Tim Parsons

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February 22, 2012
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Bobby Collins: a New Yorker and a standup guy

"Lin-sanity" is especially acute for New York Knicks fans like Bobby Collins, who grew up watching games in Madison Square Garden.

Jeremy Lin is the player who, after being released from two NBA teams, has led the way to the Knicks being the hottest and most popular team in the league.

"You get over $50 million a year for Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and here's a kid making the lowest they can pay anybody," Collins said with a thick Manhattan dialect. "He's sleeping on his brother's couch down in Chinatown, and here's guy kicking ass and giving an example to all these other players. It's not about the money. It's about the game. It's just wonderful."

Like many comedians, Collins moved to Southern California where he could get the most work. And while he's had a home in Santa Monica for 22 years, he is pure New York, where he has kept his place at 12th and Broadway for 33 years.

"I've never been a Laker fan," he said. "To me, it's a joke. People arrive late and leave early. They are just there to be seen. They don't know much about the game."

Collins is a lifelong friend of New York basketball reporter Peter Vecsey, who sends his column to the comedian before it goes to his editor. Collins also used to play pickup games with Dick Barnett, a starter on the Knicks' 1970 world championship team, which included Phil Jackson. ("The guy's shoulders look like the hanger's still there.")

"Right now the Garden's scalper tickets for the (crap) seats are $120," Collins said. "Those used to be $7, $8, $10, $15. The game would start and the scalpers would say, 'All right, gimme 10 bucks.' Now it's $120 to sit in the rafters getting pigeon (crap) on your shoulder. How great is that! It's the best thing that ever happened. It saved the coach's job."

Collins said there is one advantage to living in California.

"The best thing is the weather - that's it," he said.

Los Angles drivers are a sore subject.

"If I had a turret on the top of my car, I'd shoot 'em," he said. "They're morons. If it rains, me, you and a couple of friends could sit on my lawn and smoke cigars and watch how they slide into each other and smack each other.

"My wife hits me 'cause I'm the only one who honks his horn. She goes, 'Bobby, you're not in New York.' Then they give you the finger. They think that's big. In New York, you gotta watch out for a bullet."

Collins, however, is a big fan of Lake Tahoe.

"I love to ski; that's why I take the gig," he said. "I take the gondola. I'm a New York City kid, so for me to go up there and ski for three hours, I'm the king of the world."

Collins, who performs at Harveys Improv through Sunday, typically works weekends. He says comedy is important and something he always wanted to do.

"I knew that at a young age," he said. "I saw that as people feeling good about themselves. It made them laugh. It made them drop all their guards. Look around at people now with what's going on. The anger, the sadness in their eyes. They're losing hope.

"I think it's a correction is what's going on in the world. Now it's my job to change that around, and that's OK, I've been doing it long enough. You can talk to them about it. Make them laugh about the same thing. Same picture, different angle."

The Improv host is Lake Tahoe Action figure Howie Nave.

"Back in the 1980s, Bobby Collins left a lucrative position in New York City as vice president of Calvin Klein working in marketing to become a standup comic," Nave said. "To this day he still applies that knowledge every time he releases a new CD or DVD, executing it like a movie premiere complete with red carpet and tons of press. You can be a great comedian, but unless people know who you are then what's the point really?"


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 22, 2012 09:02PM Published Feb 22, 2012 05:38PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.