A Chat with Adam Ferrara

Adam Ferrara is a comedian and actor from Long Island, New York who began performing stand-up comedy in the late ‘80s. His earlier acting work includes working on shows such as Law and Order, Ugly Betty, King of Queens, and The Job. Ferrara also has three Comedy Central Specials and is a two time nominee for best male stand-up by the American Comedy Awards.

Photo provided by PARosegarten Media Group

Photo provided by PARosegarten Media Group

Ferrara is most recently known for his roles of Chief Needles Nelson in the FX drama Rescue Me, Frank Verelli on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, and as one of the three hosts of History Channel’s Top Gear. Ferrara has also started Talk to me Tuesdays, a weekly Facebook livestream he does with his wife where he answers questions and chats with fans.

Ferrara is currently on a stand-up tour throughout America and will be performing at Crackers Comedy Club on Friday Nov. 18.

The Campus Citizen caught up with Adam Ferrara during a phone interview before his stop in Indianapolis.

Have you toured here before?

I have, I haven’t been to that club [Crackers] in quite a while so I’m looking forward to coming back because I really enjoyed it last time I was there. But the last time I was there [Indianapolis] it was for the FDIC [Fire Department Instructor’s Conference], a fireman convention. I did that a couple times and got to spend some time with everyone and I really enjoyed being there.

Have you been able to experience the Indy 500 yet?

I was there at the same time, I left before the race, but I was there. I watched my friend Tanner Foust, from Top Gear, jump a Hot Wheels truck I think over 300 feet and he did that at the Indy 500, so I was there for that. That was great.

I’ve noticed while you’ve been on tour you’ve been doing your “Talk to me Tuesdays” Facebook livestreams, how that’s been doing with your relationship with your fans?

It’s great! We got a bunch of regulars that show up. Crazy Kenny from Syracuse, we named a slug after him, we found a giant slug when I went to Dirtfish Rally School. And I reconnected with my friends at Dirtfish, I got to drive a Subaru BRZ and just whip around the track and that’s fun. Lamborghini gave me the new Huracan last week or the week before, so I brought everyone around with me and my wife. It’s pretty much my wife holding a camera yelling at me saying “Don’t say that we’re lost!” It’s fun. It’s a fun way to connect with all fans. We started doing live tweeting during the Top Gear episodes at that time, so that’s where the idea came from.

What came first? Your passion for comedy or your passion for cars?

Well they both came at the same time. When I was about 12 years old I saw Richard Pryor, the Santa Monica concert, and I didn’t realize I wanted to be a comic but I was profoundly moved by his performance. I saw it on videotape and I just remember saying “Wow look at what that man can do.” He was holding the audience in his hands. And from then on I bought the albums, I was listening to him but then I was listening to Carlin and then Robert Klein. But ya know when we were kids we would vacation up at Lake George, my father would let us buy car magazines and models. He was really into cars, if you wanted to spend any time with dad you were in the garage. So I always have an emotional connection to cars, through my dad.

Do you think your experience with cars has taught you anything about comedy?

Yeah, you know when you’re pushing a joke and you’re going into the turn too fast so your delivery is off, you gotta lift. You gotta let the audience catch up to you. Yeah I’ve written material about cars that I don’t think I would have written before Top Gear.

So as a New York native as well I understand what it’s like to be a New York driver outside of state lines. Do you have a least favorite state to drive in?

The state of confusion. If I don’t know where I’m going and I’m driving over stuff. It’s Jersey! I don’t like New Jersey. You can’t make a left turn. They have these jughandles you gotta make a right to go around, you can’t make a left turn. So if you miss the jughandle you can see where the left is where you want to go, but you can’t get there. So I’m going with New Jersey.

Do you have a favorite place in New York drive?

Photo provided by PARosegarten Media Group

Photo provided by PARosegarten Media Group

In New York there is the Taconic, it’s a little windy parkway that heads up to upstate New York. I went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie and I lived in Long Island and I always liked the Taconic because it was this narrow little parkway that wound through the foliage in the fall. It was really cool. I mean I did it in a shitty car but it was still cool.

What about American Top Gear makes it America’s Top Gear?

Well our show evolved, it was more of an adventure with your friends. One of the things I like about the original Top Gear was the chemistry and the brotherhood between the guys. So that really was something that we did, we explored. We went on adventures a lot together and a lot of it was shot in America. We did the Rubicon trail, we drove across the country, we’ve been to a bunch of tracks around America, we’ve been down to the Louisiana swamps, we were in Florida, we’ve been in the Pacific Northwest. It’s makes it American because a lot of it was shot here and a lot of American cars were featured here. So I think that’s what gave it our flavor.

The BBC and the English Top Gear is government sponsored so they can be an hour and change, they can be longer time to tell the story and still have the studio and the track and everything. You know our episodes have to be 44 minutes and we couldn't tell the story. You know, we went through death valley and you couldn't cut away from that to go back to an interview, there was more story to tell. I think because of the constraints of commercial television and the fact that we featured American cars and American settings made it more American.

It definitely had a very good impact.

Yeah it’s a fun show to do and we achieved what we set out to do. I remember, the first year was a little rocky but we went to Alaska together, in the end of the first year and we had to live in the trucks, and I remember thinking, “we’re either going to find the show here or end up killing each other.”

Theoretically you’re going to take the Stig out on a date night, where would you take him and what car would you pick him in?

Well I’d take him to a drive-in movie and if we’re gonna go to a drive-in movie you want something comfortable. So how about a Bentley Continental GTC, you can put the top down, the seats are nice, the radio is kickin’. And if he wants to go to sleep he can go to sleep, cause I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of conversation.

Do you have any idea of what’s to come next for American Top Gear?

I don’t know what the state of it is, I think the BBC has to figure out what the English version is going to be. So I think that’s their first priority, but they haven’t told us anything. I will tell you from our point of view, me and those other two idiots still love each other. We still want to do something, so hopefully the ride will continue.

Is there anything exciting we should be expecting from you in the near future?

Like I said, talk to me Tuesday is always fun to do. This is the first time I’ve been able to focus on stand-up. So the tour is pretty cool, because I haven’t done an extended tour because I’ve been shooting. I was shooting Top Gear and then when I was gonna go out on the road I got Nurse Jackie, so I was shooting that the time when I was gonna go on the road. So It’s exciting for me to back. And my tour dates are posted up on my website, so I’m hammered down now. After you guys I’m in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, I’ll see my mom,and then I’m in St. Louis and Chicago after that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.