has been a regular on Saturday Night Live for the past 20 years, but his first time ever on stage was at Bonkerz. He would hang out on open mic night, but had trouble getting the courage to go up on stage. Bonkerz co-owner, George Maltezos, pushed him several times and when Darrell finally went on stage his dead-on impressions brought the house down.
Darrell began to tour within months and was also featured on one of Bonkerz’ Showtime Network specials. Darrell was always one of our most requested acts and someone we always felt comfortable sending out to open new rooms.
We didn’t normally manage comics back then and we still don’t, but one of the few people we made an exception for was Darrell. One of the highlights and biggest let downs ever in our management experience came during that time. It began with a phone call we got one day from the manager of Rat Pack Icon, Dean Martin. Dean was scheduled for a tour of Upstate New York resorts and they wanted Darrell Hammond to open for him. Unfortunately, we got another call a few weeks later saying that Dean was too sick to tour and it was cancelled. To this day we don’t know who was more disappointed, Darrell or us.
Joe was so excited that he scheduled himself to go along on the tour even though it was not budgeted. The chance to meet Dean Martin was worth the cost of paying all of his own expenses.
Darrell talks about Joe and John Sanfelippo in his autobiography where he credits Bonkerz with giving him his start. Bonkerz also managed his early career which included his stint as a morning radio personality shortly before his move to New York and eventual stardom on SNL.