Funny man Vinnie Brand started his career by opening up a flower shop. But the life of a florist wasn’t cutting it for Vinnie. Maybe it was the painstaking task of creating floral arrangements. Or maybe it was the pollen. (We promise we’re not playing an April Fool’s joke on you!)
One thing was clear; it was time for Vinnie to focus on his passion – comedy. This is one life lesson Vinnie can teach us. When all else fails, it’s time to move on and make your dreams come true.
Vinnie, stand-up comic and owner of The Stress Factory Comedy Club, opened his business 20 years ago when it seemed like a lot of things in his life were going downhill. He had just gone through a divorce and closed his construction company and the flower shop. Today, The Stress Factory is a huge success and many famous comedians have graced its stage. Vinnie has become a familiar face in the world of comedy, working in comedy clubs in New York City and appearing on shows like Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and Last Comic Standing.
Vinnie, a Monmouth County native, will be filling Pollak Hall with laughter on Saturday, April 11. Vinnie is one of the performers for TEDxNavesink 2015: Accelerators and he will take the stage to share his comedy with the audience. Vinnie shares ideas through humor, of course. But we can’t do his story justice; we have to let you experience Vinnie’s style straight from him.
Tell me about yourself and how you got involved in the work you’re doing.
I am a stand-up comic and my wife and I own and operate The Stress Factory Comedy Club in New Brunswick NJ. I also coach two youth soccer teams and I sit on the Board of Education in Middletown NJ, a position I’ve held since 2009. My wife and I have three children together, as well as three children from my first wife. I was introduced to TEDxNavesink by a parent from one of the teams I coach. I would assume she either likes the way I coach OR she was trying to rid of me, hoping that TEDx would consume all of my time and rid her of me. I am hoping the former is true.
What are you passionate about?
Well, I’m passionate about life and when I’m doing it properly I am VERY happy! Specifically, I am very passionate about making people laugh. When I am working, I am aware that there are many different types of people in the audience. Some are in a great mood and want to have a fun night because they’re in a great mood. On the other hand, some may be there because they NEED to laugh, maybe their lives at that moment in time are such that they have an actual emotional need. Both groups are very important to me. Performing for them is a tremendous honor and a great responsibility. I tell my staff at The Stress Factory that we are responsible for our customers lives during the time they’re with us. As the comic on stage, I know that I am the ringleader at that moment. I’m very dedicated to everyone having a great time. It is my calling.
I am also passionate about children. I ran for the Board of Education because I wanted to be involved in my community. I wanted to try to make things better for the children of our town. I am proud to say that during my time on the board, through a collaboration of highly dedicated professionals and willing volunteers, we’ve accomplished tremendous things. We’ve joined with the Township Committee and formed a Shared Services Committee to better serve the taxpayers. Through that committee we’ve negotiated savings on various goods and services and we’ve built a new multi-sport turf facility and we’ve laid the groundwork for a second facility. The Shared Services committee was one of my larger goals when running for office. Fortunately for me, the vision for our town was shared by not just my fellow board members and professionals in the school system, but also by our partners on the Township Committee and their team of professionals. I am excited to see what we can do next.
I am also quite passionate about coaching. Coaching soccer is a way for me to try to help young people get excited about their lives and their opportunities. I have been blessed with great families and tremendous young athletes who are willing to work hard toward our individual and team goals. Through sports I try to teach my team about dedication, hard work, consistency decision-making and fair play. I am forever talking to them about their decisions regarding their friends, their schoolwork, interaction with their families and of course, avoiding drugs and alcohol. We truly are lucky to live in a nation where we can live our dreams. Unfortunately, we have grown up with that truth and sometimes we take it for granted. I love teaching our kids how lucky they are to be alive in this country at this time. Through coaching I am always striving to excite our kids, to get them motivated to not just move through life, but to live it, relish it and perform their best at all times.
What attracted you to the TEDxNavesink: Accelerators conference as an entertainer?
I love the learning environment, the innovation environment. To have the opportunity to make people laugh a bit, perhaps make a point with comedy that sticks a little because it is attached to laughing, and that excites me. Humor is an excellent healer, we’ve all heard that, but it’s an excellent teacher as well.
TEDxNavesink 2015 is all about accelerators—game changers, innovators and catalysts. How do you feel that you have been an accelerator or game changer in your work/life?
In coaching I hope that I’ve helped kids learn the value of hard work and hopefully changed some small part of the culture by helping kids to realize their particular value on the field. I teach the kids that every player has a value and can contribute. We not only celebrate it, we coach to it. In my professional life I’ve tried to do the same thing. I’ve coached young comics on how to manage the stage and develop. As a performer, I have helped transform the show into a conversation with the audience. I have helped to change and evolve the genre of storytelling, along with a lot of other great comics, into a very quick moving and intimate art.
TEDx conferences are built on the philosophy that ideas are worth spreading. How do you work to spread ideas in your work?
I spread my ideas with humor. Everything is easier if you can laugh while learning. I do this while coaching, while talking to my employees and certainly when talking to the audience!
What is something unique or different you bring to the table? How will you incorporate this uniqueness into your TEDx appearance?
There are so many great TED speakers. What do I do that is unique? Maybe just that I will listen and perhaps incorporate some of the other speakers into my comments. Maybe I’ll be just a little bit more off the cuff. All the other speakers will be smart enough to prepare!
What do you hope to get out of entertaining at TEDxNavesink?
I want to learn from the other speakers. I love hearing innovative ideas and I love live speaking. I’m excited to be able to not only listen, but in some way partake and gain from it. So knowledge, that’s what I’m here for. And more Twitter followers. (Follow Vinnie on Twitter @Vinnie_Brand!)
If you want to enjoy Vinnie’s off the cuff, comedic storytelling, then get your tickets to TEDxNavesink 2015: Accelerators now! Accelerators will feature people who are creating game-changing innovation and cutting edge thought. And also some laughter! Buy your tickets by clicking here.
Audrey Ardine graduated from Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She is currently working for a trade association in Monmouth County. She resides in Red Bank and has lived there for most of her life.