Dennis Blair hasn’t been here for more than three years, and we were able to squeeze him in before this year ended In fact, the last time Blair was here I was beardless — it was that long ago.
There are many accolades that have been bestowed upon, but, for me, the fact that the late George Carlin used him exclusively to open his shows on the road says it all. He’s also opened for the Beach Boys, Tom Jones, Gloria Estefan, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason and the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, whom gave Dennis his start.
Dangerfield was known for giving a lot of young comics their big shot. When Rodney was booked across North America playing to sold-out theaters, he asked Dennis to come along and open for him. Well, when you have someone of Dangerfield’s caliber taking him on as his protégé touring the U.S. and Canada for more than three years, a lot of doors open for you. He started getting booked on “The Tonight Show,” HBO and served as co-host on the “Stephanie Miller Radio Show” with comedic legend Elayne Boosler. When Dennis hit it big, he paid Rodney back by co-writing the movie, “Easy Money.” Rodney returned the favor again by having Dennis make cameo appearances in some of his other movies. On the small screen Dennis co-wrote and was a featured actor in two Dangerfield specials on ABC and was creative consultant for the album “Rappin’ Rodney.” The title song, which Dennis also co-wrote, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Dennis has a very solid musical background, writing and performing the song “Ordinary Man,” which appeared on the “Easy Money” soundtrack. He also won the “Charlie” Award for Best Comedian in New York.
Liz Smith of the New York Daily News once said, “This guy will soon be a household face and name.” Randolph Hogan of the New York Times echoed similar sentiments saying, “It wouldn’t be fair to call him an impressionist, because he’s more than that. He’s a parodist and a satirist and a singer…well, there’s no word to describe him.” But it’s his fellow comedians that offer him the most praise. Elayne Boosler called Dennis “The funniest man in the world.” Joan Rivers said, “Dennis should be writing and starring in movies. He’s got a great, crooked sense of humor. There’s a lot of Woody Allen in Dennis.” And if that wasn’t enough Rodney Dangerfield said, “He has the fastest comedy mind of anyone I ever met. If life is fair, he should make it big.” And then there’s George Carlin who said of Dennis, “He’s the only person who can make me have a belly-laugh.” OK, that’s pretty impressive. Then to be Carlin’s opening act for two decades? Wow.
How often can someone say they were a comedian, then a Hollywood agent booking comedians and then a comedian again? Not too many, let me tell you. Alan Bursky goes way back when he made his national television debut on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” at the age of 18, making him the youngest comedian ever to appear on that show. My favorite television credit of his is having a guest-starring role on “The Partridge Family. ” His TV credits are plentiful and include a virtual who’s who of daytime talk shows whose hosts are no longer with us, including Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Jim Nabors and Richard Pryor. Wait, Nabors is still around, right? It was his appearance on “The Mike Douglas Show” that really stood out because he was also booked with one of the fastest rising young comics of that decade, Freddie Prinze. In fact, Alan and Prinze became roommates. They were pretty close and Alan once joked that Freddie would say, “Can you see the headlines, ‘Freddie Prinze dead.’ I would kid him back and say, ‘You better hope there isn’t an earthquake that day.’ Turns out there was a massive blizzard in New York that day. The headlines of the New York Times was ‘Snow stuns city.’ Underneath it said, ‘Freddie Prinze succumbs to self inflicted gunshot.’ One of the saddest days ever within the comedy community.”
Maybe that’s why he left comedy to start booking it, becoming a pretty popular agent. He was hired by David Shapira & Associates to head up its comedy division and started booking talented up and comers and plenty of friends too. After a few years of that, Alan went back to doing stand up. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s been up to. I’m looking forward to checking out his act, but more importantly to hear what new showbiz stories he can share this time around.