DELRAY BEACH – Some 30 days after concluding his set in a puddle of blood, comedian Al Ernst learned he’d be getting his own comedy special on Hulu.
Taking the stage at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in Sarasota last month, Ernst made the entrance every comic fears.
His introduction barely completed, Ernst tripped on the top step as he climbed to the stage, face planting in front of more than 200 people.
“I literally fell through the front curtain onto the stage,” said Ernst, shaking his head.
The story gets worse.
Having ruptured two discs in his back but failing to notice the gaping cut near his ankle, Ernst quickly realized he couldn’t stand on his own.
“I grabbed the stool and I just stared climbing up the stool,” said Ernst, relaying the tale while mimicking a zombie climbing from a grave. “I’m like, Damn it, I’m doing this show.”
Riding a wave of adrenaline Ernst pressed on, delivering a set of humorous anecdotes and observations in his distinctly southern drawl.
As the performance wound to a close, a woman seated near the stage asked Ernst a question no comic wants to hear.
“Some lady looks up at me and goes, ‘Are you almost done?’” Ernst said. “I’m like, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘You’re bleeding into my drink.’”
Ernst looked down and saw the aforementioned blood puddle, realizing for the first time he’d gashed himself during the fall. A subsequent trip to the emergency room yielded seven stitches for the cut. Ernst also needed steroid injections to help the ruptured discs heal.
The injuries kept Ernst off the stage for about a month, but didn’t prevent him from receiving what could be the biggest break of his career. Earlier this month Hulu and Ernst agreed to record a comedy special as part of the streaming service’s forthcoming series “50 Unknowns.”
“Basically it’s guys like me who have been out there for 20-30 years that have never really gotten a lot of publicity but have done a very good job,” Ernst said. “They identified me.”
To be fair, Ernst isn’t exactly unknown. Carnival Cruise Lines twice (in 2008 and 2010) named Ernst its Entertainer of the Year. Ernst also has an upcoming role in an episode of the Apple TV hit “Ted Lasso.”
Ernst now plans to return to that suddenly treacherous McCurdy’s stage on August 27 to record the special. He’s currently fine-tuning his act prior to the recording. That quest brought Ernst to Tim Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Delray Beach on Thursday night to headline an uproarious show.
He’ll continue a South Florida run with Friday night’s show at the Creole Garden in Tamarac. In the coming weeks Ernst has plans for an upcoming mini-tour through venues in North and South Carolina. He’ll return to Delray on July 28 for a show at Hyatt Place.
A former professional wrestler, Ernst compares these shows ahead of the recording of the Hulu special to training for a prize fight.
“Of course anybody who comes to any of those shows was going to get my best show, but it literally is like going into fight camp,” said Ernst, who is also looking to lose weight prior to recording. “You’re doing everything you can do to get to that spot you want to be.”
Applause Break-Down (Finnegan’s, June 23, 2022)
Al Ernst (Headliner)
Dan Long (Co-feature)
Nadeem Awad (Co-feature)
Fasil Malik (Guest)
David Sadman (Host)
Most nights Tim Finnegan’s is a traditional Irish Pub offering one of the best Guinness pours and some of the finest whiskeys in South Florida. Once a month, however, Sadman Comedy Productions converts the pub into a comedy club. Sporting a small but appropriate corner stage, low ceilings, and candle-lit tables, the conversion works surprisingly well. Sadman already has plans to bring more national and top local comics to Delray.
At first glance, Ernst – a devout southerner – didn’t seem like an ideal fit for the Finnegan’s crowd. Once Ernst took the stage, that didn’t matter. He had the audience engaged and laughing throughout his 45-minute set, highlighted by his highly relatable observations and experiences regarding the airport TSA process. Another highlight: Ernst emerged from the show uninjured.
BE OUR GUEST
Dan Long’s drunk driving bit continues to be one of the funniest in South Florida comedy. The closing bit about selling his old Dodge also landed. …Nadeem Awad looks so at home on the Finnegan’s stage that it’s possible he has a key to the joint. He certainly qualifies as a local. His quick-moving set drew continuous laughter, highlighted by his increasingly killer Brightline bit. …Fasil Malik delivered one new concept during his five-minute guest spot, while his Marathon bit continues to elicit laughs. Malik is producing Friday night’s show at Creole Garden headlined by Ernst. …Sadman also offered some new material. It’s unclear whether Matel will be able to produce transgender Barbie in time for Christmas. You know, with all the supply chain issues and stuff.
WORKING THE ROOM
Long had some fun with a table full of older women, one of which was celebrating her 80th birthday. The banter included complementing her on the choice of a couple of Irish beverages.
Chad Ridgely, Steve Lamm, Jackie Sanchez and Rebecca Loveless were among the South Florida comics in attendance. …Sadman Comedy Productions brings Lisa Correa to the Biergarten on June 30. Awad is also scheduled to perform on that show.