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Rediscovering The Jokes

The COVID-19 pandemic made Joe Bartnick wonder whether he was still a comic. A recent South Florida run assured him and audiences that the jokes are still there.

by Chuck king

BOCA RATON – COVID forced many to rethink what they are doing with their lives.

Joe Bartnick, a comic for more than two decades, even questioned his career.

“For five months in the pandemic when nothing was going on I would sit around the house like, Am I even a comic anymore?” Bartnick said. “I don’t even think of things to say that are funny anymore.”

Bartnick eventually emerged from his funk.

Near the end of his long layoff, Bartnick thumbed through his notebook of material in preparation for a show in San Diego.

“I was like, Oh yeah, these are pretty funny. These are the jokes,” Bartnick said. “I was worried that some of my old jokes wouldn’t work after the pandemic but, knock on wood, they all seem to still work. Maybe a minor tweak.”

They were definitely working this week in Palm Beach County. Bartnick slayed a sold-out show at Delray Beach’s Turtle Tavern on Tuesday.

During Thursday’s Sadman Comedy Productions show at the Biergarten in Boca Raton, Bartnick once again entertained the crowd with stories and observations relatable to most anyone. He touched on married life, his dog, his daughter – anything except COVID.

“I think COVID jokes are kind of passe, though,” Bartnick said. “I don’t think anyone really wants to talk about that.”

Besides, the virus wasn’t Bartnick’s biggest concern during the pandemic.

“I had a heart attack during the pandemic, so it gave me a couple of new jokes,” Bartnick said.

Bartnick’s other job provided a couple of jokes for Thursday’s set, too.

A major hockey fan, Bartnick hosts the Puck Off podcast, The Pittsburgh Penguins Fan Show on Fan Media Network, and writes a column for Pro Hockey News.

Sports journalism, however, is a more of a hobby for Bartnick.

“As far as sports writing goes, I’m just a comic who writes a sports column,” Bartnick said. “Even when I have a press pass I’ll sit at the press conferences but I don’t feel I should be interviewing players. I wouldn’t want [journalists] Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe going on stage and doing comedy.”

Bartnick’s Penguins were eliminated from the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night. How does he think the current Stanley Cup playoffs will end?

“I think Colorado beats Tampa Bay just because it’s hard to repeat,” Bartnick said. “I think those are the two best teams.”

Bartnick rarely incorporates material from his hobby into his act. When he does, audience members generally don’t have to be sports fans to get the joke.

“It has to be (about) an athlete that my mom knows – an athlete that would get an interview on Oprah,” Bartnick said.

South Florida comedy fans will have chance to catch Bartnick in action on Sunday when he headlines a show at Gypsy Moon Vapin Brews in Pembroke Pines. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is followed by an open mic.

A friend of Bill Burr who opened for the mega-comic at Madison Square Garden, Bartnick’s working toward recording a special for Bill Burr’s All Things Comedy website that was originally scheduled to be recorded in Chicago eight months ago. The pandemic changed those plans, and a reschedule date has yet to be selected, but is getting closer.

“We’re doing it this year when the world completely opens up and everyone can be in Chicago in the theater with no masks and 100 percent capacity,” Bartnick said.

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