Posts Tagged ‘Bill Hicks’

Just Cos

July 13, 2014

Saturday July 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Today is Bill Cosby’s 77th birthday, and I challenge anybody to name a 20th century entertainer that has touched more people in a positive way. I sure can’t, and if there is one not only does my hat go off to that person, I will include my head along with it. Bill Cosby stands alone at the top.

My grandfather took me to see him when I was about 14. I will admit I wasn’t thrilled about it at first, mainly because I was a 14 year old know it all punk and didn’t think it would be any fun to have to sit through something like that. Looking back, I clearly see what a flaming idiot I was.

I remember getting to the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee with Gramps early and finding our seats. All that was on the stage was a microphone in a stand, and I remember experiencing an immediate sense of disappointment. I don’t know what I had expected, but it was more than that.

To make it worse, there was an opening act we had to sit through. It was a piano player named Walt Michaels. I don’t know why I remember his name all these years later, but I do. He wasn’t bad, and in fact he was unbelievably good – but I was 14 and knew everything about everything.

Then Bill Cosby came out and within ten minutes both Gramps and I were bent over clutching our sides with laughter. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. He proceeded to pound it out for an hour and a half, and by the time the show ended the entire audience could not breathe.

I was a fan from that day on, and I’ve never stopped. Especially since I’ve done comedy – or at least a reasonable facsimile of it – for so many years, my respect for what he has accomplished is enormous. His place in the all time annals of standup comedy is in stone, but he’s not done yet.

And that’s not counting what he accomplished in television. Fat Albert was a staple of the ‘70s on Saturday mornings, and I watched it regularly as did millions of kids of my generation. After that he only came out with the biggest sitcom of the ‘80s. Most mortal entertainer types would be thrilled to be able to lay claim to any one of those things. Bill Cosby is more than a mere mortal.

Sure, he had a few movies that flamed out. So what? Most of us never get even ONE chance to star in a movie and he got several. People make jokes about “Leonard Part 6” and “Ghost Dad”, but who wouldn’t love to be made fun of like that? If those are his worst problems, he’ll be fine.

I have been unbelievably fortunate to have met more than a few legendary comedians in person from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks and others, but Bill Cosby is one I would still love to meet. I don’t know what I’d say other than how much I love his work, but that’s enough.

I wouldn’t consider myself a peer, as he’s pretty much in a class by himself. I’m a lifelong fan though, along with millions of others white and black, old and young, Northern and Southern and just about any other kind of difference. Bill Cosby has made more people laugh than anyone else.

Can anyone think of a higher honor than that? There isn’t one. If he’s a dented can he sure does hide it well, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We all are to some degree, but people like Bill Cosby do us all a favor and make the ride a little more pleasant. What an amazing contribution he’s made.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a career he has had. Wow.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a truly legendary career he has had. Wow.

Carl LaBove

October 7, 2013

Saturday October 5th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I don’t ever intend to stop being a student of the standup comedy game, and that means I won’t ever stop learning – and hopefully growing. I remember seeing an interview with Keith Richards where he had the enthusiasm of a nine year old as he spoke about still learning guitar techniques.

I had that same enthusiasm tonight as I watched Carl LaBove headline at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL for two rocking shows. I have been a fan of Carl’s for decades, and tonight was a refresher course for why that is. He put on a clinic, and I took notes as he lit up both audiences.

There are so many things I like about Carl as a performer I almost don’t know where to start. It doesn’t even include the things I like about him as a person, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. He could be an arch criminal who tortures kittens, but I’d still admire his performing skills.

For those that don’t know, Carl was one of the original “Texas Outlaw” comedians along with Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and several others who started in or around Houston in the early ‘80s. It would have been very easy to mimic the style of someone as influential as Kinison or Hicks, but Carl was and has always been completely true to himself as a performer. His style is all his own.

That’s difficult enough as it is, but being in the shadow of not one but two legendary acts is an oddity for the ages. If anything, Carl had influence on them because of his amazing performance skills and natural stage instincts. He’s a trained actor, and freely taps into that to add to his show.

I’ve never seen any comedian act out a premise better than Carl. He becomes the character he’s talking about in a particular bit, and often takes it farther than where 99% of other acts would go. It’s a joy to watch – especially since I know what he’s doing. The audience doesn’t have a clue.

Acting out a bit is a way to add extreme depth to a comedic idea, and I’m getting a lot better at it myself in recent years. It’s a technique I didn’t naturally embrace at the beginning, but it’s now one of my favorite ingredients to add to my own comedic stew. Some acts use it, others won’t.

I love Dennis Miller’s style, but he didn’t act out one bit when I saw him last week. He stood at the microphone and rattled off a series of jokes. They were great jokes, but that was it. Carl is all over the stage like a jumping bean, and uses every inch of it as his playground. I’m like that too.

There’s no real right or wrong in either style, but I find Carl’s and my way a lot more freeing to be able to have more performance tools to utilize in a given situation. Dennis chooses to do what he does, and it’s been tremendously successful. It’s like a band choosing to include horns or not.

Another strength I admire about Carl is that each performance he gives is his individual gift to that particular audience. Small or large, he crafts each show to the fit of the room and whether an audience knows it or not they’re seeing art being made in front of them. Very few acts can do it.

Carl’s jokes are funny, but combined with his dynamic act outs and individual improvisational skills, he’s an absolute monster and one of the best acts I’ve ever seen. Why he isn’t a household name is beyond me, but I’ll always be a fan. I hope you’ll enjoy him too. http://www.carllabove.com.

Carl LaBove - a master comedian of the modern era. See him live if you can.

Carl LaBove – a master comedian of the modern era. See him live if you can.

If you can't see him live, Carl's CD 'I Used To Be An Outlaw, What Happened?' is really funny too.

If you can’t see him live, Carl’s CD ‘I Used To Be An Outlaw, What Happened?’ is really funny too.

Hidden Comedy Gems

October 5, 2013

Thursday October 3rd, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

Once again Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago have come through when I could use some work the most, and gratitude permeates my entire being. I’ve got several random fill in dates scattered through the rest of the year, and I couldn’t be happier. I can pay some bills but still remain local.

The openings are at all three of their Chicago area clubs and at all positions on the shows. One night I might be the headliner, and the very next I might feature or host. Normally that’s not how a club books an act and it’s a dangerous game to play politically, but Zanies and I have a history.

They know I’m a strong headliner, and I have nothing to prove. They also know I am versatile enough to handle any role on any show, and won’t bitch about not headlining. I’m there to earn a living, and also to work on new material in a productive environment. Being an emcee or feature in good rooms is the ideal place to work out new bits, and I’ll take advantage of this opportunity.

Every comedian wants to be the headliner, but it’s not easy to move up the ranks. I could write several articles about this tricky and delicate process, and I intend to in the not too distant future to benefit up and coming comedians. For now suffice to say I’m thrilled to get the local income.

I have several headline dates coming up soon, but this week I’m hosting three shows at the new Rosemont, IL location. I’m thrilled to be working with Carl LaBove, quite simply one of the best standup comedians in America. In my opinion, he should be a lot more well known than he is.

I’m always bitching and complaining about comedians I think should get more recognition, but I can’t help it. I know how difficult it is just to survive in this insidious business, but then there is a higher level of people with tremendous natural ability who are special. Carl is in that category.

I’m sure it’s the same with actors, musicians, athletes or any other competitive endeavor. There are all kinds of people who want to be stars, but very few have the ability, drive and luck to make it happen as they pictured. The magic formula is a combination of all three – and extremely rare.

I have frequently named all kinds of acts I think should be huge stars, and I mean it. My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is one. That guy hustles his business like nobody else, has a rock solid and hilarious stage character and can work clean. He should be on The Tonight Show, Ferguson, Letterman, Kimmel, Conan or any other show immediately. Find him at http://www.funniestman.com.

Steve ‘Mudflap’ McGrew is another hidden treasure. That guy is world class funny, and I can’t figure out why he hasn’t popped on a big time level. Jimmy Shubert is another gem. Then there’s Dwayne Kennedy, Steve Seagren, Tim Northern, Beth Donahue, Tim Walkoe, Larry Reeb and a whole lot of others who are out there making people laugh week after week. They’re all warriors.

Carl LaBove is right there with all of them. I first met him when I was just starting out. He was best friends with Sam Kinison, and part of the ‘Texas Outlaws’ with Bill Hicks, Ron Shock and a few other guys from the ‘80s. Carl has an amazing life story which I won’t delve into, but it sure is worth checking out as is his hilarious act. He’s at Zanies in Rosemont, IL the rest of this week, and I will be watching every minute of every show he does. He’s a master. http://www.carllabove.com.

Zanies is my 'home club'. They have been good to me for decades and I am very grateful.

Zanies is my ‘home club’. They have been good to me for decades and I am very grateful.

Check out my friend James Gregory 'The Funniest Man In America' www.funniestman.com

Check out my friend James Gregory ‘The Funniest Man In America’ http://www.funniestman.com

The great Carl LaBove - quite simply one of THE best standup comics in America today. What a talent - and a great guy too. www.carllabove.com

The great Carl LaBove – quite simply one of THE best standup comics in America today. What a talent – and a great guy too. http://www.carllabove.com