For all of you who have laughed out loud by seeing Sarge on stage, we joked a little but we get to know the real Sarge, the person behind the humor. If you've loved Sarge on stage as I have, this is one podcast you should not miss.
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I'm Larry Barsh. And you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast, for those of us in the remember when generation Today's guest on specifically for seniors, the one and only Sarge for the only person listening, who doesn't know Sarge, Sarge is a standup comedian who has been delighting audiences in south Florida and around the world. He's a self-taught piano, Sevan and author and motivational speaker. And he works with kids, struggling with addiction. Welcome to specifically for seniors, Sarge, Specifically for seniors. Yeah. It's the wait, wait, I already told you that.
Well, no, but also Ave, it's a very useful verbal gymnastic exercise specifically for seniors.
Yeah. But it gets hiss on the microphone. So I don't know what to do about that.
Well, it's kind of like brisket sliders.
It's got a lot of, you know it's got a lot of SS.
Huh. Okay. Here we go.
Who's that? Here's that?
I'm an 85 year old retired Jewish dentist from Boston. Take your best shot.
A retired 85 year old dentist.
Why did you retire?
Because I was 85. I've no <laugh>. Where
Were you? Where were you a dentist? Were you a dentist in one of the Tony suburbs, like Brookline or, or Newton or
No, actually we lived in Newton, but my office was in Boston
And, and like in proper in Boston, proper
In Boston, proper right behind Boston university,
One set 79 beacon street, right by Emerson college, between Berkeley and Claredon
Bay state road actually.
Well, no, I lived at 1 79 beacon street. This isn't all about you, Larry. I was on 1 79 beacon street between Berkeley and Claredon and a ground floor brownstone apartment overlooking the Childs back when it was five, 15 a month. The lease now, the buildings are going for, you know, two and 3 million along beacon street. And this is, and this is with parking tickets included. Because in those days they just, they just, you know, papered the entire area with those orange fluorescent P packing tickets that you got, even if you were legally,
I like the way you say PAC.
Oh yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, you know, knowing you're from Boston now, a dear friend of mine who you should probably have on the show and you would enjoy immensely having him on the show is is the major Domo and the other twin from Jo's furniture
From John's furniture.
I went on his boat the other day and, and were good buddies down here in Delray beach. And I'm talking about none other than the, the ubiquitous Barry Taman and the TA and brothers Barry and Elliott are legendary Boston figures for many, many years in the furniture business. And they were bought out by Warren buffet and now he's got his feet up, down here somewhere, you know, and we go on the boat and we hang out. So I've got a lot of Boston ties and I went to Boston university for it took me five and a half years not to finish there.
You didn't finish
Well, I'm a comedian. They continuously kept saying to me, what are you? Every time I return in an essay or paper, a test I get my grades and I would say, what are you a comedian? And I would say, I sure hope so. And you know, so as it turns out academically comedians may not be the most applied intellectual energy, but when it comes to free associative thinking, random access, memory, wild ability to put words together ideas it's a very strange gift being a comedian. So it may not translate very much to being a student. I'm a student of comedy, I'm a student of comic history. But as an academic, I didn't have the attention span to prescribe myself and apply myself to a a liberal arts education in Boston.
When did you go to BU
Between 80 and 84?
Oh, I was there in the fifties.
Well, it doesn't matter. I mean, it didn't change very much between 50 and 79. It changed a lot between 79 and now,
You know, Kenmore square was Kenmore square com a was com a
I never lived in the city where we were out in the suburbs, but Hey Sarge, tell the listeners about your childhood.
About my childhood. That's a very wide, broad, general question. My childhood I was adopted at birth adopted at birth raised by white people, as you can see, or maybe you can't see depending upon whether or not you're watching or listening to this podcast I'm kind of mocha colored. I was adopted by my parents, unbeknownst to them. I was adopted from a young lady who had been impregnated by a black man. So I'm not all the way black, you know, like as my mother would've explained it, you know, you're not black, black, you know, like I, you're not that black. And or in your terms, Larry orange line, black Dorchester, Roxbury black, I'm more, you know, like Milton Milton or, or, or Ranum black, but in any event I'm more beige. And the way I describe that is my birth father was American man.
My birth mother was an Orthodox Jewish girl. He pulled out beige, that's the way I describe it. But as it turns out, you know, it's a very interesting thing. I mean, this young lady was from a very, very ultra religious Jewish family from Chicago. She was studying to be a doctor at, at Northwestern. She got pregnant during the civil rights movement. So she shooked a guy that was marching, maybe in Chicago. This is 1960 ish and she ends up pregnant. She flees from Chicago to Miami beach to the to the Eden rock hotel books in goes over to Mount Sinai hospital has me. And it just so happens that the chief of staff and head of OB GYN was the last friend of my grandfather from Brooklyn. My mother was looking for a baby. My grandfather called his friend in Miami and said, Harry, my daughter needs a baby to adopt.
I know you've got a, quite a selection over there. Have you got anything in stock? Herman? What are you looking for? I'm looking for something healthy. 10 fingers, 10 toes. I don't care. What kind of at genitalia. I just want healthy. He says, well, there's a girl that just came in this morning. No husband, no boyfriend, no attachments. No paperwork, come get it outta here. It's gonna be born any day. Now my grandfather says, all right, I'm on my way. Doctor says to my grandfather, where are you right now? He says, I'm at Atlantic and flat Bush in Brooklyn. He says, you know, what do me a favor? If you're already on your way, bring me a vodka from Brooklyn. Bring me a chocolate vodka, no nuts. I'll I'll, I'll reimburse you when you get here. So my grandfather runs over.
He picks up a couple of vodkas. He figures he's trading them for a baby. It's worth more than a Bob. He got two vodkas jumped on the plane, flew to Miami beach, went to the hospital, ran in, looked for the doctor, found him, gave him the twos. Where's my baby. Come on. You're gonna help me deliver him. They run into the room. They put on the gloves, they clean up the woman's there. She's pushing and ball, push, push, push. And then finally, I come out. My grandfather looks at, at me, he looks at the doctor. He looks at the woman. He looks at the doctor. He says, I think we left him in too long. He's a little on the bite side. He looks bite <laugh>. He says, he's not burnt. There was a Schat somewhere along the line. Then they asked the girl she's crying.
Was there a Schat? She goes, I'll get back to you later. You know? And there was a hole through a sheet with a hole in the sheet. I had had no idea what was on the other side. It was like, you know, a game show. And here I am adopted by white people. They had no idea. There was a Schatz involved. There was gonna be a, you know, and I can say Schatz, it's not that big a deal with all the words and all the political correctness these days, a lot of people think Schwartz is repugnant. It's not, it's a word. It's a colorful word. It's a funny word. No one gets hurt. We all need to take a step back when it comes to humor and comedy. And and remember what it is to you was the whole language, not in a mean spirited way, but in a colorful, descriptive you know, passionate way. And there's Yiddish, there's English. There's certain words that are funnier than others. So I use the words FAA, because it's funny. And quite frankly, I don't take offense. And it's only occasionally that some people, you know, comment on, oh, don't he said, Fox are, I believe he said Fox. You know, it's like, you know, whatever,
We've all gotta get back to laughing at ourselves.
I think that's true. And that's disappeared largely because people have begun to take themselves too seriously. I think that, I think in a larger context, I think people and this is in a broad, very generalized context, not this audience and not you and I, but a lot of people have lost their way from remembering where we as human beings, that there's a, there's a God, a loving God that that has gifted us all with this day with our health that woke us up this morning that gives us the the invisible raise of luminescence between people, the magic. When you say, oh, I looked at that per and I knew I looked at that baby. I looked at that woman. I looked at that, whatever it was a piece of art we've lost that connection with God. And now we are so distracted with technology and the imediacy of reacting to everything that we have lost our ability to stand back, reflect and have patience.
People don't read articles anymore. They react to headlines. People don't read books anymore. They read snippets of things or they watch interviews with people or they, and I don't know whether consuming more reactive headlines and garbage is preferable to open conversation, to spending several hours with a book to reading the entire article. And then once again, the qua of other people's voices, not wanting to hear points of view that, that, you know, disagree with a, our own living in an echo chamber where all we hear is things we agree with and, you know, discounting people that feel some other way or think some other way, rather than just all of us loving each other and accepting each other. Despite what we may think about Ave, you know, a situation or a person or a candidate or a policy, or, you know, I think it was better when we didn't mention what our party was or what we, how we voted.
Yeah. It's supposed to be a secret ballot. Hey, how did you get the nickname Sarge?
It wasn't Sarge. It was Sage Boston Sage first week of co first week of college at on com AB 800 Commonwealth avenue. Right next to the school of public communications. I was in the dorm and a bunch of the kids gave me a nickname that I couldn't get rid of. I kept correcting them and telling them my name is Steven. And they kept telling me, okay, Sarge, whatever you want, you know? And so the first several thousand people that I met in college knew me as Sarge, not as Steven. And it became like my handle long before there were handles before there was any social media. And then when I went into comedy it seemed like an interesting way of going about it. You know, just give myself a one name, name, like share or Alonna or prince or Lassy.
I said Sarge, and if, and if it doesn't work out, if I, if I don't end up making it in show business at all, I'll just go back to my regular name without disgracing my family. And as it turned out, I mean, this was 1980. So we're looking at 42 years ago, this, I was given a nickname and I couldn't run away from it. And the first question I always add answer is, you know, were you in the military? And I go, she a black Jew with flat feet. Definitely. I was in the military, you know, so, so
Black and Jewish, no problems as a kid, huh?
Oh my goodness. Well, those are, I mean, let's be honest, two of the most beloved you know ethnic groups in all of, in humankind, the blacks and the Jews, but the way I, I choose to look at it is I was given these exact circumstances and the exact intellectual and psychological makeup. So I could fabricate that into phenomenal narrative because I believe that my life, you know, you went to school, you stuck real hard. You developed a, a, a, you know, a, an idea that, you know, what I can make good money and support a family as a dentist. You know, I'm gonna be a, you know, a medical professional, and that's what I'm gonna do. And I didn't have that same drive in my family. I was so busy fending off the verbal and emotional and mental abuse that was being handed out to me as a result of the fact that I looked different and that I was different.
Fortunately I, wasn't a suicidal person, fortunately. I, wasn't a depraved person, fortunately you know, our creator saw fit to make me the kind of person that turns into chicken salad that turns lemonade out of lemons. I'm the kind of person who <affirmative> believes his life is the template for phenomenal humor. So I don't fabricate comedy. I was given the exact circumstances so that I could be the comedy. And when I first started as a comic, you know, the first thing they, they teach you to explore Laura is, well, what's different about you? Oh, I'm a black Jew. I shoplift, but just that wholesale stores, you know? Okay. I, I say I, I ride the bus and sit in the back, but I own the bus, you know, I'm a criminal, but I'm also my own defense attorney.
I, I, the part of me that doesn't work on Saba, the other part doesn't work the other six days, you know? So, so I was given this very adorable, little cute way of looking at it. And then as I got deeper into it you know, things started getting very politically correct. You know you had to watch how you used race, but I found that because I was both races, I would put the question to the audience, I'd say, okay, I'm a black person. And I'm a Jewish person simultaneously all of my relatives were slaves. Which group would you suppose was the more annoying group?
Is that a question to me?
No, it's a question. I ask all audiences. I say, which group was more annoying? The black slaves or the Jewish slaves, the black slaves. They took a whipping, they did what they were told. The Jewish slaves had union delegates. They had lawyers. Which, what do you think were the more annoying slave? So, you know, listen, your life is if, if your life is what you make of it and your circumstances and your genetic specifics are so wonderful and so rich that you can have fun with them. And you look the way I look and you have the unique set of artistic skills that I have. I can speak, obviously I can talk talk you know, the Chrome off a, off, off, off of the bumper of a car and I'm musical. The life I was given was one where I could bring joy to people and make people laugh.
And it's more than becoming a big star and show business or making tremendous amounts of money, which, you know, has its own has its own charm. It's really more about making people happy. It's more about bringing a smile to people's faces, making people's lives more livable because maybe their life was either just as bad as mine was starting out, or maybe theirs was worse or maybe mine was worse. It really doesn't matter. Where are we right now? Joy, joy, joy, and nothing was more perfect at bringing that home for me than a conversation I had in 2008 with a gentleman who seemed Jewish, but was Italian and was from the Bronx named Gary Marshall, who saw me perform in Los Angeles in front of a full theater. I was on the show with with Theodore beque and Ben and Marilyn MCCO and Billy Davis from the fifth dimension.
And I was the closer I, I closed the show and, and I got a standing ovation and I didn't really think it was my standing ovation. I thought the standing ovation from the audience was for the other acts because there were such legendary acts. And so I, I bowed and I ran off and they said, no, go back out. This is for you. I said, no, it's for everybody. No, no, it's for you. And I went back out and I bowed. And when I came back the only thing I wanted to do was meet Gary Marshall, who was the MC of the evening, but he had already left after I went on. He apparently he split. And the only reason I, I took the show was cuz I wanted to meet him cuz he was my idol. I loved him. I read his books.
He has a book called wake me when it's funny. You know, his and dairy performance and lost in America. The odd couple you name it, you know, Morkin Mindy beaches and on and on and on and on Flamingo kid, you can name it. Right? So I said, where's Gary. Oh he left. Can I can I call him, can I, well, here's his address? Write him a note. So I wrote him a note and a few days later I get a phone call and this voice is on the phone. And he says, what are you so happy about? So I said, what am I so happy about? What are you so happy about? He says, I saw your show and you were happy and you looked happy. Like a happy person says, Hey, you don't usually see a come. That's a happy person.
Usually they're miserable. Conflicted drug addicted, maniacal insecure mess, just horrible narcissist. He says, but you, you are a happy guy. I've never seen a happy guy doing your job. So I said, really, I couldn't figure out that I was so happy that he could see this because he was a guy who he wrote for Gleason. He wrote for Lucy, he wrote for the odd couple. He wrote for the biggest people in the business, he found Robin Williams for crying out loud. He's telling me I'm happy. So I, I said, I'm gonna have to think about it. And I, and I did. I had to think long and hard about it. In any event, he says, you and I are gonna be, when are you coming to see me? I said, when am I coming to see you? I wasn't planning on it. I'm in Florida.
You're in California. I would guess he says, that's right. He says why don't you come? I said, well, I I'll come next week. Perfect. Then he certainly thought about it. And he said, you know what? Don't come. I'll bring, you, you'll be brought is different than you coming. If you come, you have to pay. If I bring you, I pay. So I'll bring you, you won't come. You don't have to come. You'll be brought. And that'll be that. And that's what happened. And it began a friendship that lasted until his passing, but what he gave me and what he left behind with me was some very salient very salient feedback, which was a, that I was a happy guy. And he could see it because he was a happy guy and B I didn't have to worry about writing jokes. I didn't have to worry about making up in order to be funny.
He said, as long as you share yourself with people, they will get enjoyment from that because God made you the way he made you. The way he made me that says, that's the reason why I can see it. He says, you're just like me. You are enough just as you are. You don't need any, any embellishment, any embroidery, any exaggeration. He says your spirit, your personality, who you really are share that with people and they will love it. And it will bring them joy. And I never heard at before. I never understood it until I thought about it. And that was the gift he gave me. And since that moment in 2008 I've been flying on that momentum and that confidence and that validation ever since,
But your true to happiness, wasn't easy.
Even when I was at my worst in the depths of my alcoholism and drug addiction, there was a flame, the pilot light that was still lit inside of me. There was a small voice, a tiny little voice that said this isn't you, you can't keep doing this. You can't keep doing this. This isn't you, you can't keep doing this. Underneath now there are other people whose demons overwhelm the pilot light and the pilot light goes out. And those people either take their own life or are consumed by what they're consuming. But because of this in, in indomitable spirit, within me, which I didn't put there, we either had that. Or you don't, as you've, as you've come to know, you're either blessed with that pilot light or you you're, you know, cursed with some other type of life force my life for, and you know, you know who I'm talking about too.
There are people who are determin, negative and dark, and there are people who are determin positive and light. And even though I may seem right down the middle, I'm a very positive light person. And you either are, you are, it's like eye color. The same as addiction. Addiction is also like eye color it's in your DNA. You activate it with your drinking and your drugging. But I went, I went from you know, trying some Shali to smoking pot, to snorting cocaine, to smoking cocaine, to using PCP, which is the defense CIN an an, an anesthetic you know, type type drugs ketamine. You say that again, et cetera, et cetera. And I ended up homeless on the streets of New York. And so, so the, the starting point for my comedy career was post getting sober. It was an outgrowth of my sobriety because when I got to rehab, they encouraged me to think in terms of what would I attempt to do with my life, if I couldn't fail.
And I remembered a moment when I was six, when my grandfather had me in the he had me in the, in the shoe room at gross singers in, in, in the Catskill mountains where children were not allowed, but my grandfather was very big in show BI at the time was very friendly with a lot of the performers. He snuck me in, I sat onto the table next to his feet and I watched Rick's perform. And I remember watching Rick's and then turning and watching the audience and watching and watching the audience. I didn't know what he was talking about, but I saw the audience draped over each other, screaming with laughter at this humor. And I thought to myself, when I was six, that's what I want to do. I don't know how I'm gonna do it, but I want to be him.
And somewhere along the line, I lost track of that dream between six and 20. I lost track of that. But when I was encouraged to think about what I would attempt to do, if I had couldn't fail when I got sober on December 27th, 1990, I set course for being ripples instead of who I'd been. And and that's the answer to, what are you so happy about? I, I engaged in a comedy career as an outgrowth of having handled my demons, not as a result of my childhood or woe as me, or I'm a V or I'm Jewish, or I'm FA or I'm bla, this I'm that I'm adopted. Oh, the drama. No. My comedy mindset was an outgrowth of the starting point of my new opportunity in life, which was joyful. I was so glad to be alive that my comedy is an outgrowth of glad to be alive rather than, oh, look how horrible my childhood was.
Oh, look how damaged I am. Oh, look how abused I was, da da, da, da, da, da. So when Gary asked me, what are you so happy about? What he was really seeing was right to the heart of me. And he saw that, that my comedy career was the answer to a question, a positive one. And so my journey for 31 since that point almost exactly in half, I'll be 61 June 1st 6/1/61 is my birthday and I'll be 61 on, on six one. But as you can see, I I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm blessed with youth. I I'm, I'm youthful. It's almost like I'm from St. Augustine. I I'm, I'm blessed with humor. I'm blessed with a full schedule. And I just hope that I get to live you know, long enough to see my 13 year old son grow up. And I'm with beautiful woman who is a phenomenal she's a PO, she's a, she's a, an immigrant from Poland who we've been married for 15, 16 years. And so I have the greatest life imaginable. I'm honored that you ask me to even come on here with you and
You know, and you translated your journey into helping kids.
Yeah. Well, it's a mandate. It's a mandate, you know, the more you, when, when you have the, the blessing of, of recovery, when you've recovered, when it's obvious that you have slay the dragon, it's incumbent on you to teach others how to slay the dragon. Now, whether or not the sword is too heavy for them, or whether or not they don't have the requisite, ay, to take the job on it really comes down to one factor more than anything else. And you won't hear a lot of people talk about this. But you'll hear it here on this podcast. The difference between people that get well from severe addiction and the people that don't are people taking direct <affirmative>. If you have the capacity or the ability to take direction, and you have a bunch of people giving you direction, people who know how to live drug and alcohol free.
If you take their direction without hesitation or forethought, you will get, well, you will stay well. You will be well, if you are recalcitrant, if you are stubborn, if you are single minded, if you are oppositional, if you are still thirsty for more booze, or if still hungry for more pain, then you won't take those directions and you will stay in the dark. You will stay in the field, you will stay out there. So the dividing line is find a group of men or women for whatever your mal might be and ask them for direction. Every day I had to call my sponsor every day, when I first got sober, homeless off the street. Now I'm in a halfway house. I'm on a payphone every day. And I had to say, I'm on the phone. I had to address him. My brain is broken because I broke it.
My brain's broken. Nobody else made me drink or drug. I drank and drug. I did that because I have a propensity to do that, but no one else did it. And consequently, I broke my brain. So my brain's broken, cuz I broke it. I have no idea what's going on, cuz I don't know how to live this way. So sir, on ban, please tell me what to do. Please give me direction each day and I'll keep it in today on a daily basis until I, you know, until I know what I'm doing. And fortunately that day hasn't come yet. I still know that as long as I stay humble, as long as I stay teachable, as long as I have people in my life I can learn from. And consequently, even though I was born without a father, right, my father took off before I was even the universe saw fit to put a dozen other men in my life, including Gary Marshall, including 11 others.
Who've fathered me very responsibly and very specifically given what I'm afflicted with, which is, you know, the the propensity for you know, intoxicants, you know when I, when I, one is one is too many, a thousand is never enough. People always say, well, what was your, you know, what was your favorite drink? And my mind was always the next, the next one. So I understand this I'm very fortunate and blessed to be one of the few people that got sober. Once I'm a, I'm a one and done guy, as they say, I, I got sober one time and I stayed sober. And and that's the longest running show for me has been Christmas of 1990. This Christmas will be 32 years since I walked into that place and asked them for help. And they gave it to me. So, you know that's why I'm grateful. That's why I'm happy. That's why I can bring joy. I have a reservoir of joy inside of me which I can always share. And the more I share it, the more I get to have.
It's interesting. I was a very heavy smoker as a younger person and it was Bob foe's movie, all that jazz, the last 20 minutes. Yeah. And I got out of there and I lit a cigarette and my wife said, what are you doing? And I put it out and I gRED got home lit a cigarette. And I looked and I said, that's the last one? And it was one at a time. I never promised anybody. I was gonna not quit smoking that I was gonna quit smoking. I just, wasn't gonna take the next one. So it's interesting. You brought that up.
Yeah. Addiction is similar in all facets. You know, from, you know, gambling. I mean, I, I had a gambling problem, 12 years into my sobriety. I began to gamble without really real, I never gambled before I wasn't even interested in gambling. And then, you know my career took me to some very fancy places where there were casinos and I was making a lot of money and I felt as though that gave me an entitlement to to go flush some of it down the toilet in the casino. But what I didn't really realize until I got it under control and I stopped completely. It was because I have a fear of running out of things case in point when I eat a cheeseburger and I get past the halfway point in the cheeseburger I start really lamenting the fact that there's less than half a cheeseburger left or a milkshake.
You know, once you get past that certain point in the glass, you're like, oh, there's only less than half of the milkshake. Or when I pay my bills and my bank balance changes, I start thinking, what can I do to replenish that quickly? Well, you know, I'm, I'm like a squirrel. I have to replenish it. I think, you know, I don't like running out. I get anxiety SPUs from running out. I don't like running out of things. So when I would pay, when I would pay my bills and I would get all this cash, I would think, oh my, you know what, I'm gonna gamble. And, and I'm gonna replace the money that I spent on my bills. I'm gonna replace it by gambling winnings and for a while it worked. But then when I realized that that was a very unreal mentality that I was afraid of running out of things.
What the, the surest way of running out of things is to gamble your money away. Then you're running outta money. You're ready. And, and the funny thing is even more insidious than the alcoholism or the drug addiction. The gambling made me feel like killing myself and it wasn't until I came home one night after shows I was, I was, I was doing some shows at the casinos down in south Florida. And I came home and I was, was very careful as I came in the door to take off all my clothes and put them in the washer and then get in the shower. Because you know, you, in those days, you were inundated with cigarette smoke from all the people that were smoking in the casino. And I didn't want my wife to smell it. And we had a baby at the time, you know, our son was just an infant and I got into bed and she said, you were in the casino, weren't you?
And I said said, no, no, I, I stayed out with some friends. We went out to get something to eat. Now I'm lying okay. About where I was. And she says, no, you were in the casino. I can tell. I said, how can you tell? She goes, I can smell your breathing. It smells like the casino. It smells like cigarette. Oh, and you don't smoke. I was like, oh God. So the next morning we woke up and she says, I'll tell you what she goes. I know you've recovered from addictions, you know, drinking, drugging, eating, all the other things she says, but if you don't stop gambling right now, today, I'm leaving with our son and you can, you know, sell the couch on your own time. And I knew she was right. And because of a preponderance of 12 step program, which I'd been in for many years at this point, 12, 13 years, I said, okay, you're, you're correct.
I never, never placed another bet. Never, never. Even when I work in those casino environments, as I walk by the gaming floor, I close one eye. I don't even look cause I used to be very, I used to wanna watch, I would stand behind the black Jack table and watch people play, or I'd stand by Ru led through, look through the glass or I'd, you know, stand behind people playing on the high limit slot machines. But you know, they'd say I, the more you hang around a barbershop, eventually you're gonna get a haircut. What is the point of me sitting in a barbershop, look at my head. So, you know, I, I needed to just stay out of the casino. I had to realize that I winning is not playing for me. You know, the only winning, the only winning for me is not playing.
And once I learned those few fine points, I got back to my core spiritual life, which is meditation, prayer, positive affirmation. I'm not a religious guy, but I'm religious about my spirituality. And I I was saved from a hopeless state of mind and body. And I talked directly to whoever and whatever's in charge on a daily basis. I don't really know what his name is or what her name is or what their name is. I don't know where they are. I just know they run stuff. Cause every day invisible grow raise gets sent from 93 million miles away from the sun and things grow including, including me. And so without having any religious attachments, because I'm not extremely religious, even though I'm a culturally Jewish person. I believe in the higher power, I believe that something's in charge of all of us. I believe it's very personal and I believe that if it's good enough for the zebras and it's good enough for the Giraff and it's good enough for the minnows and the insects and the Palm trees, then it's good enough for me.
You are a special person, you know, that
Aside from Gary Marshall, who were some of your other comic idols?
Well one of them just passed away. A gentleman named Gilbert Gottfried. You know a lot of people saw him as the the ultimate Neish, but this was a genius a comic genius, as a matter of fact one of the, one of the things I did when I decided I wanted to do standup comedy in New York was I took a job at a, a very famous comedy club that had a, a seafood restaurant down at the south street Seaport. And the only reason I took the job as a waiter there was so I could watch the comedy shows every night just to see what these guys were doing to figure out how I could do it, you know? And and Gilbert was one of the first people I've seen perform there. And so I approached him after the show and I spent some time with him and took him out for a, you know, a bite to eat after the show, cuz he was kind of a loner and kind of a strange guy. And me and my buddy took him out and we became friendly. And I, so that was one. But even more than that way before that Alan King was an idol of mine for several reasons. One of the reasons was he was, I saw him on ed Sullivan.
Second of all his, he was impeccably dressed and smoked a cigar. But even more than that, he was from Greatneck where I was from. He was from my hometown and on Sunday mornings he would get bagels and he would get provisions, you know, appetizers and locks and stuff from this store next door called Tibo Nicks. And Greatneck, it was like a like Aay bars kind of a place. I don't know if you have one in Newton. I don't know what it's called in Newton, but the place that has the wiper salad and the Sabel and the cheeses and the breads, you know, the, the, the herring with onions and all that. So anyhow, I would sit outside on my bike when I was a kid and Allen king would come out and he would be in his pajamas, in a Rob with slippers and he would get in his rolls Royce and he would give us his change when he came out of the bagel store, when he came out of the Tabachnik and as it turned out, my grandfather and him were, were gin.
They played gin together at the Frio club. And it was, it was much later in life. When I, I entered the New York comedy and he was the guy picking the comics for the show. And I thought he knew that I was Herman Shane's grandson. I, but, but that's how naive I was because how would I be Herman Shane's grandson? Herman Shane was a, you know, an older white Jewish man and I'm, I'm this beige brownish kind of kid. So I thought, but I thought, I thought that Allen king knew. So I showed up online and there was a line around the block at, at, at, at, at three in the morning, cuz they were gonna start seeing people at 6:00 AM. So I waited outside the Carnegie deli across the street from Carnegie hall and they were letting people in through the delivery entrance and the line went literally around the block and downtown about 10 blocks of comedians, individual single file.
I was the third guy in and I went in and I started my set. I started my act and I'm telling him how I'm a black Jew and that you know, da, da, da, all my relatives are slaves. And anyway, he stopped me. He waved his hands. He says, all right, that's it. You've got it. You've got me. I love you. Do you have people we can call about this? I said, yes, I have people here. Give me a number. Okay, good. We'll get in touch. And a few days later I thought he was just being friendly or nice. Or I thought he knew that I was Herman Shane's grandson. None of those things. He thought I was amazing. He hired me and I became friendly with him and backstage one night towards the end of his life, he gave me one of the most important pieces of wisdom that I would ever hear.
And that was before I met Gary Marshall Allen said to me he said boy, he says we're at the Concord in the mountains. You know, in, in the Catskills I, I performed on Friday night. I was the headliner Friday night. Alan King was the big Saturday night. Headliner Sunday night was Rita Rudner. So I stayed for Allen and I hung out backstage with him and I was pouring his drink and he was drinking gin, tango Ray. And I poured the tango Ray. He drank it and I said, boy, you drinking a lot. Cuz I'm I'm sober. So I notice how many drinks everyone's having. And he says, have you heard my act? He says, I need at least six of these in order to go on. I said, okay, I'm pouring. 'em Another and I'm pouring another one. So I said to him I said, boy, he says, that's a lot of gin.
He says what, what am I gonna stop? Then he lit, he says, where's my lighter. And then he lit his cigarette and now he's smoking. He's drinking. I go, you know, you should probably think about maybe he goes, I'm dying of cancer. What's the difference? Well, I'm gonna quit smoking. I'm gonna quit drinking. I'll be dead soon. I said, do you have any regrets? He says I really wasn't a very good husband. He says, I wasn't a very good father. And I wasn't much of a son. I was so busy being me, Alan King. I didn't really do a very good job at those other things. I was so busy being Alan King. And he says, if I have any advice for you, he says, don't worry about the Sarge part. He says SAR. He called me SAR. A lot of those old guys go called me SAR.
He said, Sarla. He says don't worry about the Sarge park. He says, he says, if you have a chance to be a good husband and a good father and a good son, put those things first, he says, and let God look, God take care of the other part, you know, do your job. So you no regrets. And from that point forward, Larry from that point forward, all of the decisions I made in my profession, my professional life were all filtered through the lens of does this enable me to be a good father, good, a husband and a good son. Show business. Usually doesn't afford do that luxury. But when you look at that through a different lens, most of the guys have to chase their career. Most entertainers and comedians, chase fame, chase success, chase the bucks, chase the gigs.
You gotta run. You gotta go to Amarillo and you've gotta go to fair lawn, New Jersey, and you've gotta go to Maine and you've gotta go to Albuquerque. I live in paradise over here. Do you see the background? You see, I live in, I, I live in paradise and I make 85% of my living within two hours of my house. And I make hundreds of thousands of people happy. And I'm following the suggestions and the direction alleging that traveled the world with Judy Garland. It wasn't a continent. He didn't perform on with his tuxedo on Johnny Carson making 122 Carson appearances. And I'm a happy man if I never do you know, if I never meet Jimmy Fallon, if I'm never on the late night shows, if I'm never at Carnegie hall does it matter really? I mean, there's people to make happy in Boyton beach, Delray, beach, nearfield beach, anything with a beach, anything with beach on and I'm there. So yeah. Does it really matter if I'm ch I don't chase? I don't have to chase. Hopefully some of bit will chase me. And that's what it's been like ever since I decided to filter my decision making and my determination and life through this lens prosperity has found me. I didn't have to chase it. And I'm a very lucky, blessed, and look, I'm on your show. I mean, what
Could be better?
That's what I'm saying. There's at least six people right now stumbled onto the signal that we have. So, you know,
Hey, I went to look for your book on
Black boy chick
Black boy chick. So I put in black boy chick, and I got a an ad for a t-shirt for seven to nine year old boys that had the words chick on it. So really I put, I put in your name and I got a book called Sarge cases of a Chicago police, detective Sergeant in the 1960s
You must be doing something incorrectly, cuz I get a check every month from them, for all the books that I sell. Yeah.
I'm just asking how to find it and not get some.
Well, why don't you just, well, why don't you just email me your address and I'll send you a copy and I'll sign it for you and you don't have to buy it on Amazon. <Laugh> I mean, you've already taken an hour of my time you know, unnecessarily in a way that I'll never get this hour back. So why not take a book off of me also?
You'll get the hour back. I'll send you a copy of the
<Laugh>. Oh, just what I wanna hear me talking to you for an hour. <Laugh> I mean, number once, have I ever been on the phone and I thought to myself, boy, I hope there's a recording of that conversation so I can listen to it again. Never not one time in my life. That's what podcasts are.
I have no answer for that.
It's meant to be consumed, not to be regurgitated.
Okay. One more question. What keeps you up night?
What keeps me up at night? My wife's feet. She has freezing cold feet. No nothing, nothing keeps me up at night. I live, I live in a one day at a time timeframe and everything is perfect. One day at a time. As long as I keep things in the moment, there's nothing to keep me up. Very blessed and grateful with a, with a life well lived every day. And so I'm not, I'm not up at night. Cause I mean, you know, occasionally a ball game will keep me up at night for a little while, but for the most part I'm somewhat fearless and relaxed because I live in the moment, the, the key to life is in the moment. It's right now, it's the conversation you and I are having. It's not tomorrow next week, next month. I'm not thinking June 2nd.
I'm at the Boca black box. I'm not thinking that May 19th, I'm doing a suicide benefit at the improv in, in west bump. I'm not thinking about the Jersey shore this summer in the middle of June or some the synagogue tour I'm doing. And I'm working on a Yiddish thing with a Hoffman the Yiddish guy and we're working on a show called T w O Jewish question mark, two Jewish. And I'm working right alongside a guy. That's a Yiddish Yiddish master where we're exploring the roots of comedy. And we're standup came from from the Yiddish theater. I'm working on lots of different things. I'm involved in lots of different things. I do lots of charity. But I just think about today, today is Tuesday. And you know, I'm not getting much past noon right now because life is lived right here. I can't do anything about there and I can't do anything about even God can't change. What's already happened. So I'm, I'm best off just keeping it right here with you until we terminate this this, this connection.
Hey Sarge, this has been great. You were talking about making people happy. You've made me very happy today. Thank you.
You're welcome. It was my pleasure. I'm I'm it was your idea. I mean, to invite me to come join you so you get you get it more than half. You get 51% of the credit.
Oh, thank you.
This is, this has been terrific, Sarge. Thanks.
You got it. Pal. Take
Have the beauty
If you found this podcast interesting, fun or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the follow or subscribe button, wherever you listen to podcasts until next time I'm Larry bar and you've been listening to specifically for seniors.
He delights audiences with humor that resonates with audiences of all ages. And he is much more than a comedian – – Sarge is a self-taught piano savant, an author and motivational speaker. His humor comes from a very personal place as his road to success was not a smooth one.
He was born in Miami Beach, Florida during the Civil Rights Movement to a Jewish mother and black father, but given up for adoption soon after birth. Fortunately, he was quickly adopted by a couple who then raised him in Great Neck, Long Island. SARGE was brought up by his parents in an upper-middle class environment, attending the best prep schools in the region.
His artistic talents surfaced on his 6th birthday after his parents took him to see “The Sound of Music” on Broadway. When they returned home from the show, and without any prompting, SARGE sat down at the family piano and began to play songs from the show entirely “by ear”. He did this without ever having touched a piano before, and it was at this point that his parents knew they had something special on their hands.
At the fresh age of seven, SARGE would entertain in between hands of his grandpa Herman’s card games by doing impressions and jokes on cue. It was also at this time that his grandfather took him to shows in the Catskill Mountains, which was the live entertainment capital of New York State.
SARGE graduated from the all-boys South Kent School in the spring of 1979 where he received an award for his musical talents while also lettering in football and then attended Boston University’s School of Public Communication.
All the while, he lived with some sense of confusion because his adopted parents raised him in a Jewish household without much exposure to his black heritage. This led to some internal conflict as a child and young adult – feelings he tried to numb with alcohol, drugs and gambling. He spent part of his young adult life as a homeless man, severely addicted to several vices, and copping drugs at his hangout under the Manhattan Bridge in New York City. With a wealth of talent unrealized, on December 26, 1990, he had an epiphany that would change his life forever. As strange as it may sound, on that day he made a decision to commit himself to sobriety – cold turkey – and never looked back. SARGE has been clean and sober since then, and he has dedicated himself to assisting others who are facing the same battle.
After a short stint as a talent representative, the stage was calling and SARGE enrolled at The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. From this point forward, he would no longer represent talent – rather, he would “be” the talent. To make ends meet, SARGE wrote, produced and performed for FOX’s wildly successful “Best Damn Sports Show Period”, as a nationally syndicated radio host for FOX Sports Radio, and worked extensively for ABC Wide World of Sports and CBS Sports.
“The NFL Today” host Greg Gumbel encouraged him to “be a comedian, you’re too funny, too creative and too bright not to go for a comedy career,” SARGE moved to his best buddy’s pull out sofa in New York to embark on a career in stand-up comedy.
And comedy was calling him. One night while Don Rickles was killing the crowd, SARGE watched the audience’s reaction to the comedian’s barbs and scathing monologue. At that moment, he set his sights on becoming a professional comedian one day. Ironically, today he is often compared to Rickles largely due to his rapid fire, off the cuff style of hilarious observational comedy. As has been proven hundreds of times, SARGE has the rare ability to create an uproarious and moving 90- minute comedic performance on the spot by just walking into a room.
After playing clubs and colleges all over America for three years, SARGE found himself opening for some of the biggest names in music – Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Paul Anka, The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Taylor Dayne, Donna Summer and Wayne Newton, just to name a few. These high profile gigs enabled SARGE’s act to evolve from a comedy appearance to an entertainment performance because he learned to weave his own musical talents into his shows.
SARGE has worked on some of the biggest stages in show business. From Radio City Music Hall to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game to entertaining our nation’s troops in Iraq, SARGE’s ability to improvise and tailor his show to specific audiences is uncanny.
Sarge is a highly sought after motivational speaker and for the last 7 years has been working in treatment centers and recovery residences bringing a revolutionary and groundbreaking modality of “Comedy Therapy” to people suffering from addiction with incredible results. Last year, his first comedy recovery film “Sarge Behind Bars” shot entirely on location of the Casper Wyoming Reentry Prison, placed second at the “REEL Recovery Film Festival” in New York and Los Angeles.
In 2017, Sarge released his autobiography and motivational book, “Black Boychick,” which traces his hilarious, inspirational life of twists and turns, ups and downs which will leave you exhilarated and entertained.
Today, he is one of the highest energy, multi-talented acts to tour. Not only a hysterical stand-up comedian, but also SARGE sings in his own voice and in a dozen others including Harry Connick Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder. Additionally, his dead on impressions of Marv Albert, Mike Tyson, Kermit the Frog and Gilbert Gottfried leave audiences howling and clamoring for more.
He is a proud father to his son and loving husband living in Florida. 5/19