Comedian Chris Roach brings comedy set, TV pilot to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson
Get a laugh this April Fools’ Day at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, where local comedian Chris Roach takes the stage before debuting the pilot of his new dramedy, “Jiggle the Handle” at 8 p.m. on April 1. Fellow Long Island comic and co-star Chris Monty will also serve as a special guest.
THE ROACH APPROACH
Roach, 54, of Ronkonkoma, decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy in 2003 when he took the Stand-Up University course at McGuire’s Comedy Club in Bohemia with professional comedians Peter Bales, Steve Lazarus and Rich Walker.
“I wanted to get over a debilitating public speaking fear. Back in elementary school, I was the class comedian, but as I got into high school, I suffered from anxiety,” says Roach. “Once I heard the laughter, all this weight was lifted off me. It reminded me of being back in school making the kids laugh and how good that felt.”
His first gig was hosting an open mic night at the BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue on Tuesday nights in September 2003.
“The crowd could be a little rough but it thickened my skin and taught me how to navigate different situations,” says Roach. “My goal was to make a room full of strangers laugh like I did with my family and friends.”
Roach attributes his success to the support he has received from fellow Long Island comedians Joey Kola, Joe Starr, Gary Valentine, Carie Karavas and Richie Minervini.
His comic buddy and best friend, Monty, 50, of Floral Park, even hired Roach as his opening act.
“One day he said, ‘You can’t open for me anymore because you are getting too funny,’ ” laughs Roach, who cites fellow local comedian, the late Rodney Dangerfield as his main inspiration.
Back in 2016, actor/comedian Kevin James, who grew up in Stony Brook, hired Roach to play Mott in his Long Island based sitcom, "Kevin Can Wait" as well as opening for him on the road.
“Kevin is one of us. He’s like his character from "The King of Queens" but much more humble and shy,” says Roach. “His work ethic is incredible. He’s the Jackie Gleason of our generation.”
TV PILOT PREMIERE
Roach co-wrote “Jiggle the Handle” with real married couple Joe Pomarico and Christine James Walker, of West Babylon, who also co-star with him.
“It’s kind of like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' meets "'Breaking Bad.' We are going for funny with edge-of-your-seat suspense,” says Pomarico, who directed the pilot. “It’s a comedy that can go dark pretty quickly at times.”
The premise is a brother-and-sister team Calvin (Roach) and Tippi (Walker), who, after finding themselves living together, suddenly get an unwanted mobster roommate (Pomarico) when Calvin’s boss (Guy Richards) puts on pressure to take in his nephew. Monty also plays a funny homeless man with an ulterior motive.
“Calvin [Roach] is a bit of a pushover who doesn’t stand up for himself. He’s a people pleaser,” says Pomarico, 37. “Chris shows every type of emotion in his performance.”
Walker enjoyed working with Roach because together they got to improvise many scenes.
“Whatever Chris gives you, it’s hard to keep a straight face,” says Walker, 36. “He constantly makes me laugh.”
The title of this 36-minute show serves as a metaphor.
“You have to ‘jiggle the handle’ of life,” says Walker. “It’s going to throw you curveballs, therefore you have to pick yourself up and keep moving.”
THE EVENING LINEUP
The night will begin with a 20-minute set showcasing Monty’s family-oriented comedy followed by a 20-minute set from Roach, who focuses on self-deprecating, sarcastic and relatable humor. Paul Anthony of the Long Island Comedy Festival serves as the host of the evening. The pilot will then be shown to the audience on a movie screen.
“We will pass out questionnaires so people can anonymously tell us what they thought of it,” says Roach. “Following the showing, there will be a Q&A session.”
Pomarico adds, “I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a blast! I’m curious to see what everyone thinks about it.”
When asked if he still suffers from anxiety, Roach states, “I don’t get nervous, but if you get completely comfortable, you lose something. You need that little bit of excitement because it fuels you to be more creative. Without it, there’s an edge missing.”
“JIGGLE THE HANDLE” COMEDY EVENT
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., April 1; Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson
INFO 631-928-9100, theatrethree.com