Northeast Philly native Ed Bassmaster is traveling a new career path. YouTube’s pioneering Prince of Pranks, whose videos have garnered (in aggregate) hundreds of millions of views since 2006, is now an in-concert attraction.
On April 29, the one-time cell phone salesman will kick off a nine-month, four-gig residency at Rivers Casino Philadelphia. So just what can a guy who made his bones with viral pieces in which he adopted comical personas – like the perpetually pissed-off “Always Teste” and the anything-but-subtle gay man, Emilio, in order to perpetrate phony phone calls or in-person practical jokes on unsuspecting victims – possibly do in a live setting?
“It’s so funny that you ask that, because I got so many messages from people: ‘Dude, we were wondering what you would do for a live show.’ Like, how am I gonna translate this to the stage?” offers Bassmaster during a recent phone call. “I go out in five or six of my characters that have been established on YouTube for years. And they’re basically doing a standup show on their own.”
People-watching is Bassmaster’s primary influence
Although he only recently began taking his brand of comedy to real life, that is where the man, born Edwin Rodriguez in 1973, has always found inspiration.
“I’m a people watcher,” he says. “If I meet a character and I’m sitting there listening to him talk and watching his mannerisms, as soon as he walks away, I’m imitating him– even for myself, to make myself laugh.
“So, like ‘Mumbles,’ my cowboy who has a bit of a Cajun accent, but says he’s from ‘Maltlicky, Texas,’ is actually based on a guy who’s a friend of the family who was from Kentucky. He really talked just like that; you couldn’t understand him. But he didn’t wear the cowboy hat and have the big teeth [as Bassmaster portrays him]. I just added that. Then there’s ‘Tequila Johnson’, [or ‘Quila’ as Bassmaster calls her], who is based on my working in retail in the ‘hood and dealing with the clientele that would come in.”
Despite the success of his many videos (in Philly, at least) Bassmaster—who claims as a major influence the Eddie Murphy-Joe Piscopo-propelled early-1980s era of “Saturday Night Live” – is most likely famous (or infamous) for the great “HitchBOT” hoax he pulled off in 2015. That’s when he and a collaborator produced a video that made it appear he was responsible for the “murder” of a robot that was programmed to hitchhike across the United States.
More than just a YouTube star
But that feels like ancient history. These days, Bassmaster has his sights firmly set on the future, which includes the upcoming Rivers show as well as those on July 30, November 1 and January 28, 2023. Those aren’t his only live programs: His calendar is filled with dates across the country. And he is eyeing even bigger projects—a not unlikely scenario considering he is represented by the powerhouse Los Angeles-based talent agency, CAA.
Among those he’s conferred with is A-lister Mark Wahlberg.
“His son is a fan, and he had wanted to have a phone call with me,” explained Bassmaster. “We had a FaceTime call, which I actually recorded and posted. He said, ‘When are you and I making a movie?’ There’s nothing definite, but you know, that little seed was planted and hopefully, something comes out of it.”
Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $29. For tickets, visit Rivers Casino online.
New playroom set for Ocean
The final phase of Ocean Casino Resort’s $25 million upgrade of its casino floor is on its way.
When it opens this summer, The Gallery Bar, Book & Games will provide guests with an amenity-laden gaming-and-partying area. The features of the 12,000-square-foot, bi-level space include:
- A 100-foot-long, elevated bar with 26 seats and 12 built-in slot machines, 33 drink rail seats.
- Blackjack and roulette tables.
- 55-foot, 43-foot and 42-foot LED walls for sports viewing.
- Six sports-betting stations.
- A 17-foot open-air staircase that leads to Balcony Bar, a smaller, more intimate drinking spot.
- Customizable lighting.
Still on Ocean’s docket is the completion of more than 400 hotel rooms that weren’t part of the casino-hotel complex when it opened as the ill-fated Revel in 2012.
Singing for others’ suppers
Nothing says “old school” better than a restaurant where customers are serenaded as they dine. Two such establishments can be found at Live! Casino-Hotel Philadelphia and Bally’s Atlantic City.
Every Thursday evening in the lounge at the Prime Rib inside Live!, A talented young man named Daniel Kulisek entertains guests with a surprisingly diverse repertoire that hits a number of musical styles. A typical set will find Kulisek—who accompanies himself on piano, and, occasionally, guitar—paying tribute to everyone from Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel to Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and the Foo Fighters.
And while he only performs there once a week, Kulisek’s no stranger to the Prime Rib: His “day job” is that of bartender at the posh eatery.
Down at Bally’s, the musical menu is limited to the sounds of Sinatra, courtesy of the strong set of pipes belonging to Carl Angelo Smith, who croons (to pre-recorded tracks) ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ signatures (e.g., “I Got You Under My Skin,” “The Summer Wind”) every Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Jerry Longo’s meatballs & martinis.