy Festival, the Toyota Comedy Festival and many of New York’s top comedy clubs.
Brand plans to spend equal time at both his clubs and will be performing himself once the new club gets settled, probably near the middle of June.
“I really love making people laugh, so I’m excited about this,” he said. “These cities are 90 minutes apart, so I’ll be trekking back and forth. I probably won’t have much downtime during my weekends for a long time, but that’s OK because I have a fun job.”
He’s thrilled that his good friend and beloved comic Breuer is starting things off.
Having grown up on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s, Breuer would often sneak to watch HBO comedy specials when his parents went to sleep, practically memorizing the routines of Richard Pryor, George Carlin and other top stand-up comedians.
“Rodney Dangerfield would have these young comedian specials that were huge and we all talked about them the next day … Kinison, Bobcat, Dice, Seinfeld, he was just launching everyone,” Breuer said. “I was a street-corner, hangout guy and I knew I cracked everyone up and I had something like this in me. There was no other vision for me.”
Over the last 25 years, Breuer has found success on TV, movies and radio. He spent two seasons on “Uptown Comedy Club,” was a fan-favorite during his four-year run on “Saturday Night Live” (Who can forget his Goat Boy or Joe Pesci impression?) and co-starred with Dave Chappelle in the cult classic, “Half Baked.” He currently hosts his own podcast called “The Jim Breuer Podcast.”
“You have to have passion and if you do it just for the fame and money, you will fade away eventually,” Breuer said. “If you don’t have the mentality of ‘this is a long road’ it could become exhausting. A lot of guys become stars and just like anything with ‘King of the Mountain,’ it’s very rare you stay on the mountain and on the way down, you just have to stay happy and keep going.”
Breuer is excited about opening the club, and said it’s the dream of any comedian to be the first name on the marquee. On top of that, to him, this is more of a club opening, this is the chance to do something nice for “an amazing guy.”
“I’ve known Vinnie a very long time. He’s a great family time, and we connect big time on the family level,” he said. “When I first moved to New Jersey about 20 years ago, I would go down to his club and he would let me do Tuesday and Wednesday nights for the whole summer, and it would sell out and I would just wing it. It was always great.”
For those coming to the opening weekend, Breuer said to expect to have a great time.
“I haven’t been in an intimate setting in a while; I’ve been doing a lot of theaters and casinos. Clearly the older I get, the better I get,” he said. “Every show is going to be different. I’ve been doing these residencies on Long Island, playing 90-minute shows, and they’ve been monstrous. I’m going to go to this club like a tiger staring at a bunch of gazelles and they have no idea what’s going to happen.”