Nave: Comedian, best man, Rocky LaPorte finds humor in worst of times

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Rocky LaPorte (left) with Howie Nave.

Full disclosure: comedian Rocky LaPorte is my best bud. He was, in fact, my best man at my wedding, and when that marriage failed, he said on my morning radio show, “Hey, I’ll be Best Man at your next wedding.”

Those of us in the comedy community hold Rocky in high regard. His work ethic is solid, a dedicated road warrior for decades starting out in the Southside of Chicago while driving a truck.

His career took off pretty quickly in part because of positive word-of-mouth (the internet of its time) and his act is probably one of the more unique ones out there.

Rocky has this dry delivery about him where he doesn’t rush it. Think of a fine wine that just gets better over time and you get both Rocky and his act.

He was a finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and got a standing ovation on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

His touring schedule was pretty brutal, performing 45 to 50 weeks a year before COVID-19 shut everything down overnight.

When asked how he was coping being in lockdown mode out there in Chicago, there was a long silence and then he responded, “Hey, don’t depress me. I’m already having a bad day (laughs).”

Chicago has an unsavory reputation for having corrupt politicians and Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently made national headlines threatening to have her constituents fined and tossed into jail if they violated the stay at home mandate.

So, when she herself was busted for going to a salon after her hair dresser posted a pic of her on Facebook (no mask/social distancing) Mayor Lightfoot said, “I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye. I’m a person who takes their personal hygiene very seriously.”

Yeah, so take that you stinky peons who won’t break the law because you don’t care about your hygiene.

When I asked Rocky what he thought of his mayor he said, “I can’t make fun of our mayor, Howie, because she’ll probably double tax me you know what I mean? I’m always afraid to say anything anti-government these days.”

Before I asked ‘Rock’ how he was doing he sounded more concerned how I was holding up. I told him I’m good. All things considered I’m feeling fortunate being sheltered in place up here because we have more open space and trails and what not, even if we’re hurting because no one is allowed up here and some areas are closed off to locals as well.

Hey, at least I have options when it comes to walking the dog. When I asked Rock how strict it was out there in Chicago he said, “I sold the dog to buy food. Things are getting tight. I gotta keep the lights on. I sold the neighbor’s dog too, a couple of huskies.”

He’s kidding of course, he didn’t have a dog to begin with but like a lot of my comic friends it’s been getting kind of tough. He’s applied for just about every possible loan or grant but as comedians we don’t exactly qualify as a small business and can’t get one of those small business loans, plus his stimulus check of $1,200 has yet to arrive but he’s keeping a positive attitude as best as possible and looking forward to getting back out on the road to entertain people.

“My biggest decision right now is when this is all over what color pants am I gonna wear? I haven’t had pants on in like three months Howie.”

One thing Rocky can’t figure out is how some companies, unlike good comedy, have bad timing.

“Get this, Howie. All these phone carriers during this pandemic are sending me messages saying we’ll upgrade you for free from 3G to 5G, but everybody’s home right now ya know? I got Wifi so how come these providers didn’t offer this when I was on the road all these years ya know? Everybody’s locked in their home right now so it’s not like they’re not doing anybody a favor.”

A big chunk of Rocky’s family lives in the Chicago area so he’s trying to find any upside to this virus but feels bad for those high school seniors who won’t get to experience a traditional graduation with their classmates. And what about all those weddings that were scheduled months in advance only to be postponed because of coronavirus?

“Hey, that might be a blessing in disguise for some people,” laughed Rocky. Being sheltered at home with that person might be a good test to see if postponing a wedding indefinitely might be a safer bet.

I miss Rocky’s humor and he’s scheduled to be back here in July (fingers crossed) but unlike some comedians who tweet, Instagram or post on Facebook, Rocky’s been kind of a ghost.

“I haven’t been online that much, Howie I’ve been kinda laying low. I’ve been getting emails from people saying, ‘Hey Rock, we need you online ‘cause we need laughs more than anything right now’ but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind ya know? The clown was sad. You gotta feel happy to spread it and I just wasn’t there but I’m trying to snap out of it.”

On a positive note though Rock said, “I think if everybody pulls together we can get through this. Our country has come out of worse times before and I know we’ll do the same.”

He gave me some advice when it came to comedy saying, “Keep entertaining people Howie. Do what you feel is good, put out some good vibes. I love ya brotha.”

Back at ya buddy.

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