Eric Dowis: Cruise Director Turned Comedian Sets Eyes Back on the Sea
PHOTO: Eric Dowis and Kari Ringer. (photo courtesy of Eric Dowis)
When Eric Dowis first took to the stage onboard Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam, I was instantly entertained. The nearly two-decade veteran cruise director was absolutely hilarious. The sailing was the first “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” champions cruise, and as a guest judge, among the likes of Derek Hough, Tristan MacManus, Kym Johnson, Jaymz Tuaileva and Sharna Burgess, his color commentary and comedic dance routine quickly became a highlight of the entire voyage.
On Dowis’ website, the story goes, “Eric discovered his sense of humor at a young age when he realized being funny could get him out of school work. Today, Eric is working harder than ever on a career that, at first, was deemed a ‘distraction.’” But before he was a professional comedian he was a cruise director, where on each sailing he would conduct a popular “Life at Sea” Q&A which before long evolved into a comedy show.
Onboard he met his now wife and vocalist Kari Ringer and asked her to sing a song to open for his sessions. “As Kari and I got closer and our relationship more public people had questions for her as well,” he said. “The Q&A became more of the Kari and Eric Show. We kept adding new comedy bits and more songs until it just naturally evolved into a show.” Despite its success and positive response to his comedy during the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cruise, Holland America Line was not interested in pursuing his and Kari’s act at the time.
So, they decided to call it quits onboard. “I resigned after nearly 20 years with the line,” he said. “We had no plan...no idea what we would do. We went home to Arkansas and just started performing anywhere that would have us. I mean...anywhere...pay...no pay…we did not care.” Then as fate would have it, a booking agent in Florida, back in cruising territory, invited them to perform for meager wages in front of other bookers.
A single 12-minute set was enough to result in over 50 bookings. Eric proudly recalled, “In fact, in our first year, we set the record for most bookings in a single year for this agency. Other entertainers told us it was a fluke and not to expect any bookings for the next year. Well...we broke our own record in 2016. We now perform just over 100 shows a year and our show books at $2K-plus a show.”
The Red Hot & Blue Collar show pairs Eric’s country character Dale and his stand-up comedy with the song stylings of his beautiful wife Kari. As the majority of their performances are scheduled during winter and spring, they are now in a solid position to set their sights back on the cruise industry to take their talented combo and individual acts to sea in the summer time.
Unlike other cruise comedians, Eric expressed, “I can say that as a CD it was frustrating to watch the comics come on the ship with material they took from more famous acts or those that have been doing the same jokes for 20 years. Everything I write is 100 percent original and I continue to write every day.”
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