DREW CAREY began working with Bonkerz in the late 80’s as a feature/middle act. He was and remains a very strong comic and we bumped him up to headliner after his first visit. He worked the Orlando Bonkerz throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. Today, of course, he is internationally known as an actor, TV game show host, improv performer and hilarious stand-up comedian.
When we opened the first club in Orlando, we couldn’t afford the cost of putting 2 comics a week up in hotel rooms. We decided instead to rent a big 5 bedroom split level house with a pool and BBQ area. It was set up so that Joe, John and George had 3 bedrooms on the 2nd floor, the dining room became our office, and the 2 bedrooms on the lower level were for comics.
We knew it would be a challenge to ask the comics to stay with us, so we compensated them by making big dinners every night and having after show cookouts and pool parties every weekend. We made the hearty Sicilian/American cooking we were raised on. Lasagna, Braciolle, Italian Sausage etc. every night and soon it became legendary with the comics. We always had a house full. Not just whoever was working the club that weekend, but also the house MC’s like Billy Gardell, Jeff Barrett, Pat Mullally & Devin Williams and even the original Bonkerz’ waitress crew.
On Drew’s first trip to the Orlando club, we explained the housing situation to him. He seemed a bit uncomfortable with the idea, which was understandable since none of us had ever met. He knew however that his manager, Rick Messina, was a friend of ours so he went along with it, a bit reluctantly.
The week went very well. Drew killed, made new friends, and had a great time. After the weekend was over, we asked him to come back as a headliner. He got Rick on the phone to check his availability and he said Drew would agree to come back ONLY if he could stay in the house again. Many comics over the years will recall memories of that house and those big dinners, but Drew’s story always stands out for us.