Ah, the life of a cruise ship comedian. We got an earful a few months back when we happened to sit next to professional funnyman John Ferrentino (see his take on cruising in the video above) on a flight from Baltimore to New Orleans. We were en route to Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, while Ferrentino had just disembarked Enchantment of the Seas — where he’d performed his well-regarded comedy and magic show — and was heading home to Florida.
Decked out in a spiky haircut, goatee, jeans and a black T-shirt that read “My anger management class really pisses me off” (He even dresses funny!), Ferrentino told us his story — and how a standup show on a cruise ship differs from the real world.
First, a little backstory: Ferrentino worked the Vegas scene and comedy clubs nationwide and did countless TV comedy shows before joining the cruise ship circuit more than two decades ago. He worked for Norwegian for 17 years and Disney for a year before taking contracts with Royal Caribbean and Princess. It’s a phenomenal gig, he said – and much funnier than his original career (radiology).
So how is performing on a cruise ship different for a comedian? Funny you should ask.
1. The cruise ship showrooms are better. They’re more intimate, better maintained and well-supported by lighting and sound specialists and producers who are more attentive than in the Vegas casinos, he said.
2. It takes more time to rev up a cruise ship audience. If you buy a ticket for a Vegas comedy show, you are primed and ready for that single show. Cruise passengers have a zillion diversions at their whim, so their focus isn’t necessarily on the comedian. “It take a good 10 minutes to warm up the crowd,” he said.
3. It’s better to play it clean on a ship. Even if you play a late-night, adults-only show and are only mildly dirty, guests are apt to complain. And it takes more brains to be clean and funny than to be dirty, he noted, which can be a crutch.
4. The accommodations are better on cruise ships. Ferrentino said he usually gets a balcony stateroom. Not too shabby.
5. You only have to work 1.5 hours a week on a cruise ship. Just two shows – that’s it. The rest of his work week is monopolized by travel. And just enjoying the ride.
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