NORTH PALM BEACH – Mike Vecchione’s advice to up-and-coming South Florida comics: Get out of town.
At least for a little while, anyway.
Especially now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing, Vecchione encourages comics to travel to the meccas of stand-up comedy – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – to observe highly successful veteran comics plying their craft.
“I would say that’s important because you need to put the work in, but you also need to see how it’s done at the highest level,” Vecchione said.
Doing that helped Vecchione rise to his spot among stand-up comedy’s elite.
A member of Boca Raton High School’s 1991 graduating class, Vecchione didn’t start performing stand-up comedy until 2000. By then Vecchione was living in Philadelphia. His career path ascended appreciably upon making the move to New York a few years later.
“I sat in the back of the clubs and I just watched what these pro guys were doing,” Vecchione said. “It was different than what I was doing. You can see what you want to get to.”
A former teacher, Vecchione began his career pivot shortly after he and his fiance at the time ended their relationship.
“The best thing to come from the breakup was that I finally had the balls to go out and just take what I wanted, go out and keep trying and not worrying about failure,” Vecchione said.
Vecchione grew into one those pros on the New York comedy scene. His resume also boasts several appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and a role in the movie The King of Staten Island.
Vecchione’s interest in stand-up comedy began while in high school – he attended some open mic show’s at the now defunct Haggerty’s in Boca Raton – but says he doesn’t consider himself to be a South Florida comic “because I didn’t start down here.”
He did spend a good portion of the pandemic in South Florida visiting his mother, who lives in Boynton Beach, but as a precaution against introducing COVID into his mother’s home Vecchione didn’t perform while down here.
That changed on Thursday. Now that both Vecchione and his mother are vaccinated, he felt comfortable headlining Jennifer Hellman’s Lettuce Laugh show benefiting Comics Crushing Cancer at the Farmer’s Table in North Palm Beach. He’s also headlining Saturday’s show at the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce, with Hellman featuring.
“He’s fantastic,” Hellman said. “Very funny. Really great joke writer. Just a sure thing.”
Vecchione kept his act vibrant during the pandemic by performing regularly at a club, Aruba Ray’s Comedy Club in Aruba, owned by a friend. With New York comedy clubs finally coming back to life, he took the stage at familiar haunts The Stand, the Gotham Comedy Club and the Comedy Cellar over the past couple weeks.
He found recent New York audiences to be “happy, supportive and appreciative.”
A self-described “club rat,” Vecchione is looking forward to the full scale return of New York comedy clubs, but he understands why so many comics who moved to South Florida during the pandemic don’t plan on returning to New York or Los Angeles.
“It benefits me to be up there, but if you already have things established, if you’re solidified in that world only, or you’re solidified that you are going to be a road guy and that’s all you care about, then yeah, this is the place to be,” Vecchione said.
He can envision a future in South Florida.
“The quality of life is so much better here,” Vecchione said. “And I love New York. I love it. But it’s just like, it’s its own thing, its own hustle.”
Dean Napolitano headlines Hellman’s next Comics Crushing Cancer show at the Farmer’s Table on June 3, with local South Florida comic Jackie Sanchez featuring.