Interview with Comedian Sandy Bernstein


I’ve known Sandy Bernstein for over three decades.  We met at a backyard party her boyfriend at the time was holding in the fall of 1984.  She was cute, friendly…and funny.  I’m happy to say that 34 years later she hasn’t changed.

At age 50, she threw her hat in the ring of stand-up comedy and is quickly climbing the ladder of funny.  She recently achieved her dream of performing before a packed house on the main stage of the Washington D.C. IMPROV and she killed!

Sandy recently took time out from her schedule to chat about her career.


Mike Smith:   What made you pursue comedy at this stage of your life?

Sandy Bernstein:   Interesting story behind how I decided to get into comedy. I was 53 years old, and had never even considered it. There was no way I thought I could do it, so it wasn’t even an option.

I am a writer/editor in the marketing department of University of Maryland University College. My team handles internal clients, like Human Resources and Diversity Initiatives. In summer 2014, HR decided they wanted to do a talent show and needed my team to promote it. I attend all the kickoff meetings with my boss, and at this meeting, I made a wise crack: “I have the perfect headline. ‘Who Wants to Commit Career Hari Kari?'” One of the organizers of the talent show said, “That’s it, I’m signing you up to do stand-up!” I started to object, and my boss said, “Sandy, you need a stretch project for your performance review.” I said, “Fine, when I go down in flames, you’re going to have to be the one to write the Performance Improvement Plan.” So I guess you could say I did it on a dare.

There were difficult things going on in my life at that time. My boyfriend (now husband) was undergoing chemo and radiation for Stage 3 colorectal cancer, and my mother was in a nursing home, dying from Alzheimer’s Disease, so I was having a lousy year. I figured this would either be a welcome distraction or the cherry on top of my shit sandwich. In any event, I figured, WTF.  I was looking at it as a one-shot deal. You know, one and done.

I was terrified. But having worked there for seven years, I had a lot of material. I put together a PowerPoint to run in the background. The first slide was my head on Mylee Cyrus’s body, because I had a joke about twerking at the talent show. I figured if that didn’t get them laughing, nothing would. So I practiced relentlessly for several weeks. My poor husband had to hear it over and over again. He said he preferred chemo.

So the day of the show came, and the second I stepped on stage, before I even said a word, people were laughing hysterically, because they had already put up the Mylee Cyrus slide. I probably had one of the best sets of my life, and I’ve been chasing that pink cloud ever since. Now I know how junkies feel. Before I even left the stage, I was thinking about where I was going to get my next fix. People were coming up to me afterwards asking me how many years I’d been doing it. I was blown away. I actually have a video of that set, along with talent shows from subsequent years, on my website,

The rest is history, but it took me a while to get going. My mother passed away in November of that year, and my husband had finished his treatments and surgeries. (BTW, he has been cancer-free for four years now.) So in January 2015, I took a course at the DC Improv called “Five Minutes to Funny,” taught by Chris Coccia. It was on five or six consecutive Sundays, culminating in a graduation show on the main stage of the Improv. Chris had done a great job with us, and we all ripped the room. From there I started doing open mics once every week or so, and some showcases for new comics. I had heard that you needed to go up at least three times/week if you wanted to progress, but with a full-time job, I couldn’t even fathom doing that. But by that summer, I felt kind of stuck. There were some comics who seemed to be making remarkable progress, and one of them turned me on to The Fat Doctor. He was one of only four comics to make Richard Pryor’s top four comedians list. After dealing with some health issues, he focused on training other comics. He has taught, mentored, wrote for, and/or influenced comedians such as Martin Lawrence, Patton Oswald, Tommy Davidson, Wanda Sykes, and Dave Chappell,  just to name a few.  I have been studying with him via Skype sessions since September 2015. In January 2016, I resolved to get on stage at least twice a week. I figured out how to make it work while working full time. I ended up getting out a minimum of three times a week, sometimes more, and only then did I feel like I was starting to make progress.


MS:  With some of the comedians out there today, your comedy could almost be called “tame.”  Was that a decision going in or did you just find that it suits your style better?

SB:  Tame is in the eye of the beholder. I just did a Jewish-themed comedy show where I kept it PG-13, but my references to sex and body parts did not go over so well. Even though my stuff could probably fly on late-night TV, it definitely isn’t tame enough for many clean comedy shows. I’m actually trying to work cleaner!

MS:  First joke you ever told – not on stage but in your life?

SB:  I’m afraid I don’t remember. I was very shy as a kid. I have an older brother, and he was the one to make all the jokes growing up. He’s my biggest fan.

MS;  First time you told a joke on stage and nailed it?

SB:  From our work talent show –  “Apparently, twerking is frowned upon in this organization.”

For Sandy’s appearance schedule, check out her website,

To check out Sandy’s performance at the Washington D.C. Improv, click HERE

Concert Review “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” Kansas City, Missouri

Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Kansas City, Missouri
May 27 – June 1, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Ah, Las Vegas in the 1960s. It still had the lure of mystery and DEFINITELY wasn’t kid friendly. If you were lucky, you could head to the Sands Hotel and take in the hottest show in town featuring a quartet of entertainers whose talents could never be topped. They were known as the Rat Pack – and for a few hours in Kansas City, they were back!

We were greeted by the jovial “voice of God.” And if you’re in Las Vegas who better to portray your deity then Buddy Hackett. As the voice of the late, great comedian comes through the speakers the audience is transported back five decades. The spotlight hits center stage and there they are: Funny man Joey Bishop (Sandy Hackett), the “King of Cool,” Dean Martin (Tom Wallek), the “Candyman,” Sammy Davis, Jr. (Louie Velez) and, of course, the “Chairman of the Board,” Francis Albert Sinatra (Danny Grewen). After a group opening number, entitled “Hello Again,” the audience is treated to some great one liners courtesy of Joey/Hackett. The son of the great Buddy Hackett, the comedy genes run deep in this family. The timing is spot on as is the quick wit, evident when some “Kansas City” themed jokes appear. The rest of the first act relies on the banter between Dean and Sammy as the two trade musical numbers. The act ends with the silhouette of Sammy bathed in light.

Act two welcomes Frank back to the stage. After a great medley of some signature songs (“Come Fly With Me,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Fly Me to the Moon”), Frank takes a quiet moment to think about the one that got away. This brings on an appearance by “Frank’s One Love” (Lisa Dawn Miller, like Hackett a producer of the show) Miller is the daughter of song writing legend Ron Miller, whose songs include “Touch Me in the Morning,” “I’ve Never Been to Me” and “For Once in My Life,” which Frank performs in the show. The rest of the act consists of more laughter and music.

I’m very fortunate (and old) in that I had the great opportunity to see both Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. perform before they passed away. With those memories in my head I naturally compared that experience to the one I had at this show. And I wasn’t disappointed. Grewen has that smooth, clear quality that made Sinatra extraordinary and Velez was spot-on perfect as Sammy Davis, Jr. Ms. Miller belted out her number with gusto, making herself a proud member of the group. If there was any disappointment it came courtesy of Tom Wallek’s Dean. He had the look and the mannerism’s down, but the voice just wasn’t right. During the on stage banter he sounded more like Johnny Carson then Dean Martin. A little quibble maybe, but something that someone like me, who grew up watching, and own on DVD, Martin’s classic television roasts. That being said, “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” is a must-see for anyone that wants to recapture those magical days of yesterday!


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Jon Zazula talks about his work with Megaforce Records and SuperStorm Sandy Benefit Concert

Jon Zazula affectionately known as Jonny Z by the heavy metal masses is a true living legend. As one of the founders of Megaforce Records,  Jonny and his wife Marsha are responsible for launching the careers of bands such as Anthrax, Testament and Metallica. Together with the Old Bridge Metal Militia Jonny and Marsha are putting on a benefit show in New Jersey to help people still feeling the effects of  Super Storm Sandy. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Jonny recently about his career in the business and how the idea of the benefit came about.

Adam Lawton: For those not familiar with your history can you tell us a little bit of how you first got exposed to the heavy metal music scene?
Jon Zazula: My wife Marsha and I started a record store in 1981 with only about $180.00 in our pockets. Six months later we already were up to about $60-$70,000 worth of merchandise from successful sales. Those sales brought in demo’s which resulted in Metallica coming to us. We contacted them and invited them to do 12 shows here in the NJ area as Marsha and I were also promoting shows. Metallica came and did those shows and from there we started talking about putting out a record. No one wanted to put this thing out so we decided to do it ourselves and started Megaforce Records. The label through its licensing and such has gone on to sell about 40 million records. We have worked with everyone from Metallica and Anthrax to Warren Haynes and Ace Frehley. We also had the pleasure of signing Kings X. That was one of the labels proudest moments were signing that band.

AL: Was your wife Marsha always in to what you were doing?
JZ: Marsha was knee deep in everything with me. When we decided to open the shop we were both working regular jobs and wanted to do something were we could at least make $500-$600 per week. We decided on buying and selling rare records and hoped we would make that money on the weekends at the store. From that everything just grew.

AL: Signing to Megaforce Records was really the first big step for Metallica. Knowing the band through their entire career how do you think they have evolved as a band?
JZ: The only way I think Metallica has evolved is that they have written more music and become fine craftsman at their tools. When I go and see Metallica these days I really don’t see much different from when we had the band. They are the same guys up on that stage and that’s what made them successful. They were the fans and the players and they never changed. I think now more than ever they resemble the band I first saw in the early 80’s.

AL: Can you tell us how the Benefit for SuperStorm Sandy Concert first came about?
JZ: Everything really started through Facebook. We just decided to get on their in December and we got in touch with the Old Bridge Metal Militia through there. They started talking about wanting to do some sort of reunion or party. Marsha and I talked about it after having this dream one night that really put things in motion. Marsha said “Let’s do it!” so we posted on Facebook “Let’s do it!” Things just blew up and we received between 200-300 comments. The line up for the show came together very fast as we have known Raven and Anvil for many years. They agreed to come and then Rockin’ Ray from the Old Bridge Metal Militia mentioned he would like to have The Rods perform. I didn’t even know they were still together. It took me about a week to track down Carl Canedy who is the drummer for The Rods and after a few days those guys agreed to be a part of things. We first looked at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park as a venue. That place holds about 800 people and we were looking to draw around 500. The date of May 11th got announced and we then signed on for a bigger venue in Freehold that holds 1,800 people. We didn’t know how we were going to fill it. Next thing I know I am talking with Eddie Trunk from “That Metal Show” about how

Twisted Sister were looking to do something like this in NJ. The next day I got a call from JJ French asking if we had room for them on the bill. Tickets have been selling well and even before we started promoting we had 800 tickets sold virally. We are now close to sold out. The other cool thing to come out of this at 12:55pm on the same night TT Quick will be doing a reunion show which is going to be just killer. Also the band Lord’s of Mercy who are opening that show are a great act as well. It is going to be one hell of a night!

AL: Where you and Marsha always aware of the Old Bridge Metal Militia?
JZ: Oh yeah. We have been aware of them from the very beginning. Rockin’ Ray always used to come in to Rock and Roll Heaven and by anywhere from 10-20 albums at a time. He would drop like $200 every Friday on records. We asked him one time what was going on and he invited Marsha and I to a party he was throwing. These parties ended up getting really big as they had this giant PA system that required them to pad the walls so the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops. These guys would have private shows in their basement with bands like Slayer and Metallica. Parts of Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” album was written at Metal Joe’s house when the band was in town.

AL: How did the idea to make the show a benefit come about?
JZ: That was Marsha. She and I were always discussing what we could do for New Jersey as they had done so much for us. We decided to give the money to charity which made everyone happy. Everyone who is involved with this event is working for free. 100% of the profits made from this show will be donated directly to the people. We hope to raise around $50,000 and if we do we are going to do a bunch of $100 gift cards to Home Depot so people can take those and get the things they need to repair their homes. We are just going to knock on doors and give people these cards to help make repairs on their homes that were damaged during the storm.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the amazing raffles that also will be going on during the show?
JZ: People are going to be able to walk away with guitars like you have never seen. We have Tom Araya of Slayer’s signature bass signed by the entire band including the late Jeff Hanneman. We also have a couple custom Oktober Guitars up for raffle as well. Stuff has been coming in everyday. Just recently we received a Jackson guitar signed by Anthrax and last night we got word from Metallica that they also will be sending a signed guitar and Lars is sending a signed drum head. The people who win these raffles will have to sign a disclaimer stating they will not sell them on EBay the following day or they will need to be returned to the Old Bridge Metal Militia. We really don’t want to see this stuff selling on EBay the next day.

AL: Do you and Marsha see yourself getting back in to putting on shows again?
JZ: Well I have to tell you my mind is very fragile you see so we will have to see how we do during this show and take things from there. Bands and people are coming from all over the world for this thing. It’s a real throw back to how things were in the 80’s and I don’t think you will ever see another one like unless we do it again. You never know what Marsha and I may walk in to next.