On Stage: Arnez J. headlining at Helium

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Arnez J.

Because of the pandemic, live entertainment by national acts is virtually non-existent in this area – and it is no laughing matter.

Fortunately, there are a few venues still presenting shows – and it is a laughing matter.

Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia has been presenting nationally acclaimed comedy acts on a regular basis for months. Punch Line Philly has also recently hosted some live shows by well-known comics with four more on its schedule for the next few weeks. And, the Candlelight Theatre has two comedy evenings coming up over the next two weekends.

From March 11-13, Helium will host six performances by Arnez J., who with his polished and highly entertaining standup routine is widely considered one of the best working artists in today’s comedy scene.

“I’m here working out at my home in Atlanta,” said Arnez during a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I just got back from doing shows in Huntsville, Alabama.

“I’ve been living in both Atlanta and L.A. I just sold my home in L.A. a few weeks ago. It’s bad out there. The homeless situation is so bad. It’s like a city. The stench comes through.

“One day, I was taking a big vat of chili there to feed the people in one of the homeless sites up under the highway. I was met with one of the worst smells I’ve ever encountered.

“I started crying. There is no way people in the United States should be living this way. It’s a thing I can’t grasp right now. Things are so bad — but the real estate market is outrageous. Houses are selling like crazy at high prices. I sold my house in Woodland Hills for 90 over asking price.”

Dealing with unpleasant smells is something that often pops up in Arnez’ comedy routines.

One dealt with a time was in an airport waiting lounge and had to deal with a woman from Africa – a woman with highly-pungent-near-toxic body odor. She asked him for information but, when he got close, her odor overwhelmed his sinuses and sent him running away with tears in his eyes.

“I am really sensitive to smells,” said Arnez. “One time, this woman wanted a picture with me — and I agreed. She put her arm over my shoulder and her B.O. was so bad, I couldn’t take it.

“It seeped all the way through my clothing and onto my shoulder. It took me a long time to wash it and get rid of it. I don’t take pictures like that with people anymore.”

His raw energy talent and comedic skill quickly landed Arnez the coveted hosting slot on BET’s longest-running comedy series “Comic View” for two seasons joining the ranks of hosts such as D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer. His hilarious new comedy special “Racially Motivated” is now available on Netflix.

Arnez’s hometown is listed as Atlanta but it is not where he grew up.

“I grew up in Florida,” said Arnez. “I was a military brat we lived in Florida for a while – in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I also remember living in Germany.”

Spending part of his teenage years in the Denver area, though, Arnez J excelled in sports rather than in performing arts. He attended Aurora High School, where he was both a baseball star (at third base) and a strong professional basketball prospect. Baseball was his first love.

He was under consideration for a place in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, but it didn’t work out. Arnez also got a chance to combine his ambitions as an athlete and performer when he was recruited by scouts for the famed Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. He joined the world-famous team and then a knee injury ended his Globetrotters career three months later.

In the late 1980s, Arnez began working as a Continental Airlines flight attendant. His talent for getting a laugh from passengers wedged into jets made him think about a new career.

According to Arnez, “I entertained the passengers – always. If I went to San Francisco, I’d be a gay flight attendant, or for Boston, I’d be real hard and snobby. But people knew I was putting them on.”

Arnez’ passion for making people laugh extends back a long time.

“I was always the class clown in school,” said Arnez. “Working as a flight attendant was what got me into comedy. A First Class passenger came to me and said – you should be doing comedy. That was it. That’s what got me started.

“The first time I performed on stage was at an open mic at Comedy Works in Denver, Colorado. At the show, it was the first time I saw real comedians do comedy. It was a real inspiration. I was bitten by the bug.”

Arnez relocated from Denver to Atlanta early in his career.

“I met my wife in Denver,” said Arnez, who also is an actor and writer, known for “The Stuff” (2018), “Up Against the 8 Ball” (2004) and “Family Time” (2012). “She was getting out of the Army and wanted to go back to Georgia.

“That was basically when my life started. When I was in Denver, I was stuck in the mud. I needed that change. Georgia took me back to my roots of being born in Florida.”

Arnez began working the comedy circuit in Georgia, quickly became one of the city’s highly regarded standups and was a finalist in the “Bay Area Black Comedy Competition.” He made his first television appearance on Showtime’s “Comedy Club Network.”

His resume of television appearances soon includes “The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show,” “Louie Anderson’s Comedy Showcase,” Comedy Central’s “Make Me Laugh,” NBC’s “Friday Night Videos,” “The Mo’Nique Show,” Russell Simmons’ “Def Comedy Jam,” his own BET “Comic View Grandstand Hour Special,” “Comedy Central Presents: Arnez J.” and Showtime’s “Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam.”
Some comedians have acts that are a series of jokes and routines they have claimed as their trademarks. Others have performances based on interacting with audiences in a conversational way – talking about audience members’ dates, their clothing or their ethnic mannerisms.

“I’m not one to pick on the audience,” said Arnez, who performed as a tour opening act for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. “I’m more of a storyteller.

“I never stop working on a routine – old or new. The story line never changes because of who you are. But it can always get better.”

Arnez’ desire to continually get better is a sign of his respect for his audiences.

“I’m a performer,” said Arnez. “I owe my fans everything.”

Video link for Arnez J. — https://youtu.be/YLtcscoQLbE.

The shows at the Helium Comedy Club are scheduled for March 11 at 8 p.m., March 12 at 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. and March 13 at 4:30, 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. The 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. shows on Saturday are sold out.

Tickets, which are not sold individually because of capacity restrictions and social distancing, are $60 for a two-person table or $120 for a four-person table.

Other upcoming shows at Helium are Shane Gillis on March 16, Michael Blackson from March 19-21, Mike Cannon on March 24, Kelsey Cook from March 25-27, and Big Jay Oakerson on March 28.

Comedy will also be featured at the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

The Candlelight Comedy Club is back with shows scheduled for March 12 and 20.

Mark Riccadonna

The Candlelight’s monthly comedy club features three comedians and is billed as “an adult event.”

The headliner on March 12 will be Mark Riccadonna. The feature act will be Joshua Ryan and the emcee will be Marc Kaye.

Riccadonna grew up an outside of Youngstown, Ohio and moved to New York City when he was 17. He studied theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and joined “The Company” after graduation.

A while later, he discovered standup comedy and found success as a storyteller and a comedian.

Video link for Mark Riccadonna — https://youtu.be/ycS9xzNrV9o.

The headliner on March 20 will be Erik Terrell. As with the March 12 show, the feature will be Joshua Ryan and the emcee will be Marc Kaye.

Terrell headlines comedy venues along the East Coast and works regularly at various New York and Los Angeles Comedy Clubs including Carolines on Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club, the Laugh Factory, the Stand, and New York Comedy Club. Terrell was named one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” at the New York Comedy Festival in 2019.

Tickets are $25 for either show. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and show starts at 7:30 p.m.

A cash bar is provided, and table snacks are included. Onsite parking is free.
All seats are reserved. You must call the box office if you have special seating requirements or if you are joining another party. 

Sean Reilly

On March 13 and 19, music – the music of Frank Sinatra – will be showcased at the Candlelight Theatre.

Vocalist Sean Reilly will present his show “Sinatra 101: The Tales Behind the Tunes” at 8 p.m. each night.

Reilly “Tells the Tales” and “Sings the Tunes” for many of Sinatra’s most popular songs.

The Wilmington native is a popular vocalist in the Sinatra style who performs all along the Eastern Seaboard for clients, both public and private. Reilly possesses a vocal style that exudes confidence and class, making him reminiscent of his idol, Frank Sinatra.

Though not an “impersonator”, his natural ability to sing in the Sinatra style, along with his perfected mannerisms and physical resemblance, places Reilly on a plateau all his own.

Video link for Sean Reilly — https://youtu.be/7KzF85nd-Sk.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $20. A cash bar is provided, and table snacks are included. Free parking is available adjacent to the theater.

Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, www.punchlinephilly.com) has announced four upcoming comedy shows starting with Comedy Allstars featuring Seamus Millar with special guests Brittany Carney and David James on March 24 and Tony Woods with special guest James Altucher from March 25-27.

Lovable Monsters & Friends are scheduled to perform on March 31. The Philly All-Pro Comedy Showcase featuring a yet-to-be-announced lineup of top Philadelphia-area comedians is slated for April 7. Tickets for all of these performances are on sale now at PunchLinePhilly.com.

The club is adhering to guidelines issued by the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania and offering limited indoor seating with reduced venue capacity to adhere to social distancing measures. Masks are mandatory inside the venue and must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking.

Punch Line Philly will offer a seasonal menu of food and beverage options with contactless payment available during the performance.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) has a variety of shows scheduled for this month — Brandon “Taz’ Niederauer on March 12, “Gold Rush – The Ultimate Neil Young Celebration” on March 13, Bill Monaghan & Celtic Pride on March 16, Barleyjuice on March 17, Matt Nokoa on March 19, Danielia Cotton on March 20, Phil D’Agostino on March 23, Tim Farrell on March 26, Jawn Of The Dead on March 27, and Ben O’Neill on March 30.

The Delta Cosmonauts

The Kennett Brewing Company (109 S. Broad Street. Kennett Square, https://kennettbrewingcompany.com) will host The Delta Cosmonauts on March 12, Pat & Cole on March 13 and A&TT on March 14.

The Bridgeport Ribhouse (1049 Ford Street, Bridgeport, www.ribhouse.net) is presenting Eleven on March 13, Matt Spitko on March 13, AM RADIO on March 14 and Brian Quinn & Danny Beissel on March 17.

Tuned Up Brewing Co. (135 North Main Street, Spring City, www.tunedupbrew.com) will host Bill Ferreri on March 12, Allan Combs II on March 19 and Mr. Mody on March 26.

Creekside Sports Bar & Grille (765 N Lewis Road, Royersford, http://www.creeksidesportsbar.com/) will present Shot of Southern on March 17, Singles Going Steady on March 14, 21 and 28, Philly Heart & Soul on March 12, Buzz Nutz on March 13, Lima Bean Riot on March 19, Triple Rail Turn on March 20, IV Stone on March 26, and Modern Luxe on March 27.


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