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By Dianne R. Davis
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Interview with Comedian Shelley Berman

Shelley Berman will perform at The Improv at Harrah's from Tuesday, November 15 through Sunday, November 20. He is an actor, comedian, writer, director, teacher, lecturer, and poet with a distinguished career that began during TV's Golden Age and continues with recent roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Boston Legal. He had the first comedy record to go gold, Inside Shelley Berman, as well as being first to win a Grammy for the best non-musical recording. And at the age of 86, he is still going strong.

Shelley Berman

I had the great pleasure of chatting with him recently. Here's just a portion of our conversation.

DD: Which Shelley Berman will we see? Will we see some of the old schtick or we see some new material?
SB: I'm coming for some of the old schtick, Its for that place. Naturally cause I do improve, there will be new material. I come in prepared. I come in and do what I think will be appropriate for theses people at this time. Yes, I do some new material, of course. I do mime and make fun of fact that I am actually dialing a number.

DD: What do you consider your primary occupation?
SB: Well, I think primary I am know as a comedian and I guess people think of me as comedian. But I know all of the other things I’ve done. .. People know me as a performer and I like that.

DD:When you started in the business, where were you headed?
SB: I started out to be an actor. Then I went to a school of Theater, part of the Art Institute of Chicago. This was the Goodman Theater.

DD: Tell us about some memorable moments in the business.
SB: Getting my first job as night club comedian in Chicago at Mr. Kelly’s. I was with the Compass Players, an improvisation group. [The forerunner of Second City.] I got to work with Mike Nichols and Elaine May. It was marvelous. I found I could improvise a phone call. That is how “The Morning After the Night Before” came about on New Year’s Eve of 1957. The audience started to laugh right away. So I waited for the audience to call out another suggestion. That's the way I was building up a repertoire.

Then I saw a great comedian working at Mr. Kelly’s- Mort Sahl! He wasn't telling jokes, he was just saying things and people were screaming with laughter. He suggested that I audition at this nightclub. I got the job... my first as a comedian.

Mort suggested that I make a recording. I was at the Hungry Eye in San Francisco in [1957]. To me, the whole idea was to have this recording with a picture of me on the cover saying Shelley Berman. Wow, I thought, that will get the audience in to see me cause nobody knew me. It was incredible. I found my recording running neck and neck with the Kingston Trio. My first big payment for guy who hadn’t made much money at all was $500,000!

DD: What did you do with the money?
SB: We found we a better place to live in New York. I was getting better jobs in New York like the Blue Angel. I was working with people like Barbra Streisand. She was there same time I was there. Big audience. It was wonderful. Pretty soon I was work in Las Vegas. Then, of course, other clubs. Like the Improv at Harrahs.

DD: Who are the best comics of all times in your opinion?
SB: The best stand-up was the man with the one liners, Heny Youngman. George Burns and Gracie Allen made me laugh. Jack Benny was a superb comedian. Then there was Sid Caesar. What could anybody say. George Cardin was such an intellect. There were so many good comedians then.

DD: why are you still doing this?
SB: I love to do this. My life has become part of that. For me to pass up a chance to play Vegas would be like pinching or sticking myself. Why would I want to hurt me! Why not just get out there.

DD How do you relax?
SB: I write poems.

Do you have a favorite food?
SB: I make chicken soup with my wife. We can do that. Vegetable. We’re very good at soups.

DD: You’ve been married 64 years to the same woman. Fill us in on that romance.
SB: I was at the Goodman Theater and I found a girl that I fell in love with --Geradine Page. That was my girl and that was it. Until this little upstart got into my hair. Then Gerry had to fend for herself.

DD: Whats secret of long relationship?
SB: There is nothing more wonderful than waking up to find this girl in bed with me. And breakfast is a super experience. Because we’re together. And she knows that I am a crossword puzzle addict. A guy who would read anything. I’m becoming stupid in my old age.

[I asked Sarah what adjectives she would you use to describe her husband and what attracted her to him. She didn't hesitate call call him, “lovable, handsome, humorous, generous and downright adorable.” She told me they were in acting school together and Shelley was, “the number one actor in the school. I figured I was latching on to a star.”]

DD: How did you enjoy doing Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David?
SB: Oh God, I loved doing that.

DD: What percentage is improv?
SB: All the dialog is improv. Here’s the scene. You just go out and there and you do it.

DB: Who is there alive today that you really want to meet?
SB: Woody Allen. Unfortunately I haven't met him really. I knew him and realized he would never put me in any of his movies. Yes, I would have loved it.

DD: Is there something that you have not done yet that you'd like to do?
SB: I'd love to go fishing for trout in the White River.

DD: What do you want people to know about you?
SB: I want people to know that my name is spelled Shelley.

Shelley Berman will be doing two shows nightly at the Improv at Harrah's from November 15-20.


Pius Heinz of Germany’s is WSOP Main Event Victor

Heinz Makes History – and $8.7 Million – at World Series of Poker

Student and professional poker player Pius Heinz, 22, made history on November 9 by becoming the first German resident to win the largest, richest and most prestigious poker tournament on the globe – the World Series of Poker Main Event.

The Cologne resident became just the second German ever to make a Main Event final table. His unprecedented first-place finish earned him the most coveted trophy in all of poker – the World Series of Poker gold bracelet – and (U.S.) $8,715,638.

Heinz bested a total Main Event field of 6,865 players from 85 different nations in ages ranging from 21 to 91 to capture the title. When play began Tuesday in Las Vegas, Heinz was a significant chip leader. Through the hours that followed, the lead changed hands multiple times, until Heinz sealed his victory about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday. Heinz’s ace of spades and king of clubs held up against the runner-up Martin Staszko’s 10 of clubs and 7 of clubs

Asked how his victory would be received in Germany, Heinz replied: “I can only imagine. I think it’s going to be huge when I get home.”

Staszko, who collected $5,433,086 for his second-place finish, also made history as the first player from the Czech Republic to make a final table. The 35-year-old poker pro resides in Trinec, near the border with Poland.

Both players outlasted Ben Lamb, a 26-year-old poker professional from Las Vegas and Tulsa, who was eliminated in third place, but took home $4,021,138.

The dramatic conclusion to this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event was carried nearly-live – with a 15-minute delay – on ESPN.

This year’s WSOP Main Event final table featured players from seven different nations, the most geographically diverse in the tournament’s 42-year history. Each of the 6,865 players who participated in the Main Event paid $10,000 to enter, creating a massive $64,540,858 prize pool.

Pius Heinz

Tuesday night’s action with three players followed the tournament’s penultimate session on Sunday, when six of the final nine players were eliminated. The competitors broke out in the following order, collecting the following prize money:

9th place: Sam Holden, 22, of Sussex, Great Britain: $782,115

8th place: Anton Makiievskyi, 21, of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine: $1,010,015

7th place: Badih Bou-Nahra, 49, of Belize City, Belize: $1,314,097

6th place: Eoghan O’Dea, 26, of Dublin, Ireland: $1,720,831

5th place: Phil Collins, 26, of Las Vegas, Nevada: $2,269,599

4th place: Matt Giannetti, 26, of Las Vegas, Nevada: $3,012,700

As has been done in recent years, Main Event play was suspended in July when the tournament reached its final nine players. It resumed with the “November 9” taking to the felt Sunday with 34 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in Level 36, with antes 50,000 and blinds at 250,000 and 500,000.

The 2011 WSOP attracted a record 75,672 players from 105 different nations competing for a total prize pool of $192,008,868 over the 58-event, 50-day extravaganza.

The World Series of Poker® is the largest, richest and most prestigious gaming event in the world, having awarded more than $1.4 billion in prize money and the prestigious gold bracelet, globally recognized as the sport’s top prize. Featuring a comprehensive slate of tournaments in every major poker variation, the WSOP is poker’s longest-running tournament in the world, dating back to 1970. In 2011, the event attracted 75,672 entrants from 105 different countries to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and awarded more than $191 million in prize money. In addition, the WSOP has formed groundbreaking alliances in broadcasting, digital media and corporate sponsorships, while successfully expanding the brand internationally with the advent of the World Series of Poker Europe in 2007. For more information on the World Series of Poker, visit

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