From prime time to Men’s Night Out, Naturman in it for laughs

Dan Naturman

It’s hard to catch up with Dan Naturman these days.

The New York comic is bouncing around the world performing everywhere, including a stop in the Old Pueblo for the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s “Men’s Night Out” event on April 30 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Just last month he was about to board a cruise ship from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Where is it going? Honestly, I don’t really know,” said Naturman, pondering the ports of call. “Mexico? Cozumel? Jamaica? I’m working so it’s not the same as a straight-up vacation, but it’s fine.”

Fine is an understatement for the 45-year-old. Just last year Naturman was a semifinalist on “America’s Got Talent,” impressing judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel. “It was a stressful experience, like all those shows,” he said. “You don’t know how long you will be on for and if you will be voted off … so it’s stressful, not fun.”

But being a comic is fun, he said — which is why this nice Jewish boy started doing standup while attending law school at Fordham University years ago.

“I never wanted to be a lawyer in the first place,” he said. “I wanted to be in show business, but it seemed silly to want to be a comedian when your family wasn’t in show business. It seemed like an impossible thing.”

He did it anyway, performing as many sets as he could between classes and finals.

His parents “weren’t upset because I finished and had my law degree in my back pocket,” he said. That degree came in handy on the road to becoming a full-time comic.

“I started legal proofreading, otherwise I’d end up working 90 hours a week at a law firm,” he said. “This way I worked 9 to 5 or even less … whatever the bare minimum was,” while hitting the comedy clubs at night.

His turning point came after a stint about 10 years ago on the reality show “Last Comic Standing,” where he finished as a semifinalist.

Despite what Naturman calls his “slow and steady ride” to success, he still shies away from having his parents and two older sisters watch him perform live.

“I don’t like to have family members in the audience, it stresses me out.” He’d rather they see him on TV.

But those who will see Naturman live in Tucson are in for a treat. They’ll hear anything discussed from dating to doctors, with Jewish humor woven into the mix.

“I may have more jokes, say about Hebrew school, things that only Jews would understand, jokes that I wouldn’t necessarily do in a comedy club or on a cruise ship.”

Naturman has also appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and his own “Comedy Central Presents” special.

At the JFSA event, this year’s MENtor award will be presented to Tom Warne.

Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO, notes that Warne served as Federation Campaign chair, then went right on to serving as board chair of the Tucson J, agreeing to stay on for a third year in order to support then newly-hired CEO Todd Rockoff. After a short break, he will start as board chair of the Federation, a term which will begin May 7, after confirmation at the JFSA annual meeting. During these past few years he has also lent his professional expertise to the Jewish community at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation and Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging.

It’s not hard to find those who are quick to praise Warne. “Tom’s been a great friend to many people; he’s always willing to donate his time through counseling and mentoring,” said Robert Berens, one of the Men’s Night Out committee chairs. “Tom is always known to be very approachable as a leader who never says no.”

Men’s Night Out, which begins at 6 p.m. and includes dinner and beer, costs $36 per person along with a minimum campaign pledge of $180 ($36 minimum pledge for men under age 30, $18 for students). RSVP at jfsa.org/mensnightout or contact Karen Graham at 577-9393.

Lorrie Brownstone is a stand-up comic and freelance writer in New York.