Comedians Nick Griffin and Ronnie Schnell to perform at the Improv Lake Tahoe
How cool is it that Nick Griffin was one of the last comics booked on the “Late Show with David Letterman” this year before Letterman retired? Griffin did something like 15 appearances on “Letterman” after he moved to New York a decade ago from Los Angeles. He performs at the Improv at Harveys this week with Ronnie Schnell.
I’ve known Nick now for 20 years, and he’s exactly the same as he’s ever been. It’s kind of rare for a comic who was based in Los Angeles to relocate to New York, but if know his act, he has that East Coast mentality about him that has served him well. New York fits Nick’s temperament more, and he was immediately embraced by the very tight-knit comedy community out there. He’s been a regular at The Comedy Cellar, Stand Up NY and Gotham Comedy Club for years now.
When he’s not in the city, you’ll find Nick out on the road. He’s one of the more sought-after comics out there because his comedy is so observant and smart. He’s a thinking man’s comic. Nick will read this and say differently, but he’s very well liked by others comics in our industry. Nick is a favorite, but I’m a bit biased because we both share the same passion when it comes to movies (horror, sci-fi and cult being some of our favorites).
Nick’s written many scripts, treatments and full-blown screenplays, with his best stuff being kind of dark in nature and not your everyday stories. Sometimes Nick will text me late at night asking how many bagels I gave a certain movie (I rate movies by bagels) and what I liked or disliked about it. Some of those texts are pretty funny now that I think of it. Nick said he really enjoys performing and spending time up here at Lake Tahoe. He said he feels safe up here, which allows him to concentrate more on his writing and less on having to worry about making bad decisions.
Besides his Letterman credit Nick has also been on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” Conan O’Brien’s show, Comedy Central specials and the nationally syndicated “The Bob & Tom Show.” It’s funny though, when you comment to Nick about appearing on all these well-respected shows, he’ll tell you it really hasn’t helped him that much. Even if Nick had his own syndicated television show, he’d say the same thing.
I love to joke that comedian Ronnie Schell has been in showbiz so long that, when I first met him, I was surprised to see that he was in color. Ronnie’s career stretches well over 60 years, and still he still bills himself as “America’s Slowest-Rising Young Comedian.” Ronnie is probably best known for his television work playing opposite Jim Nabors in the classic ’60s sitcom comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and on “The Jim Nabor’s Variety Hour.” He also co-starred with Goldie Hawn for two seasons on the CBS series “Good Morning, World.” It’s kind of cool to see him still doing comedy by choice and not because he has to. He’s really old school, and, well, he’s just really old.
Ronnie is great to hang with because he has all these great showbiz stories that comics love hearing. He used to joke that the late Harvey Korman “used to borrow part of my act,” which I just assumed was the norm, especially since the late Milton Berle was notorious for lifting jokes from other comics back in the day. Ronnie knew Berle and a ton of other comedic legends, including Tim Conway and the late Rodney Dangerfield.
In addition to his television credits, Ronnie has done his fair share of movies, appearing in Disney’s “The Cat From Outer Space” (that’s Ronnie’s voice you hear as the cat), “The Revenge Of The Red Baron” and Carl Reiner’s “Fatal Instinct.” In 1999, Ronnie co-starred in two independent films, “View From The Swing” and “Pride and Peril.” Ronnie Schell was installed as the honorary mayor of Encino for the 10th year and continues to do comedy shows with his fellow comedy group “Yarmy’s Army.” although a lot of them have passed on in recent years.
Did I mention that Ronnie Schell was originally a Bay Area boy from Richmond who started out in San Francisco back when Mort Sahl and the Smothers Brothers appeared on the scene playing the legendary Purple Onion and Boarding House? He’s a graduate of San Francisco State University and puts on this great comedy benefit show every few years that always sells out and helps the athletic department. Four years ago I was fortunate to be part of one of those shows working alongside Tim Conway, Tommy Smothers, Rich Little and Will Durst. Ronnie also lent his voice for Bay Area Rapid Transit. Who would have guessed that a subway would have given the old school comedian another bump in his career? Ronnie Schell was also awarded a lifetime achievement award (the first ever) from the annual Comedy Day celebration in San Francisco. Ronnie has quite a history and well worth seeing this week.
Howie Nave is the MC at the Improv at Harveys. The comedy club is inside Harveys Lake Tahoe. Shows begin at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and tickets are $25 plus fees. Saturday shows take place at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and tickets cost $30 plus fees. The Improv is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays. Must be 21 or older to attend. More information is available by calling 775-586-6266.