One warm summer night in Los Angeles, the marquee on the El Rey Theatre was lit up welcoming ticket holders to George Lopez’s comedy show which was packed with four different stand-ups. I was there to see one — national headliner Bret Ernst.
After the openers were done warming the batting cage up, Ernst came out swinging, telling tales of his roller-skating memories from childhood to waiting tables before becoming a comic. His timing and physical tempo are flawless; however it’s his honest approach that sets him apart.
Ernst moved to LA in 1999 after discovering comedy in Florida, a place he calls home as well as New Jersey. Since then, he has plunged face-first into what can easily be defined as a longstanding stand-up love story.
“I guess it started with the principal’s office, I was always in there, always in trouble,” said Ernst when asked how he discovered he was funny. “I was always able to tell stories and make people laugh, that’s what did it for me.”
After honing his craft, he became a regular at the infamous Comedy Store in 2000. A few short years later, the Improv and the Laugh Factory took notice as well. Ernst continues to be a force within those pillars of west coast comedy, amongst many other local and national venues (not to mention spreading his comedic wings into the acting world over the past few years).
Ernst is finishing one of many projects now though that will be available to his fans that don’t live in Hollywood. “I got an album coming out, just like it’s 1983,“ said Ernst about his upcoming album, due out later this month. “It’s going to be good for fans to be able to download it in one swoop, rather than see videos online if they can’t make a show, or miss a tour.”
Touring and traveling the country and spreading laughter is something Ernst has gotten ridiculously good at. Curious as to see if the funny man had a sweet spot in the U.S., I asked. “Ya know, I love the Midwest. Chicago is a favorite for me, and Nashville. The audience really respects a live performance. They get it. Also, south Florida and Jersey, those are my people.”
The people are Bret’s focus. “I write on stage. I work on a bit by talking to the crowd. Comedy is not in the presentation, it’s in the conversation,” said Ernst when describing the collaboration between him and his audience that produces his genuine on-stage moments of truth and humor.
And the truth is something Ernst puts a high priority on. “I’m not going to go up there and talk about Casey Anthony just to shock people, it has to be relevant to what I’m talking about. I mean what I say.”
Ernst points out that sometimes saying what you mean is hard to do (i.e. Michael Richards and Tracy Morgan being in hot water in the eyes of the media) but the integrity of stand-up is mandatory to Ernst. “Stand-up is one of the last forms of free expression.”
To hear Ernst’s free expressions (and I recommend that you do), his album (as yet untitled) will be available on iTunes later in August. You can also visit his official web site for upcoming shows, tours, and videos.