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Seeing a Ghost

For nearly two decades touring comic Steve Simeone heard stories about Bruce Smirnoff's comedic presence. On Wednesday at the Sadman Speakeasy Simone finally witnessed it.

by Chuck king
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BOCA RATON – Steve Simeone eagerly anticipated seeing a man who, until Wednesday night, had only been a ghost.

Bruce Smirnoff didn’t disappoint.

“I’ve wanted to see Bruce for 20 years, so it was great to finally get to see him work,” Simeone said.

Simone, Smirnoff and Jimmy Shubert performed as a three-headed headlining monster during Wednesday’s second show at the Sadman Comedy Speakeasy Lounge, located above Arturo’s Ristorante in Boca Raton.

At times all three were among the titans of the L.A. Comedy scene. Smirnoff performed regularly at the venerable Comedy Store, before hitting the cruise ship circuit.

Shortly after Smirnoff departed the Comedy Store, Simeone began haunting the club, doing everything from bouncing to headlining.

During Simeone’s early years at the Comedy Store, he heard countless stories about Smirnoff’s comedic prowess.

“All the comedians and people that I admired and look up to, they all had legendary stories about the guy,” Simeone said. “Then I get to see him work. I was like, Oh that’s so cool, He’s real.”

Among the trio, Smirnoff stepped to the mic first. Just as he had done at the Sadman Speakeasy’s grand opening – the show that brought him out of retirement – Smirnoff slayed during his 20-minute set.

Rather than wait in the greenroom for his turn or hiding along the back wall, Simeone found an open seat at a table filled with other comics and watched in awe as a fan.

What impressed Simone the most?

“His timing,” Simeone said. “Classic comedy timing. Timing, the physicality, using his voice as an instrument – up and down – the pauses. It’s great.”

With Los Angeles still under pandemic lock down protocols, Simeone – like his good friend Shubert – recently relocated, at least temporarily, to Florida.

He felt rusty following Smirnoff, but the audience didn’t seem to notice. They reveled in his stories about growing up as part of an overweight family in Philadelphia.

Shubert delivered the high energy set he’s known for, frequently leaving the crowd gasping for air among laughs.

Feature comic and local favorite Nadeem Awad dipped into some of his growing up Muslim jokes, and Stephanie Wood upped her game during her first performance at the Sadman Speakeasy. Comic and promoter David Sadman served as host.

“Phenomenal,” Smirnoff said of the evening. “It was great. Any night you can do your craft in front of a paying crowd and they like you, it’s great. There’s no high like it – no drug available.”

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