BY JULIE FARREN
Johnny Cardinale knew he could make people laugh when he was attending Summit Elementary School in Beaumont.
His father Raymond Cardinale could see his son’s talent for humor long before that, when Johnny was 3 years-old.
“He was always a character,” he said.
Cardinale, 52, continued on the comedy path during his years at Beaumont Junior High and Beaumont High School, where he was voted class clown.
(Cardinale graduated in 1985).
Thirty-four years later, Cardinale, a professional comedian who performs at The Comedy Store, is entertaining audiences once a month at The Sand Trap Sports Bar & Grill in Beaumont.
Cardinale brings home to Beaumont four different comedians every third Saturday at 8 p.m. for an hour-long comedy show.
It will be eight years this September that Cardinale started the comedy hour at The Sand Trap.
But Cardinale’s career may not have gone in that direction if he had stayed on his path to study math at California State University, San Bernardino.
He then switched his major to economics, but Cardinale knew that that major was not going to hold his attention, either.
His career aspirations were about to change when he saw a comedian do a five-minute routine on TV.
Cardinale knew he could be funnier than that comedian. “I thought, ‘If that person is on TV, I could be doing comedy on TV,’” Cardinale said.
He dropped out of Cal State, San Bernardino in 1990. Cardinale moved to Los Angeles with a friend and joined an improv group called Incognito. There were 13 members.
“I was terrible, but I stuck with it for a while,” Cardinale said. “I was getting better.”
Along with improv, Cardinale would do parodies on his guitar and also wrote scripts.
Cardinale said he also worked as a tour guide at Universal Studios.
He stopped thinking about stand-up comedy while he was a member of Incognito.
The improv group lasted a year-and-a-half.
Cardinale said he was going to open mic’s at comedy clubs in Redlands, Pomona and Hermosa Beach.
Then he decided to go to an open mic at The Comedy Store. The comedians were given three minutes and Cardinale auditioned for owner Mitzi Shore, who sat in the back row of The Comedy Store, watching the comedians.
After he was done, he walked past Shore. “She didn’t look up at me,” Cardinale said.
He later got a call, saying that Shore wanted him to have six minutes the following Sunday.
A week later, Cardinale got 10 minutes and he would be paid for his routine. Then he was given five spots in one week.
Cardinale was performing at The Comedy Store during the time that comedians Chris Rock and Andrew Dice Clay were on stage. It also was the site where the future careers of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling and Freddie Prinze were born.
Cardinale said that Pauly Shore invited him to perform on stage at The Comedy Store and then they went up to Vegas for a three-day gig at The Riviera. Cardinale said that the 1,300 seat theatre was standing room only for each performance.
Cardinale had never experienced anything like that. He was 28.
“After that, I was gold,” Cardinale said.
But he was not comfortable with the larger venues and decided to go back to the open mic’s.
“I had to find out who I was on stage,” he said.
Cardinale said he also had a falling out with Mitzi Shore so he went over to perform at the Ice House and the Improv. One night, on stage at the Improv, he was telling a story that was not true.
A woman in the front row called him out on it during his performance. Cardinale admitted he had embellished the story and decided from that point on, he was only going to tell true stories.
Cardinale’s reunion with his hometown of Beaumont occurred eight years ago when he got together with old high school friends, including his childhood friend, Andy Capps.
The group met at the SandTrap and Cardinale said he did not realize how much Beaumont had grown since he moved away. That night, he took a look around the SandTrap and saw its potential.
“I said, ‘Is the owner here? This is a great place for a comedy show,’” Cardinale recalled.
He talked with SandTrap owner Julia Cloninger and wanted to take a look at the lighting and the microphone system. Cardinale said the comedy show would need new lighting and a new sound system and his father Raymond built a small stage for the comedians.
Cardinale said he decided that an hour would be long enough for the show, which features four comedians doing about 10 minutes each. Cardinale is the emcee, opening and closing the show as well as telling jokes between the comedians individual routines.
This past Saturday, the show was sold out, with 120 to 150 people in the restaurant/bar, enjoying drinks and food and comedians Damienne Merlina, Shannon Leigh, Courtney Scheuerman and Chris Wivell.
All four touched on a variety of topics such as dating, relationships, therapy and going to swap meets.
Cardinale said that Saturday’s show was his birthday show, even though technically, his birthday is June 27.
He also lamented that June 21 would have been his fifth wedding anniversary.
The audience clapped, but Cardinale reminded them that “it would have been his anniversary.”
“Some people call it summer solstice,” said Cardinale. “Other people call it the longest day of the year.”
He also joked that his mother, Nancy Cardinale, mailed him a birthday card, which he received Nov. 2.
Cardinale reminded her that his birthday is June 27. “I know, it’s a little early,” his mother said.
Cardinale also asked the audience, “Does anyone else say ‘Hey batter batter, hey batter batter’’ when making pancakes?’’
First up was Merlina, who lost her right arm in an automobile accident years ago and talks about her nub in her stand-up routine.
“It was a vending machine accident. I love Cheetos,” she said.
She said she has told police officers that they can’t handcuff her.
Merlina did a spot-on impression of actress Rosie Perez, talked about being pear-shaped and that she loved to take photos of her nub hitting celebrities such as Steve Martin and Jim Carrey in the head.
Shannon Leigh drove herself out to Beaumont for the show. Leigh said she noticed a sign up for the Cherry Festival and she got excited. Then she saw the dates, May 30 through June 2.
“Somebody might want to take that sign down,” she said.
Cardinale said he will be going on his 18th tour to entertain the troops overseas during the month of August.
He also speculated about the hot topic of Russia influencing the presidential election of 2016.
“If there was collusion with the Russians, wouldn’t the proof be in the Putin?’’
Next up was Courtney Scheuerman, who talked about her love life.
“I’m in a relationship, eight years,” Scheuerman said. “I don’t want to be like that girl who says “It’s time. It’s time that he divorced his wife. ‘It’s tough because he’s so loyal.”
Chris Wivell talked about recently turning 40. He said he did not know what his life would be like when he turned this milestone age.
“I didn’t think I would be living with four male roommates who offer unsolicited financial advice because they make more money than me,” Wivell said.
As part of his Birthday Month, Cardinale brought up four audience members who also were celebrating June birthdays and gave them a birthday drink.
Monica Hark, of Santa Clarita, said she met Cardinale a year ago because he auditioned for the Princess Cruise Line she works for. Hark is a non-revenue operations specialist and was one of six cruise line employees selected to judge comedians to perform on the cruise line.
Cardinale was one of two finalists. Hark said she drives down with her boyfriend, Bill Martin, to see Cardinale’s show and brings her mother, Harriet Briant, of Banning, and other friends and family.
Cardinale’s audition for the cruise line impressed Hark. “I love it. I wanted to see more,” Hark said.
Martin agreed. “I thought it was great. I thought he was good, I thought all of the comics were great tonight,” he said.
Reach staff writer Julie Farren at email@example.com .