Improv’s rare air has LaPorte and Bubbles
Ryan Summerlin November 29, 2012
STATELINE, Nev. – Here it is the last month of 2012 and we’re already booked well into 2013. It seems like each year we get booked earlier and earlier, and why not? Great views, a great stage and a great place to be put up for a whole week. It’s no wonder that many a comic will plan their vacation around their gig up here, be it with family, a loved one or just some time away from the big city to recharge batteries before entering society again. That’s why I make sure Rocky LaPorte is here at least three, sometimes four, times a year way in advance. His schedule gets booked faster than ours does so it’s good for both parties to be locked in so our paths can intersect here at the lake.
Rocky calls Chicago home but probably spends more time on the road than a duck does in water. In this past year if you counted all the days he had off it would come to two weeks. Spending that much time performing in clubs, theaters, corporate engagements, fundraisers and cruise ships makes for a very polished act.
It’s no wonder his television and movie credits are off the chart. His very first time on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Rocky received a standing ovation. Some of his appearances include “Cheers,” “The Pat Sajak Show,” “Comic Strip Live” and a TV pilot for CBS called “The Rocky LaPorte Show.” All those club appearances have paid off, too, garnering a Best Male Club Comedian of the Year at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival in which his award was presented by comedian George Wallace and and Andy Kindler. In a poll taken by club owners and managers across the country, Rocky was voted as one of their favorites and most requested comic. He’s definitely one of the most requested up here.
When not headlining clubs and theaters around the country, Rocky opens for major headliners including Louie Anderson, Garry Shandling, Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Hootie and the Blowfish, Righteous Brothers and Brad Garrett, who flew Rocky with him in his private G4 from city to city. Now that’s showbiz, folks. No lines, no TSA and all things catered in your own jet!
Speaking of Tim Allen, Rocky has starred in several of his movies including the Disney remake of “The Shaggy Dog” and “Crazy On the Outside” which was written, directed by and starred Tim Allen. The cast wasn’t too shabby, either. It included Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta and Kelsey Grammer.
Rocky also was part of the ensemble comedy special “The Godfathers of Comedy” that aired on Showtime earlier this year. Not bad for a guy who used to be a truck driver on Chicago’s South Side.
Rocky’s favorite football team (obviously) is the Bears, and when they played my San Francisco 49ers, we texted each other in real time during the game. I felt bad for the Bears because we beat Chicago pretty bad. The good news, though, is that we wrote some pretty funny material corresponding back and forth.
Between gigs, Rocky will participate in numerous fundraisers for animal organizations, St. Jude’s for Children, NFL charities, homeless and food shelter organizations, cancer research and shows for police and fire departments (his brother is a Chicago cop).
Rocky always makes time for military shows in part because his son is in the Army. Rocky’s second favorite (and greatest) achievement was being voted one of the funniest guys in his class at a recent G.E.D. reunion.
Larry “Bubbles” Brown is a miserable man.
When I first worked with him I thought his act was just, well, his act, but no. He’s the same off stage as he is on. He’s the reason that many aspiring comics get out of the business. Bubbles is one of the most motivating mentors to young minds as to why you should stay in school. That’s probably why comedians love him, including Dana Carvey and Robin Williams, who use Bubbles to open up for them on a regular basis. Larry is the kind of comic who makes other comics laugh, and trust me, that is a rare feat, because comics rarely laugh at anything, especially other comics. It’s like work, ya know?
Folks will ask, How did he get the nickname Bubbles? It’s a long story but the short version was back in the last century he was sharing a hot tub with comedienne Paula Poundstone and she commented that he was like bubbles in the tub and well, it sort of stuck and we’ve been calling him Bubbles ever since.
He may seem a little neurotic when you first encounter him but aren’t we all just a little off-kilter? Bubbles just made it an art form, that’s all.
I remember when I first started out we were booked together in Santa Rosa and I couldn’t believe how self-deprecating he was on himself. I think that’s why audience members laugh so much when they see him. OK, part of it is because the audience is just happy that they’re not him.
Larry doesn’t attract positive energy, so when good things happen to him he just believes it’s a temporary thing that will soon pass. A good example was not too long ago I booked him up here for a benefit show and he did great. That was in the South Shore Room. The following month he had a triumphant return on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and right after that did a series of shows with Dana Carvey. Larry was convinced it was a fluke and that things like this normally don’t happen to guys like him. It’s kind of like your favorite singer/ songwriter who always writes the most gut-wrenching songs about relationships. When the songwriter is happy and content, his or her music usually sucks, but when they’re depressed, the good stuff flows out. It’s the same with Bubbles. The more miserable he is the harder we laugh at his exploits.
In between his making the world a better place, Larry actually appears in movies that don’t stereotype him as Mr. Bitter. In fact that was Larry you saw in the true-life movie “The Kite Runner” and also in filmmaker Roger Nygard’s feature “Suckers.”
Larry started out and still remains in the city of San Francisco. He was part of the famous San Francisco comedy scene back in the early 1980s and quickly rose through the ranks as one of that city’s most popular comics. He began appearing on numerous TV shows such as “Evening at the Improv,” “Make Me Laugh” and others and made his first appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman” in 1987. His second appearance on Letterman came 21 years later, setting the record for longest time in between first and second appearances, which is yet another reason Bubbles thinks the world hates him.
He won’t get a third shot on Letterman because in another 21 years both will probably be long gone.