Rich Carucci says being a comedian is a ‘labor of love’



At the start of his comedy career, Rich Carucci earned himself a nickname, The Steamroller of Comedy.

At his first show, at The Gotham Comedy Club in New York, the audience wasn’t laughing as much as he hoped. “They were not liking it, and at one point they were booing me, and I just kept going,” says Carucci, who will perform at The Long Branch Distillery on May 30. “The more they booed me, the more I kept going, and I wouldn’t stop. The person that was supposed to give me the light (to stop) was smoking a cigarette, so I was up longer than I should have been.”

Although the audience wasn’t impressed that day, his fellow comics were.

“They started spreading the word around,” Carucci says. “They go, ‘This guy’s like a steamroller. They’re booing him, and they’re yelling, and he’s just rolling over them.’ ”

Carucci says part of his problem, that night, was that he didn’t realize that different types of venues require different material. Now he has learned from his mistakes, and can vary from family-friendly comedy at schools to more adult-oriented comedy at nightclubs.

Regardless of the style, Carucci’s comedy derives from his real-life experiences.

Carucci, who grew up in Hackensack, has performed in many states but is still based in New Jersey. This is not only because of its convenient distance to New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but also because of the sheer number of opportunities to master his craft.

“The thing with New Jersey is that they do comedy everywhere … If you can get seven people at a bus stop, they would have comedy there,” he says. “It’s New Jersey, it’s just every night, everywhere.”

He likes performing at The Dojo of Comedy at Tiff’s Grill in Morris Plains, which he describes as “a clubhouse for comedians.” It’s a smaller, intimate venue that, according to Carucci, hosts “bigger name comedians who normally wouldn’t play in that small of a room.” Conversely, he likes performing at The Stress Factory in New Brunswick because it has enough space for big audiences.


Carucci’s life onstage started by accident. After his older sisters won a “Little Miss America” pageant at the now-defunct Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County, their prize was the chance to be in a TV commercial. Carucci tagged along and was asked if he wanted to participate. His “yes” led to a stint as a child actor working on several Chef Boyardee commercials, some off-Broadway plays and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Although his life as a child actor was short-lived, he was inspired to continue striving for the stage by his grandfather, an old-time vaudevillian who used comedy, singing and dancing in his performances, and exposed him to the work of classic comedians like Abbott & Costello and The Three Stooges.

“I would have parties at my house and he would entertain everyone,” Carucci says. “Everyone would go, ‘Where did you hire him from?,’ and I would go, ‘That’s my grandfather.’ All the kids looked up to him.”

As an adult, Carucci didn’t immediately pursue a full-time comedy career. Instead, he worked as a 911 operator.

“I worked as an operator for 26 years,” he says. “I also had to raise two kids. I single-parented them for a long time and still did the comedy. So I was juggling all aspects of life at one time.”

With countless performances at numerous venues, Carucci has created many special memories. A particularly unforgettable experience was performing with one of the stars of his favorite childhood TV show, “Good Times”: Jimmie “J.J.” Walker. They performed together in Randolph earlier this year.

“I was watching him, and I was going back to my childhood because I always watched him on TV, and now he’s right in front of me, and he’s using his catchphrase, which was ‘Dyn-o-mite!’ when he was on the sitcom, and it was just blowing my mind that he was the nicest guy ever. …

“I get to see these people that I always looked up to. I meet a lot of actors and comedians and I get to work with all these people. First, out of everything, I’m a big fan of comedy. It’s like being somebody who works at the movie theater as an usher, and you get to see all the movies for free. I get to see all the comedy for free.”

Carucci’s passion for comedy led him to open, last year, The Laughing Stock Comedy Club in Grantville, Pennsylvania. The club also brings shows to other venues, including Long Branch Distillery.

“It’s a labor of love,” he says of his career in comedy. “I’ve been doing it for so long that at one point, you stop doing it for the money, and you’re just doing it ’cause you love it.”

Carucci will perform with Steve Cohen and Jeffrey Paul at The Laughing Stock Comedy Club at The Long Branch Distillery, May 30 at 7 p.m. Visit

For more on Carucci, visit


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter