Emmy-winning comic returns for Sellersville performance


I like to think that I discovered Chestnut Hill area native Craig Shoemaker, who will be performing his stand-up comedy act at Sellersville Theater in Bucks County, about a half-hour drive from Chestnut Hill, on Saturday, June 8, 2023, at 8 p.m.

I think I discovered Shoemaker because I wrote the first newspaper article about him. It was in 1980, and I wrote it for the now-defunct Philadelphia Journal, a daily tabloid newspaper, after seeing him perform at Rick's Cabaret, a then-hot club on the 700 block of South Front Street, where he was also a bartender. ("I still have that article," Shoemaker told me several years ago.)

I predicted stardom for the young Shoemaker, who grew up in Wyndmoor, graduated from Springfield Township High School and was majoring in radio, TV and film at Temple University while moonlighting at Rick's Cabaret. Several months later, I wrote about Shoemaker again when he performed with three other comics at The Taproom in Ambler.

Shoemaker’s first paying job as a comic was at the now-defunct Casa Conti in Glenside, but when he was just 13 (in 1972), he worked at the Block ‘N Cleaver in Flourtown, where Halligan's Pub is today. 

Shoemaker left Philly in 1989 for Hollywood with stardust in his eyes, like countless other aspiring actors, comics, models, and musicians from around the world who dream of being on TV, in the movies, maybe even on the cover of People magazine. The odds against them, of course, are astronomical.

However, Shoemaker has had impressive success in show business, winning two Emmy Awards for his work as a writer, actor, and producer for the regional TV network, PRISM. For 45 years, he has been performing stand-up comedy, writing scripts and producing TV shows and movies. No one-trick pony, this actor/writer/producer/comic has material that's stronger than bus station chili. He's mixed the comedy cocktail just right.

"Out of everything in my career, I am most proud of winning 'Comedian of the Year' at the American Comedy Awards show (in 1998). After all, other winners were Ellen Degeneres, Jerry Seinfeld and Jeff Foxworthy," Shoemaker told us last week. "My plan is to continue to do stand-up comedy until I have enough money to retire, which means I will call it quits when I am about 200 years old."

But Shoemaker's life has not all been about comedy. In his autobiography, "Lovemaster'd: A Digital Journey to Love and Happiness," for example, published in 2014, Shoemaker reveals that "I became a rebellious student and juvenile delinquent, often waking up in a drug, sex or alcohol-induced fog, wondering where I was or if what was next to me was human."

Another compelling revelation in the book is that like so many professional comedians, Shoemaker had turned to humor as a defense against the cruelty and insensitivity of teenage boys. As a high school junior, he was only 5-foot-1 and weighed just 95 pounds – and was a frequent target of bullies. Much of his comedy through the years was derived from these events. 

For example, he asked 13 girls to the high school prom before one said yes – and even that one wound up making out with another boy. "The other kids pulled up my underwear so much, I feel like I invented the thong," he once recalled. “I really didn't have much choice but to turn to comedy. I had to make all the bigger kids laugh to keep them from picking on me.”

It worked. Comedy got him out of a lot of trouble, he said. 

"But there can be a lot of pain behind being a comedian,” he said. “What gets you up on stage for 45 years is a lot of darkness. I'm not a 24/7 mirth monkey.”

But comedy can also heal, he said – which is why he created the nonprofit forum 'Laughter Heals,' which he uses to help deliver some laughs to those who are suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Interestingly, Shoemaker shot up seven inches in his senior year of high school and continued to inch up skyward through his years at Temple. Today he is 6-foot-2 and weighs more than 200 pounds. He calls his body "a father figure."

And there can be no denying his success. He has performed in every major comedy venue in the country, appeared in more than 100 TV shows, and was a regular on "Hollywood Squares." He wrote "The Love Master," co-starring Farrah Fawcett and Courtney Thorne-Smith, which won best film at the Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. Shoemaker has had his own nationally syndicated radio show, “The Last Stand-Up,” which, after only 10 months on the air, won the prestigious Communicator Award "Crystal" prize. He also has a popular podcast called "Still Standing Up" and has had successful comedy CDs. 

For more information, visit craigshoemaker.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com