Taking my sons to the Jersey Shore, the place where 99 percent of Philadelphians go on family vacation. All four Shoe kids have followed in Dad’s flip-flops and truly love the whole back east vibe. Actually, weekend visitors to the resort towns are called “Shoobies,” a term I didn’t like, since I am sometimes nicknamed with the same moniker. The insult tag originated decades ago, a reaction the locals had when sudden surges of tacky beach visitors stormed the quiet towns, carrying their valuables in shoeboxes.
Like a good cheese steak, our family trips back east are “Everything With,” taking in the entirety of homeland sights, sounds and smells of the place where I grew up. Although raised in the LA area, our oldest son Justin really dives into the entire atmosphere with zest, and has adopted The Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, Flyers as his pro sports teams, with his younger siblings following his lead. Considering recent Philly teams, I might get a call from a human rights organization for putting these children through such torture.
Whenever we rent a place in Ocean City or Avalon NJ, inevitably we hear from the locals, with their patented accent and blunt, East Coast atty-tood, “You brought your family here all the way from Callyfornya? Are you outta yer mind? What, you don’t got no oceans out there in LaLa-Land?” Well, yes, we do have a Pacific version where we live, but like the general nature, history and food in So Cal, it all seems to be a bit “Sodium Free.” The incomparable, sassy, salty dogs came to the US on the east coast in the bowels of a ship, not Virgin Air. These nuts have a shell and the characters have character. You gotta work hard for everything in life in the city best known for a cracked bell. I never heard the word “career” till I arrived in Los Angeles. It’s a job, bro, and you begin jobbing at twelve. Any later than that and you’re lazy, a bum, not homeless. It’s a wonder they even dropped the term “Hobo.” Evolution takes a few extra revolutions in these parts.
There is no particular sound or way of speech on the west coast, but if you go to my homeland, the inimitable words and phrases that come out of their mouths makes you desire a translator. It’s so unusual, no film or TV actor that has even attempted the dialect. Even the great Robert Deniro wouldn’t dare to try in “Silver Linings Playbook,” as he New Yorked his way through the entire performance. Bobby, we swim in wooder, not wawtah. Jeet? No, djoo? Transcribed into English that's "Did you eat? No, did you?"
One great part about the Philadelphia upbringing is that the sense of humor gets honed to a machete-maker’s specs. The sharp wit still brought to the standup stage derives from growing up in that culture, resulting in a working class drive of a competitive athlete to score laughs. To give you an idea of the gamesmanship and will to win, if you lost at a street game in the City of Brotherly Love, you’d line up facing a brick wall, bend over and wince, as the winning opponent celebrated victory by throwing a ball as fast as he could at your rear end. It’s called “Ass Ball.” So, every comedy performance I've ever done is full tilt, hoping you don’t hurl a ball at my ass if I fail.
One other core component from the roots is the loyalty regarding friendships. I still have the same (great) accountant for 30 years, Frank Cassidy. We went to Elwood Elementary School Kindergarten and were in the same class. I guess it’s easier to trust a guy once you’ve shared a cot and a milk together. Still never miss the best pizza on the planet at Pizza City, family-owned by Tony Iaquinto since we were boys. Rob “Steiny” Steinberg you all know from my act, and his cadence is still used with our old gang when we get together. Sixers play-by-play guy, and now Olympic announcer, Marc Zumoff, opens up his home to my wife, kids and me. And my best friend brother still remains Dave Cerami, who competed with me in eighth grade for class clown. By the way, he won. So if you laugh at me, you can thank him for handing me his comedy scepter.
There are also many other long term relationships developed along the life path, which are cherished and valued. One bonded friendship of the past several years is with Eagles veteran Pro Bowler, Jon Dorenbos. We’re true kindred spirits, with similar take on how to deal with life’s tough times. He just joined our Laughter Heals Organization, a non-profit organization that helps people get better from whatever ails ‘em by adding more laughs. Jon is also a master magician. You might have seen his stud appearance on America’s Got Talent, where he made Simon "Scowl" turn into Simon "HOW DID HE DO THAT," as Jon blew all four judges away. He's the real deal. Last year, I held a benefit to honor my childhood buddy Rob Horner, and Jon was right there in a snap to help out. This year, I get to perform with him in Atlantic City at the Borgata on July 10th. It’s “Comedy for a Cause, organized by Tim Mooney, one of Jon’s best buds. I hope you can be there to laugh and raise money for at-risk youth. We truly get when we truly give.
Another amigo of twenty years is Philly broadcaster, Leslie Gudel. We were lucky to have she and her family stay with us when they were passing through town. Good people. Amazing kids. Unfortunately though, her 12-year-old daughter Kendall has a rare disorder, AVM. It has been a difficult journey, but this very special young lady approaches it with the grace and positive attitude of a highly transformed adult. I wish the rest of the world would approach life in the way she does! Please go to KendallsCrusade.org for details on the comedy show July 16th at Valley Forge Casino. And my pal Tony Luke of sandwich fame, whom I mentored and convinced to do comedy, is also doing a live set.
Ok, off we go. I hope you’re enjoying your summer and would love to hear your memories of what you love about your favorite summertime vacation spots.