The Story of AC Jokes Mini Documentary:
First Drive in Comedy Show of the Pandemic
Stand Up Comedy Specials
Mike Merk | You Ain’t Right https://youtu.be/rRxvA1VpDBQ
Gary G. Garcia | You Did Not See Me Here Tonight https://youtu.be/SuYO3K8ZcqI
Mission Statement: Coming Soon
Short Company Bio: AC Jokes is a team of comics that came together to form the only stand up comedy show run by the comedians themselves. Using a grassroots approach, the members began by going out on the Atlantic City boardwalk to try and convince tourists to come to their stand up comedy shows. They would eventually learn that what they were doing was “semi-illegal,” which made them a perfect fit for Atlantic City. Comedy fans began to notice their combination of hard work and humor. Prior to Covid, AC Jokes was running shows in two rooms at the Tropicana Casino, one at Ballys, and one at the Caesars Pier. AC Jokes prides itself on innovation. Following the pandemic, they brought live stand up comedy back to Atlantic City, and the surrounding New Jersey/Philadelphia area, by being the first to have a drive-in style show. Currently, AC Jokes is the only show in the world that runs seven days a week. Stay tuned as there is much more to come from this unique dysfunctional comedy family.
Long Company Bio: In 2013, veteran comedian and producer Matt Bridgestone noticed a Craigslist ad for a bar in Atlantic City called “Le Grand Fromage.” While that may sound like a fancy French name, it means “The Big Cheese.” They were looking for any events that would bring in a crowd. Matt assembled a crew of comedians and headed to A.C. at a time when casinos were closing, and Hurricane Sandy caused millions in damage. The amazing thing was that while the town was struggling, the comedians had kept a positive attitude. They noticed that there were plenty of people who wanted and needed to laugh. The people of Atlantic City weren’t the only ones struggling. Local comedian Zach Pickett was looking for a way to showcase his talents. Comedians Mike Merk, Ray Vazquez, Gary G. Garcia, and Petey Rancel were staples in the New York Comedy scene but were not getting the stage time they felt they needed to express themselves. Buda The Comedian had been performing for fifteen years, and while he was an established headliner, he still needed to drive a cab during the day to make ends meet. Brian Steadman originally attended their show as a fan. He eventually fell in love with comedy and decided to get on stage to try it himself. His skills quickly developed to the point where he was able to quit his job as a poker dealer and become the final additional member of what had now become AC Jokes. They all recognized that they needed Atlantic City, but what they came to realize was that Atlantic City also needed them. The town responded with open arms as they began to notice comedians on the boardwalk telling jokes and inviting them to comedy shows. A special connection began to grow between locals, tourists, and the AC Police Department, who were delighted to see people pushing something legal. As a result, the shows’ popularity grew, but that came with a new set of challenges. The comedians found themselves living in crowded cheap hotel rooms while sharing beds, meals, and dreams of success. The group would be tested in more ways than they could imagine. Internally the members struggled with addictions, depression, family and health issues. Outside of the group they had to overcome doubters, new competitors, and reluctant Casino heads that did not know how to handle this unique cast of characters. Through it all, they were able to stick together, and eventually proved that their talent and determination was undeniable. The group was told, by many sources, that they would never be able to have shows in the Tropicana Casino. Refusing to take no for an answer, they would eventually have shows in two different locations inside Tropicana. When Ballys’ Casino would not return their phone calls, team members began to promote in the casino with the intention of being stopped by security. The plan worked, and they were able to get the names of the people in charge who would eventually bring them in to perform daily at the Blue Martini Show Room. Before Covid, Ac Jokes was running 20 shows per week, and bringing laughter to thousands of people. While Covid shut them down, they never stopped fighting. They even figured out a way to bring live shows back, by being the first on the entire East Coast to have a drive-in style comedy show. In true AC Jokes fashion, the first drive-in show did not occur without controversy. It was almost shut down by the police. However, after challenging the legality of the shutdown, the AC Jokes team had got approval from New Jersey Governor Murphy’s office to move forward. Afterward, Comedian Dave Chapelle claimed to hold the first live shows since the lockdown. He then corrected himself by saying that some comics held drive-in shows, where people honked their horns for laughs, but that “could not have been any fun.” Well, Dave was wrong. Both the public and press noticed, and showed a ton of love and support to this group of castaway comics that were determined to bring laughter back when it was needed more than ever. Eventually, restrictions were eased, and now AC Jokes is the only show in the entire world running seven days a week. You can currently find them in the Tropicana Casino where they keep living their dream of making people laugh.
Matt Bridgestone: Matt is a comedian and producer who has been working in the business for over 20 years. He began producing shows in Atlantic City 6 years ago. At a time when many people were turning away from A.C., Matt decided to go “all in” and bring showcase style comedy to town. Matt organized a team of talent which would eventually grow into Ac Jokes. Matt has performed on, and produced shows with comics such as Jim Breuer, Dane Cook, Andrew Dice Clay, Artie Lange, Mick Foley, Pete Davidon, Gilbert Gottfried, Nick Cannon, and many more. He also wrote jokes that aired on the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Beiber. His favorite moment of his career was when he got to meet one of his heroes, George Carlin. Matt’s style is a combination of intelligent observations, and sophomoric silliness. His shows have a genuine quality that leave you feeling like you just got to hang out with an old friend.
Mike Merk: Mike was born and raised in New York City and has been writing and performing comedy since he was 16 years old. He has performed in clubs all over New York City, as well as many clubs all over the country. He is a co-creator/owner of AC Jokes, where he currently performs multiple times a week at the Tropicana Casino.
Mike Merk’s constant battle with addiction has influenced a real, raw and honest point of view which shines through in his act. His credits include Sirius XM Radio, TMZ and his couch where he watches a lot of Netflix. His ability to work the crowd and roast the audience has been compared to the legendary Don Rickles.
Petey Rancel: Petey was born into a Cuban immigrant family in the 1980’s, Petey was exposed to some unique experiences growing up in South Florida, you could say that’s where it all began.
At the age 18, Petey decided to join the military and it gave him a new perspective on life. After the military, Petey began acting, performing stand-up comedy, appearing in the USA Network series “Burn Notice.”
Petey’s stand-up career has seen him perform both nationally and internationally. He has been featured at Big Ben’s Comedy Club in Stockholm Sweden, performed at top tier New York clubs such as Gotham and the Broadway Comedy Club, been a resident comedian at The Grisly Pear Comedy Club, and the Huron Comedy Club in the SoHo Playhouse.
Gary G. Garcia: Gary is a modern day renaissance man hailing from Queens NY. He has a diverse background which includes: music, hustling, poetry, dance, motivational speaking, clothing design, & more. For the last five years, Gary has been concentrating on stand-up comedy. He started out in the New York City comedy scene at the Grisly Pear. His talents were quickly noticed by everyone at Ac Jokes. He was invited to AC to perform on their shows. There was no looking back as Gary quickly emerged as a key member of the crew, a leader in the clubhouse, and headliner in high demand. His signature raspy voice, and in-your face comedy, is both hilarious and philosophical. Gary began a unique trend. After his shows he wears a white T-shirt and rather than give out his autograph, he has his fans sign his shirt with theirs. It’s game changing ideas like this that are creating a loyal and rapidly growing fan base for the man they call “G.”
Buda The Comedian: Here on Earth there are some amazing comedians, but only one comedy GOD hails from the heavens above. Buda The Comedian is an undeniable comedy powerhouse. Amazingly, Buda is his real last name. He lives up to it as he dominates the stage standing 6 foot 5, and nearly 300 pounds. He does over 100 voices and impressions. Buda keeps audiences rolling with masterful crowd work, and personal stories. He has shared the stage with comics such as Tracy Morgan, Gilbert Gottfried, and George Carlin. His comedy has been described as a combination of Jackie Gleason, Andrew Dice Clay, and Chris Farley if he never took drugs.
Brian Steadman: Brian Steadman is the newest member of Ac Jokes. Initially he was just a fan attending Ac Jokes shows, and hanging out after the shows. After a few months, Ac Jokes booker, Matt Bridgestone, challenged him to hit the stage, and he never looked back. That was 3 years ago, and now Brian is a resident comedian at Ac Jokes and has also performed at New York’s Grisly Pear, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, The Misfit Hive as well as Catch A rising Star in Princeton NJ. Most recently he featured for Jim Florentine in West Windsor NJ. Brian came to comedy late in life, but he feels like he has been doing it forever. Brian quit his job, after ten years, at one of the Atlantic City’s casinos to perform comedy full-time. He brings his life experiences as a bouncer, street pharmacist, retail manager, casino supervisor and jewelry designer, as well as stories about his upbringing in a crazy family, to the stage in a very unique and funny way.
Zach Pickett: Zach Pickett grew up in Atlantic City and is a staple performer at Ac Jokes. He combines high-energy, physical, rubber-face comedy with sharp mental observations. His comedy is part Jim Carrey and part Lenny Bruce, with an originality all to itself. One minute he might be quoting the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and the next he is doing a spot on impression of his friendly neighborhood crackhead. People thought he was crazy when he left Law School to pursue comedy, but in just a few short years, Zach has worked his way up from open mic comic to a legitimate headline act.
Social Media Links
Current Podcast Productions
Rated G with Gary G. Garcia
Detrimental Solutions An Unsolicited Live Advice Podcast
You Got the Light A Comedy Interview Podcast with Matt Bridgestone
World’s Funniest Podcast
Comedians Personal Links
Matt Bridgestone :https://linktr.ee/MattBridgestone
Gary G. Garcia:https://linktr.ee/garyggarcia
Buda The Comedian:https://linktr.ee/BudaTheComedian