In the 1980s, Art Bell developed the idea for a 24-hour cable comedy network, which would eventually become Comedy Central. In his memoir “Constant Comedy: How I Started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor" (Ulysses Press, $24.95), Bell writes about his beginning at the network, where he met a young Jon Stewart, and his eventual dismissal from the company he founded. Bell, who resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, is currently working on "The Origins of Comedy Central" podcast, which is scheduled to premiere in April.
Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?
A: I took up scuba diving a couple of years ago. My wife and I spent a week at a dive resort on Little Cayman Island. Fabulous. I hope to find more diving spots like that all over the world.
Q: To someone who was going to Little Cayman Island, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A: Scuba dive. Of course, if they don't dive, there's not much else to do, so don't go, in which case I will suggest a trip to Australia. We spent three weeks in Australia five years ago and it is not to be missed. See the Great Barrier Reef – you can dive, snorkel, or just look over the side of the boat, I guess. Don't miss the Sydney Opera House. It's astonishing. I couldn't take my eyes off it. And we stayed at Saffire Freycinet in Freycinet National Park. That was the single best lodging experience in my life.
Q: What trips did you have to cancel because of this pandemic?
A: We were supposed to go to Wakatobi in Indonesia, but the pandemic hit so we have postponed that trip.
Q: What untapped destination should people know about?
A: Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It's not necessarily untapped, but it is out of the way, and we chose to stay inside the park at a very small hotel. Because cars weren't allowed in the park, we had to take a four-hour bus ride to get there. We hiked every day, avoided a confrontation with a grizzly bear, thanks to our quick-thinking guide, and met some remarkable people at the hotel. The view of Denali mountain was spectacular.
Q: What was the first trip you took as a child?
A: My parents took my two younger brothers and me on a road trip from our home in New Jersey to Newfoundland, where my father had been stationed. I must have been 12 years old. All I remember is the Bay of Fundy tide going from low tide to high tide in a matter of minutes and my 6-year-old brother screaming for hours, because he had a bad earache. We had trouble finding the hospital. It was kind of a disaster. That was the only vacation trip I took with my family.
Q: What are your best and worst vacation memories?
A: There are so many bests and so few worsts. I would have to say that snorkeling in Port Douglas (Australia), where I saw the Great Barrier Reef for the first time. I couldn't believe what I was looking at actually existed. The reef was exotic, unexpected and beautiful. The worst memory was also in Port Douglas. It was New Year's Eve and we dined outdoors while watching the fireworks display over the ocean. I wasn't paying attention to what I was eating, and I thought I got a mouthful of eggplant, which I'm seriously allergic to. I panicked, left my family at the restaurant, and ran all the way back to my hotel where I took a handful of Benadryl antihistamine and passed out. The next morning, I was fine, and my wife told me it wasn't eggplant.
Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A: People around the world are for the most part kind, proud of where they live, and eager to show us their home and all the wonderful things about it.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: I actually love going to New York City for the weekend. We stay in a fun hotel, see a few shows or a concert or some late-night jazz at a club and explore the city. We recently went to Twin Farms in Vermont for a weekend and had a fantastic time hiking and eating wonderful food.
Q: Where is the most romantic destination?
A: Villa Tre Ville in Positano, Italy. Gorgeous grounds and hotel, and the service is extraordinary. I've loved Italy ever since I traveled there on my European backpack tour after high school. The people, the language and the food all make it great wherever you are. But the Villa, on the coast with a lovely view of the town near the island of Capri, was the perfect romantic spot.
Q: If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A: We went skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland, with our adult children for the holidays two years ago. It was my first experience with European skiing. I'd been told how different it was from skiing in the U.S. I typically ski in Deer Valley, Utah, but skiing with a view of the Matterhorn and stopping for lunch at one of the many delightful small restaurants on the mountain couldn't be beat.
Q: Do you speak any foreign languages?
A: I took high school French and try to get by when in France, but it's hit and miss. My wife and I took three years of Italian with the hope of living in Italy for a few months at some point. My wife can now speak Italian. I can't. I consider myself foreign-language challenged.
Q: What are your five favorite cities?
A: In no particular order: New York, Washington, D.C., Rome, Stockholm, Tokyo.
Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A: Antarctica, Normandy, Barcelona, New Zealand, Galapagos Islands, Greece.
Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A: Binoculars, a bathing suit and my Kindle. I also always travel with my MacBook Air so I can look things up and learn about the history of wherever we are.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A: Breakfast, which I typically don't eat when I'm home.
Q: What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A: I ask my wife. She does the vacation planning, because if I did it, we'd end up with a staycation. My wife loves planning our vacations and often runs things by me – hotels, guides, cars – before she books them. I've never taken a vacation with her that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.