Over the past decade that we've been up here The Improv has become one the premier clubs (although I like to think of us more as a theater in the Cabaret room) for both new comics and seasoned acts.
I've noticed over the years that the dates tend fill up earlier (this year alone we're already booked up through summer). Part of the allure is Tahoe, but also the comics know this is one of the most casual and stress-free environments to perform. Remind me to share one day some of the horror stories of working with insane club owners/bookers who think their room was the reason that there's even a comedy business. All of that and more will come out once the book gets written (and once I am out of the comedy business).
That said, I'm happy that we have a comedian this week who has more incredible stories about the business than anybody.
When Kelly Monteith started, they really didn't even have comedy clubs. I can't even imagine what it was like coming up back then trying to get stage time. You did whatever it took to perform in front of a live audience, even if they weren't there for the comedy.
Kelly first started out doing strip clubs. Not exactly a comedy-friendly environment, but it did make Kelly a tough act to mess with. These rooms taught Monteith the necessary skills needed to survive in the world of show biz.
Fortunately Kelly moved up to better rooms, which included performing at the legendary Playboy Club. I've read and heard from some of these comics where that was considered a great gig. Sounds like a scene from "Mad Men" on AMC, doesn't it? This exposure landed him auditions on "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" (where he made more than 40 appearances) and "The Merv Griffin Show" where he became a regular.
When I talked to some of the backstage crew over at Harrah's South Shore Room, they said Kelly (along with comedic veteran Ronnie Schell) had opened for so many of their headliners it was unbelievable.
This guy shared the stage with Bill Cosby, Loretta Lynn, Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett, just to name a few. Later on, Kelly had his own show on CBS called "The Kelly Monteith Show" and a late night show called "No Holds Barred," which, unfortunately, was canceled the same year it got the green light to start. Ah, there's no business like show business.
That didn't deter him, because Kelly's career was not only popular here in the states but even more overseas in Europe, where he had a string of successful series in England that ran on both BBC1 and BBC2 for six years.
Kelly was selling out concerts all over the UK including a Command Performance in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and also performed at a "Night of a Hundred Stars" in the presence of Princess Margaret. He then did a one-man show in London to very good reviews.
I'm somewhat embarrassed not knowing more about this guy and had only heard of Kelly when he appeared on "David Letterman" after returning from England. Letterman is clearly a fan of his and I hope to be as well after this week. Kelly's definitely one hard working comedian. He just finished writing, directing and starring in several independent feature films including the comedy "A Lousy Ten Grand" which is available on DVD and has another independent feature film out titled, "Too Hip For The Room." Surely not OUR room Kelly, right?
Back for the first time this year, Don McEnery brings his rather wry and intellectual act to the lake just as spring is starting.
Wry? Well, yeah I mean how else would describe his act? He's smart, dry and what someone would call 'witty," but sometimes you won't get the full potential of the joke until he's halfway through his next set-up. Think of Don as kind of subtle at first then germinating into what will eventually become the "funny."
Oh yeah, he's got that very laid-back persona about him, too. Don has an oblique observational wit about him. But it's not just his stand up that's a stand out as he's also an excellent writer both onstage and off. His work in television includes getting nominated for an Emmy. That was for writing an episode of "Seinfeld." Don also received an Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in 1998 for his contribution in the animated feature "A Bug's Life." Other writing credits include Disney's feature film "Hercules."
Don headlines clubs and theaters all over the country and has also opened for such headliners as Howie Mandel,