That eye patch was no costume gimmick when comedian Jeffrey Ross appeared on the most recent version of "Dancing with the Stars." Apparently ballroom dancing is dangerous. "I got a scratched cornea," he told me recently by phone from New York City, where he lives in a Greenwich Village co-op. "I'm OK. My lovely partner, she accidentally poked me with her long daggerish fingernail."
The irony: "I've been to Iraq and back without a scratch," where he performed stand-up for the troops.
It was shortly after 9/11 that Ross purchased his three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. "I just sort of wanted to dig into Manhattan a little more and put my roots down." He used the words "comedy commune" to describe the place. "Whenever there's an out-of-work actor or comedian in New York, they often are crashing with me. Not even out-of-work—if somebody has a gig here, I'm usually the first call they make after their agent to make sure they have a place to stay." Ross' cousin Kenny currently stays with him, as well.
Any pets? "I consider Kenny a pet—have to feed him twice a day and take him out for a walk in the afternoons."
We asked about his decorating choices. "I made a lot of mistakes with the decor—it's red, black, white and gold. It looks like a Chinese restaurant in 1975. Any minute I'm waiting for Serpico to bust in and shoot somebody. It looks sort of like an old-time brothel meets a Chinese restaurant."
Ross comes to Zanies Chicago on Thursday, and then plays the club's St. Charles location on Frirday and Vernon Hills on Saturday. "Anyone who knows me knows I love to make fun of people, and for whatever reason, the people in Chicago have a certain swagger that not every city has—they can take it, in other words. There's a lot of good sports in Chicago. Thick skin, if you will."
Most luxurious feature in your home: Now I have a nice big place and I can brag to you. But back when I was really struggling, I lived in a studio and my couch was my bed, my office and my dining room. I kept that couch and put in my office, so I am always humbled about how tough it is to start out in this business. So out of respect for that, I bought a very luxurious black leather sectional sofa for the living room that is an exact contrast to the old couch in the office.
One thing on a wall in your bedroom: My grandfather was a saxophone player, his name was Herb Larson—the Herb Larson Orchestra. He passed away about 10 years ago, but I managed to track down through various uncles and cousins his saxophone, and I had it mounted on a huge piece of black velvet. He's the only other person to be in show business in my family. It's really special to me. I think his ashes were in it for a while, but somebody emptied it out—I have a crazy family.
One thing you have in your house from your childhood: Oh my god, I never throw anything out so I have, oh, conservatively, about 2,000 record albums, 8-tracks going back to the "Grease" soundtrack and "Man of La Mancha." I got my old Fender Telecaster guitar hanging on the wall back from my rockabilly days in college. I got a houseful of stuff like that. It's definitely a Jeff Ross museum.
What item in your home most reflects your personality? Probably the coffeemaker, because without caffeine I have no personality. I'm addicted.
Three things we would find under your bed: My fake I.D. from 11th grade, probably a couple of comedians who were recently evicted from their apartments, and my grandfather's false teeth. I don't throw anything out.
Is "green living" important to you? It is. I'm slowly starting to understand it better. Yeah, I recycle and I try to turn the lights off and I try not to waste paper. I'm getting better, but I'm by no means an example.
Three food items you must have in the house at all times: My grandfather always said to me, take a banana for the ride. So there are always bananas in my house, and everybody who comes or leaves is offered a banana. Older comedians told me back in the day that if you eat a banana, it slows down your heart rate and makes you less nervous before you go on stage. Gotta have coffee, like I said. And turkey, Swiss cheese and mustard for the Jeff Ross toasted pita.
If we opened up your oven, what would we find? A black hole. You know what? I grew up in a kosher catering hall in New Jersey, and I had to cook my whole life. All through high school I made salads and prime rib for hundreds and hundreds of people every weekend. So for whatever reason, I stopped cooking as an adult. It's not that I don't love cooking, it's the cleaning up that kills me. I eat out four meals a day.
What kind of exercise equipment would we find in your house? I have an elliptical trainer in my bathroom, believe it or not. I have a huge bathroom. I hate going to the gym and talking to people and the music's too loud. So I can listen to music, I can work out naked, I can put on jungle music and feel like Tarzan.
What is the biggest surprise we would find in your closet? I have an Hermes cravat that was given to me by Buddy Hackett. I wear it a lot—it's red and gold and yellow, very sophisticated. I have my high school football jersey. I have a black silk suit that I wore for my new Comedy Central stand-up special. The thing about being a comedian is that if you wear something on TV, you kind of can't wear it again—so the closet fills up.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times