Appearance by nation’s top political comic timely |

Appearance by nation’s top political comic timely

Howie Nave, Special to Lake Tahoe Action

Howie Nave and Will Durst are dressed to impress at The Improv.

What a year it has been for those in the business of making people not just laugh ” but a laugh with a political tinge to it.

Not only is this one of the most interesting presidential campaigns in history, but when you’re pegged as a political satirist all you need to do is tune into the news channels for material. That’s probably why more college-aged students watch shows like “The Colbert Report” or “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

In addition to his nightly musings on all things political, comedian Will Durst has a new companion book, “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.” The book was an offshoot from his one-man off-Broadway show of the same name. After a recent interview on CNN, Durst is in demand by just about everyone right now.

Let’s rewind here a bit before I get too bogged down with all his credits and accomplishments. Durst grew up in laid-back Wisconsin. Now a baby boomer with a media-induced identity crisis, Durst, according to the New York Times, is “quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” The Los Angeles Times called him, “A modern day Will Rogers” while the San Francisco Examiner stated that he’s “the heir apparent to Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory,” and the Chicago Tribune hailed Durst as a “hysterical hybrid of Hunter Thompson and Charles Osgood.”

A bipartisan smartass at heart, it was Durst who ran for mayor of San Francisco a while back and actually did pretty well despite getting outspent him 10-to-1. Here’s a guy who, in 1998 scored, a political hat trick by opening for Vice President Al Gore and performing at both the Governors Conference in Milwaukee and the Mayors Convention in Reno.

Durst was the only comic invited to perform at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and, as mentioned earlier, has been in demand to perform at political events including the Washington, D.C., press corps and as a correspondent for several cable news channels and, of course, Comedy Central. Durst also writes a daily Internet column and various op-ed pages for the likes of the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

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I like his spots for public transportation in the Bay Area. Durst was “green” even before we knew the earth was warming up. Public radio’s “Marketplace” airs his biweekly commentaries, and he is a five-time Emmy nominee, and host and co-producer of the award-winning PBS series “Livelihood.”

He capped his work in comedy clubs with appearances on every show featuring a brick wall, and he’s garnered seven nominations for the American Comedy Awards Stand Up of the Year.

Durst was the first American nominee for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Theater Festival for his one-man show “You Can’t Make Stuff Up Like This.”

Durst has had several radio shows, too, sprinkling his dry wit just enough sarcasm to get the more serious message underneath the humor. He had a weekly radio show called “Will & Willie” with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Durst’s hobbies include the never-ending search for the perfect cheeseburger, and his heroes are the same as when he was 12: Thomas Jefferson and Bugs Bunny. His performances are made possible by the First Amendment ” until that gets revoked. One of my favorite Will Durst quotes is, “I hate the outdoors. To me the outdoors is where the car is.”

If you combine the comedic stylings of Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy then toss in the musical talent of Johnny Mathis and Wayne Newton, dance skills of Gene Kelly, not to mention dead-on impersonations that make Rich Little take a second look, you’ve just experienced a Doug Starks show.

This is Doug’s first time here, and I have to admit that I haven’t seen his entire show, so this will be a treat for me.

He has done quite a few shows, too, from Radio City Music Hall in New York to the main stage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He has worked with such talent as Julio Iglesias, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles and Smokey Robinson, just to name a few.

Doug’s movie and televisions credits include “Hollywood Shuffle,” “Fear of a Black Hat,” “Comic View” and “Stand-Up Spotlight,” but it’s his remarkable impression of Sammy Davis Jr. that has really put him in the forefront of the comedy scene. His impression is haunting and was so convincing that it led to a very successful “The Rat Pack is Back” show at the Sahara Hotel in Vegas. The former manager of that hotel said after seeing Doug’s impression, “I get lost every time I see him perform.”