So, 2017 was a pretty crummy year for the country, so I thought it’d be nice to start 2018 with a hearty laugh. “Come, Rainbows” is a comedy show that features local LGBT comics Rebekah Rickards, Molly Hanulec, Domo Jones, Low Hanging Fruit and Hannibal Lickter (Karen E. Johnson). One of the funny hosts is local standup Dan Vetrano. I spoke to the jokester on Facetime. I’m just sorry his expressions can’t be translated to the page. You’ll just have to see him in person Jan. 7.
PGN: So you’re a Philly fella …
DV: Uh, no.
PGN: Oh? Your intro said, “Philadelphia comedian.”
DV: I live here now but I’m from Long Island.
PGN: I’m not sure I believe you. You used two words instead of one!
DV: Ha! That’s my mom, she says ‘Longguyland” but I somehow escaped the accent! It’s funny. Everyone thinks I’m rich ‘cause I’m from the Hamptons, but what they don’t know is that there’s a very small poor section in the Hamptons and that’s where I’m from, not the fancy part.
PGN: I’ve always wanted to go there, the fancy part that is. Maybe this summer …
DV: Don’t do it! There’s nothing there except people trying to look rich to show off for everyone else.
PGN: Forewarned. So tell me about growing up in LI.
DV: It was interesting. I was on the border between South Hampton and Hampton Bays, which was the dividing line between rich and poor and I got kicked into the school with all the rich kids. There’s not much else to say because it was so boring there. It’s so uninteresting, it’s not fit to print in the Philly Gay News.
PGN: Well, then tell me about the fam. Hopefully they’re more interesting!
DV: I have an older brother who’s about to go to Nepal to climb Mount Everest. He’s one of those. He’s going soul-searching and I’m here in Philly doing standup, so yeah, we’re a little different. Then there’s my mom and my dad. They have a sort of unconventional relationship. My mom lives in Florida. My dad lives in LI and they see each other once a year for Christmas but they don’t call themselves divorced and I don’t think they ever signed anything even though they haven’t been together in decades.
PGN: What traits do you get from which parent?
DV: I get my sense of humor from my father’s side. My grandfather would make comedic drawings of the family whenever something funny happened. For instance, one time my brother wanted a new softer mattress, so my grandfather drew a picture of him in court, standing before a judge saying, “All I wanted was a better sleep, Your Honor!” Silly things like that. I think my way of analyzing and criticizing things around me in a humorous way comes from him. My insanity comes from my mother’s side. [Laughing] She’s very sweet. I love her to death but she tends to be a little oblivious to things. She’ll be in a store at the cash register and with a line of people behind her, she’s like, “Oh, look at that bird outside the window!” while people are grumbling for her just to pay and get out. I have to say, “OK, Mom, focus!” But now I’m starting to get like that too. I mentally wander off in the middle of something.
PGN: Ha. We have parallel lives. My mother will be driving and be like, “Huh, I never noticed that molding on that building before, did you see that?” while I’m shouting, “The road! Look at the road!” What’s your earliest memory?
DV: Oh boy, I smoke a lot of weed, so I’ve deleted a good number of memories from my brain. [Laughing] This is disgusting, but I remember shitting my diapers as a baby! Wait, I have to remember something better than that. Oh, one time when I was about 3, my mom was really mad at my brother for something. I don’t remember what. She had one of those Brookstone back massagers and she was chasing my brother through the house with it. You knew she wasn’t planning on using it on his back because it wasn’t even plugged in! So far, this whole interview has been about making my mom look terrible!
PGN: Ha. I remember my mother chasing my brother with a broom and then crying because she hit him.
DV: Yeah, my mother once hit me with some keys and then said, “Look what you made me do!” I should interject at this point that my parents did a great job raising us and are in no way the monsters I’m making them out to be. I was happy and healthy growing up despite what it sounds like.
PGN: Glad to know people can put their pitchforks away. What’s your family background?
DV: On my mother’s side, we’re Jewish. She just did one of those DNA tests and would hate the fact that I’m already forgetting what she told me, but there’s some North African in there with Sephardic Jewish heritage, and Romanian too. This is more than you want to know, [mimics] “I’m 3/4 this and 1/16th that …” And on my dad’s side we’re … Italian. Ha! I almost forgot the word for people from Italy!
PGN: Just say you’re from the land of Italiya.
DV: Yes, I speak fluent Italianese.
PGN: A time you got into trouble?
DV: Well, there was a time when my parents were out of town. I was in 11th grade and I threw a party at the house when they were away. Somehow, my parents found out and they were furious. Even my brother was mad at me. As punishment, I had to go everywhere with my parents. Every year, they would go to the Poconos for a little getaway and because they didn’t trust me, that year I had to go with them. It was just them and me in a hotel room. It was really awkward because I could tell they wanted to have sex, so I went to the only movie theater and the only thing playing was “Lemony Snicket’s” with Jim Carrey. I gotta say: Watching my parents have sex would have been less painful. It was the worst movie ever!
PGN: And yet another story to mortify your poor mother.
DV: I know! I actually tell that story in my act in greater detail and did it when they were at my show one night in the front row. I was like, These are my parents, let me tell you what they did to me when they wanted to have sex! “Lemony Snickets”!
PGN: Who was your favorite comedian growing up?
DV: Jerry Seinfeld. He’s still my hero. I love the way he would write jokes. His was one of the first books I read not too long after learning to read. His process is to sit and stare at something without moving until he figures out why it’s funny. It was very inspirational and now I have a similar process.
PGN: Did you go to college?
DV: I went to Five Towns College in Dix Hills, N.Y. It’s kind of a fake college but their big claim to fame is that Adam Levine went there. Then I transferred to Temple where I smoked weed for four years before dropping out with 16 credits left. I’m not someone who makes good decisions. I started as a film major then switched to communications, with a French minor — pretty ambitious for someone smoking pot every day. While at Temple, I started working at the campus hotel and that’s what launched my thriving career as a concierge. Which I eventually quit to be a star and do standup comedy full-time! I did that for several years at several different hotels, the last one being the Sofitel.
PGN: Give me a description of a concierge’s job.
DV: It’s basically telling rich people about restaurants that you can’t afford to go to. You have to BS people a lot and make things sound exclusive. “This restaurant has seasonal plates [rich people love anything seasonal] and only two place settings a night” … And granting their every wish.
PGN: Did that ever include you?
DV: Scandalous Suzi! You’re trying to besmirch my reputation! But yes, and I’m proud to say … that I slept with all of them.
PGN: What was the first standup gig you did?
DV: It was actually at Tabu, where the “Come, Rainbows” show is going to be. Tom Cassisy and H. Foley used to run the mic at The Raven, which was one of the biggest mics around, still is. And they did a mic called “Out and About.” I happened to be at Tabu because I’m an alcoholic and gay, so it was perfect and I went upstairs where they were doing the show. Noah Houlihan was performing and there was no one in the room; he was funny but the place was empty. So I thought, I should write something and try it. So the next weekend, I did. And the rest is history!
PGN: Who was your most memorable heckler?
DV: Oh boy, I’ve had eight years of constantly crazy stuff happening. I’ve built up an immunity to it. But I think the craziest moment was at MilkBoy on South Street. There was somebody onstage before me, Ben Wasserman, and this was his first time at this venue. He does a very interactive set and he brings people up onstage. A random woman walked onto the stage and just stared at him and after a long moment yelled, “I’ve got guns, I’ve got bombs and I stand with Isis!” Everybody in the bar started freaking out. We were all like, OMG! Something terrible is about to happen! She kept repeating it: “Guns! Bombs! Isis!” People were panicking and poor Ben was onstage pleading, “Please, please sit down. I’m trying to do comedy.” He left the stage and the host announced real quickly, “OK, and now, folks, Dan Ventrano!” I just looked at the lady and she glared back at me. So I laughed and said, “So I’m gaaaaay!” to the Isis lady and she walked away. So I started doing my set, but no one was paying attention to me. They were just wondering if she was going to kill us all. I won’t say people were trying to leave because it was more like escaping. I tried to continue to do my set but it was trashed, until she then came back on stage and the whole crowd was like, Oh no, she’s got something this time! Is it her guns and bombs? So I just said, “Oh boy, Isis is back in town.” She looked at me and said, “You’ve got sooooome nerve!” I responded, “Yeah, I’m a gay comedian who plays in straight clubs. I have nerve all day. Put your purse down and take a seat.” She looked at me, went back in her seat and laughed at the rest of my set. She loved it! She went from almost killing everyone to hooting and cheering and giving me a standing O. Needless to say, I think there was a little alcohol involved.
PGN: Are you involved with anyone?
DV: I am! His name is Onat. He just left or I’d show him to you.
PGN: I saw his picture on FB.
DV: Oh good, so you know he really does exist.
PGN: [Laughing] I do. Speaking of “I do,” I see he put a ring on it.
DV: Yes, we’re married. He’s the breadwinner in the relationship, he has one of those real jobs with … what do you call ’em? Paychecks. So all of what you see in the house behind me is because of him!
PGN: [My phone rings.] Don’t stop, I’ll ignore them.
DV: Awww, star treatment for me! It’s a fun dynamic. He’s 42. I’m 29. I joke in my act that because he’s the moneymaker, I argue a lot less. It’s like, “Do you want to watch my favorite movie again, ‘Moulin Rouge’?” “Yes.”
PGN: How did you meet?
DV: I knew him through a mutual friend and one night, I was walking past The Bike Stop, [flipping imaginary hair] because I wouldn’t dare enter that institution! … except for last night. Anyway, I saw him coming out and we talked for a minute. He said he was Turkish and I squealed, “Nasılsınız!” which is the only word I knew. It means, “How are you?” He was impressed and then we made out.
PGN: Best celebrity encounter?
DV: At Sofitel, during the DNC. It was nonstop celebrities and politicians. I was doing little odd jobs like getting cough syrup for Eva Longoria, “Make sure to get the kind with alcohol in it … ” and a rat-tail comb for Angela Bassett. She was super cool. Everyone was very nice except for — wait for it — Debra Messing from “Will & Grace.” Nobody liked her. We had people like Sigourney Weaver making no demands and this chick who was on a TV show a long time ago (this was before the reboot) was the one with all the picky demands. But forget her. I recently saw Conan and he looked me in the eyes.
PGN: What’s your favorite photo of Onat?
DV: His Grindr photo, it’s just so romantic! No, there’s a great photo of us at the beach in Turkey that I like. It was this place that was like the Atlantic City of Turkey, fun and trashy. We were on the hotel rooftop with the sun setting behind us.
PGN: What’s the best conversation piece in your house?
DV: [Gasp] Well, let’s take a tour and see! [We take a FaceTime tour to the living room] I think it would have to be this! It’s a 3D replica of me and Onat. Some people think it’s creepy but I like it. They even got my butt with my notebook in the pocket! And the bookmark! It’s pretty remarkable.
PGN: The elbows are red. Rug burn?
DV: I wish. My skin is not properly lotioned. I don’t take care of myself at all. Such detail. I did ask them to make the bulge bigger but no dice.
PGN: You were in Turkey. Were there nude beaches?
DV: Very close. They wore as little as possible without actually being nude — basically a napkin and dental floss. But I’m a fan of Turkish men, very hairy guys.
PGN: So let’s wrap up with your favorite quote or motto.
DV: Oh! I have three for you because I’m special. My high-school yearbook quote was from Frank Zappa and I still live by it: “I’d rather have something to remember than nothing to regret.” It’s how I live my life … full of regrets, and memories … regretful memories. My personal motto is to always have something to look forward to. So when you have a crappy day, you still have something cool that you have planned to look forward to and it really keeps you going. And I’ll end with a quote that I use often. In fact, I just uttered it last night: “Oh, I’m sooo drunk!”
Catch “Come, Rainbows” 7:30-9 p.m. Jan. 7 at Tabu. For more information and tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/january-come-rainbows-tickets-41314327265 .
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