Bob Zany has been long ‘Gong’ from The Improv |

Bob Zany has been long ‘Gong’ from The Improv

Howie Nave
Men in black Howie Nave and Zany.

This is Bob Zany’s first trip to The Improv in more than three years. In fact, the last time Zany graced our stage, I believe we visited the famed Ponderosa Ranch for the last time. Sigh. Zany has quite the history as well.

In 1977 he started his career where most performers want to end up: On national television. At the age of 15, the native Southern Californian appeared on the infamous Gong Show. You know, Chuck Barris’ show? Halfway through his stand-up routine (which he read from a piece of paper) he was pulled off the stage by a man dressed as a nun, wielding a net. Well, welcome to show biz, bay-bee! Eleven years later, Zany made a triumphant return to “The Gong Show,” this time as a celebrity judge. Though the initial experience was painful, it marked the first of more than 100 appearances for him on national television.

In 1981, while attending Mt. San Antonio College, he applied for a job as a newscaster at the campus radio station but was turned down. Later that year, he auditioned for the owner of The Ice House in Pasadena. The audition took place in the middle of the afternoon in a club that seats 300. From the only occupied chair came the voice of the owner, “You’re not ready.” Zany looked around the empty showroom and said “Neither is your club!”

Undaunted, he talked the owner into letting him produce his own show so he could have the stage time, and for the owner, an audience. The result was “The Bob Zany Show.” The shows sold out consistently with everyone Zany knew from his hometown, West Covina, and then some. The shows featured such newcomers as Garry Shandling, Yakov Smirnoff, Robert Wulh, Kevin Nealon and Nia Peeples.

After one show, Zany was approached by Frazier Smith, the host of a top-rated radio show on KLOS/LA. After a short time doing guest spots on Frazier’s show, Zany was hired by KLOS as a personality with his own show on Saturday mornings.

Among his other accomplishments are the creation of Bob Zany’s Comedy Outlets with more than 50 locations throughout California and Nevada; a comedy album “Hi Home, I’m Honey” on Laff Records; a published diet scrapbook, “Laugh at Fat, Bay-bee!” which chronicles his 175-pound weight loss (an accomplishment in itself) and numerous roles in feature films, among them a starring role opposite Linda Blair in “Up Your Alley.” The highlight of his career to date was being hired by his idol, Steve Martin, to appear on George Burns’ Comedy Week.

Zany continues to work in television and film and had regular appearances on “Roseanne” and “The Drew Carey Show.” He is married to comedienne/actress Erin O’Connor and they live in Los Angeles with their three dogs and three cats.

Appearing with Zany at the Improv every night this week through Sunday is Don McEnery, who is best known for his writing on both the small and large screen. In addition to appearing at such clubs as Catch-A-Rising-Star, The Improv and Dangerfield’s, Don was also a finalist on “Star Search.” His almost deadpan delivery and style have served him well and you sometimes find yourself laughing at his punchlines while he is already into the next set up.

His work in television hasn’t gone unnoticed; he was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on “Seinfeld.” He seems to be doing very well writing for animated projects, which include Disney’s feature film “Hercules,” Pixar/Disney’s production of “A Bug’s Life” and Sony Picture’s “Stuart Little III.” He has also opened for such headliners as Howie Mandel, Don McClain and Tower of Power.

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