Longest day meets funniest lineup at Harveys Improv
June 21, 2012
Sometimes you need to have the right comic for the right celestial happening: Bob Zany at Harveys Improv comedy club and the summer solstice in the same week!
I could say performing with Zany is like every day being the longest day of the year, but I won’t, no. I’m just ecstatic that it worked out this way. Had we booked him this past winter for the shortest day of the year, it might have snowed.
I’m a huge Zany fan in part because he’s on the morning radio show every Tuesday with “The Zany Report” that is heard in more than 166 markets coast to coast but exclusively (as always) on ‘Howie’s Morning Rush.” I’m particularly psyched this week because not only do we get to hear him this week on the phone but also live in-studio Friday.
Zany started out at a young age on “The Gong Show” hosted by Chuck Barris. Eleven years later Zany reappeared as a celebrity judge. Cool beans. Bob would go on to make more than 100 national television appearances including Showtime, Comedy Central, “The Tonight Show” and scores of others.
On the big screen he’s been in the documentary “I am Comic” and in the Matt Damon movie “The Informant!” playing a lawyer, starring opposite Linda Blair in “Up Your Alley” and just finished his latest movie, “23 Minutes to Sunrise” (directed by Jay Kanzler), starring Eric Roberts and Nia Peeples.
Zany has taken that one step further, having just completed his own documentary called “Close But No Cigar.” It’s an autobiographical look chronicling the life of Bob Zany with numerous interviews from those Bob met over the years, some who have become major players in the comedy business. It’s very sobering seeing one individual working a sweet gig as one of the top writers for “Saturday Night Live” and then cut away seeing Bob leaving a one-nighter he just performed at somewhere in the Midwest. It’s the brutal reality of comedy and Zany captures the ups and downs along the way.
Zany has several CDs out, including “Hi Home, I’m Honey” on Laff Records, “Bob Zany B to Z, Bay-bee!” and “Son of Bingle, His Greatest Hits, Bay-bee!” I actually have two of his products on VHS and hoping it’ll bring in a lot on eBay once people find out what a collectible it is.
Hey, and if that wasn’t enough, Zany is also an author. He has a published diet scrapbook called “Laugh at Fat, Bay-bee!” which chronicles his 175-pound weight loss. Amazing, huh? Bob’s influences include his idol, Steve Martin, and he’s also appeared on the late, great George Burns’ “Comedy Week.” But Zany never lets the past keep him from creating new “firsts” and continues to work in television and film, but seeing him in a live setting for me is always the most rewarding. I only wish he felt the same.
Oh my word, “Mr. Optimistic” is back and who better to pair him with than Zany?
He goes by Larry Brown but we all call him “Bubbles” because that’s the name Paula Poundstone gave him when they were sharing a hot tub. Other comics love “Bubbles,” although they’ll usually pass on the hot tub invite.
He has worked almost exclusively with fellow Bay Area comics Dana Carvey and Robin Williams. They love his deadpan style in part because they are so high-energy.
If “Bubbles” opens for you it makes you that much more kinetic in style. Oh, sure, he borders on depression; it allows the funny to come out, thereby making “Bubbles” somewhat happier.
I remember when I first started out, we were booked together in Santa Rosa and I couldn’t believe how down on himself he was. I think that’s why the audience was laughing so hard probably thinking their lot on life must be pretty good when compared to this guy. Having him here with Zany marks the third time that we’ve all performed together, so it clicks (my camera, at least) really well.
The last time Larry was up here I booked him for a special benefit show and he did great. That was over at the South Shore Room in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
The following month, he had a triumphant return on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and then did a gig opening for Carvey. Larry was beside himself. He didn’t know how to take it. Fortunately he was soon curled up in a fetal position in his East Bay apartment waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it was for work and not another creditor.
When not bumming himself out (and dragging us down with him), he acts in movies, too. That was Larry you saw in the true-life story “The Kite Runner” and also in filmmaker Roger Nygard’s movie “Suckers.”
He started out, though, doing what he loves best, standup.
He was part of the famous San Francisco comedy scene in the early 1980s and quickly rose through the ranks as one of that city’s most popular comics.