Little did we know that Forest Hills has a comedian celebrity in its backyard by the name of Rick Allen.
Historically, Forest Hills has been home to a long list of notables including singers, actors and actresses, comedians, politicians, and sports figures. Some are Helen Keller, Jerry Seinfeld, Bert Bacharach, Geraldine Ferraro, Abe Coleman, David Caruso, Fred Stone, Thelma Ritter, Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), The Ramones, and Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
Allen spent much of his life in Forest Hills, with the exception of living in Florida for three and a half years, before returning in 2008.
“I was always the funny guy in my family,” he said. “I never thought of becoming a comedian, until I saw a friend who lived in Forest Hills do comedy, and then I realized it was attainable.”
Allen is now in his forties, has been a full-time comedian for seven years, and began referring to himself as a comedian twenty-three years ago.
His comedic inspirations range from George Carlin to Don Rickles to Jackie Gleason. He lauded Carlin as a dynamo, terrific comedy writer and performer, “a comedy genius in all ways.” He feels inspired by Rickles since he is the “king of insults.” Gleason’s career was praised on the basis of his original character, since “being unique is the key towards success in the industry.”
Allen has been told that he is somewhat different than many other comedians out there.
“I’ve been told I have a very strong persona, and that is something you cannot teach,” he said. “I am a strong comedy writer. I do a lot of setup and punch style comedy, which is not story-based, but includes punch line after punch line. I am most interested in making my audience laugh than anything else, which is what a lot of other comedians don’t always pay attention to.”
His one-act nightclub routine ranges from 45 minutes to one hour. Allen’s private functions include birthdays, weddings, and bachelor parties. He has also adapted his routine for younger audiences, which includes children’s shows.
“My act is my life,” Allen said. “I make fun of sports, everyday observational stuff such as the supermarket, and also explore relationship material. I base my routine on my family, and being married to my Spanish wife.”
In January 2012, he shared his talents at The Borgata in Atlantic City and at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in 2010. He has also performed on the stage of Dangerfield’s on First Avenue in Manhattan.
Allen has also performed at many road gigs, such as at Wise Guys Comedy Club in Syrcacuse, The Comedy Works in Albany, Baltimore Comedy Factory in Maryland, and Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club in Florida. He is also a regular at The Funny Stop Comedy Club in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The economy has affected the comedy business overall, and many comedy clubs have closed. Manhattan clubs are accessible and often remain in business, but a lot of the road comedy clubs shuttered, while others have been replaced. He explained one means of how an artist is generating revenue.
“A lot of comedians have turned down work since it is just not worth the travel,” he said. “Comedians these days sell promotional t-shirts at shows to cover the price of gas.” Despite economic woes, Allen maintains his sense of humor on the subject, and published his clip on gas prices on his YouTube channel, imprimetym.
When questioned about the challenges he met during his career, he not only thought about himself, but offered advice for up-and-coming artists.
“There’s always another project you’re working on, and there are many different roads in show biz,” he said. “That includes acting, writing, and performing. An artist has to decide what they do best, and go for it.”
As for advice for the future of comedy, Allen explained, “I think people need to support live comedy as opposed to sitting home and watching their favorite TV show. When it is done right, it is an art form that is second to none. We are a dying breed. I know what it took for me to get to the level where I am at, and I am always supportive of newer comics.”
The future of the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium has been on the mind of many locals, as well as history, sports, and music aficionados across the U.S. Allen believes the site merits preservation, and is the key towards revitalizing our local economy inclusive of the economic preservation of comedy.
He feels the stadium is unique, and does not have to be demolished as our community moves into the future. He explained that the West Side Tennis Club’s property is large enough to accommodate a restored and creatively reused stadium, alongside an addition of a 1,100 seat indoor theater facility for comedy routines, plays, and concerts.
“I’m sure Forest Hills native Ray Romano might want to help get it off the ground,” he said. “If the West Side Tennis Club is interested in exploring my proposal, this would be a huge revenue boost for Forest Hills, and a far superior idea than having more condos in the neighborhood. An indoor theater facility would ensure year-round use, and I can be instrumental in obtaining name brand comedians at my proposed facility.”
Besides continuing to entertain audiences for decades to come, Allen’s long-term goals are to have a television show, become a staff writer for late night comedy shows, and do some sports comedy on the radio. Allen has written the pilot episode of “I Love Miluska,” which is a spin on the “I Love Lucy” sitcom.
“Miluska is my wife of eleven years, and I had a vision of producing my sitcom for more than ten years,” he said. “It would take place in New York City. The difference in my show would be Ricky as the American husband, and Lucy as the South American wife. I would have a mother-in-law who lives with us, and she doesn’t speak a word of English.”
Allen is hoping it will reach Hollywood.
With summer temperatures in the air, the public can witness his routine center stage on July 6 and 7 at the Bananas Comedy Club in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, and on July 13 and 14 at the Stitches Comedy Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Venture into cyberspace for more information including performance clips - and “like” his Facebook Page - at Rickallencomedy.com.