Radio stars get up close and personal at the Improv
October 6, 2011
This is a special week at the Harveys Improv with Bob Zany.
First off, he’s garnered a decent loyal following via “The Zany Report” heard every Tuesday on my morning radio show. “The Zany Report” is Bob’s take on contemporary topics and heard coast to coast in hundreds of markets, but on my show there’s the added benefit of improvisational banter in-between his take on today’s news.
His comedy is what one might call an old-school style often using the audience as part of his standup routine. His style began at an early age way back when, at the not-so-tender age of 15 the native Southern Californian appeared on “The Gong Show.”
The experience gave Bob his first national television exposure. Halfway through his standup routine on that show (which he read from a piece of paper) he was pulled off the stage by a man dressed like a nun wielding a net! Bob was doing really well but this poor excuse for an attention grabber stole Bob’s moment. Eleven years later, Zany would reappear to make a triumphant return on “The Gong Show” but this time as a celebrity judge and not a contestant. He also did “Star Search,” topping Carrot Top, but all of this launched his comedic career that now has spanned three decades.
Bob, who spends 45 to 48 weeks a year on the road, has an almost philosophical attitude when it comes to the comedy business.
“What makes people laugh hasn’t changed in the past 30 years,” Zany said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been able to stay pretty relevant. If I can make someone laugh at a joke in Fairbanks, they’ll probably laugh at it in Wichita. For me, I was funny then. I wish I had had all the knowledge and confidence then that I have now.”
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Bob has appeared on “The Drew Carey Show,” Rodney Dangerfield’s HBO special, “Roseanne” and on Showtime, MTV, VH-1 and A&E. He’s a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” as well as many other late-night talk shows and comedy specials. For 17 years Bob was part of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and always is available for other charity functions. Speaking of television, I just saw him on Showtime in this documentary about the art of standup called “I am Comic,” which was hilarious, so it made sense that Zany would be added as part of the program.
A lot of folks don’t know this, but in addition to his numerous credits as a performer Bob has produced comedy shows around the country, giving many comics a start.
His comedy shows featured such newcomers-at-the-time Garry Shandling, Yakov Smirnoff, Robert Wuhl, Kevin Nealon and Nia Peeples.
After one show, Zany was approached by Frazier Smith, the host of a top-rated radio show on KLOS-L.A. 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.
I saved the best for laugh when mentioning Zany’s career as an actor on the big screen.
He co-starred alongside Matt Damon in “The Informant” and David Spade in “Joe Dirt.” Bob co-starred opposite Linda Blair in “Up Your Alley”and just finished his latest movie, “23 Minutes to Sunrise,” starring Eric Roberts and Nia Peeples. The movie is slated to be released next year. His documentary “Close But No Cigar” (see page 13) is an honest and sometimes brutal look at what it’s like to survive in this business and how, as Bob puts it, “to remain relevant.” Bob Zany has several CDs out, including “Hi Home, I’m Honey”(on Laff Records), “Bob Zany B to Z, Bay-bee!” and “Son of Bingle, His Greatest Hits, Bay-bee!”
If having Bob Zany up here weren’t enough of a treat, having Graham Elwood seals the deal.
As a regular on my radio show every Thursday with his weekly segment, “Graham’s Crackers,” Elwood is a natural at being funny, and good thing he wound up in a career that fits him. I just hope it starts paying huge dividends so he can find a real excuse for not having to continue our chats every Thursday.
He’s been pretty busy lately, what with his weekly podcast, headlining tours across the country, touring with good friend and comedian Doug Benson and touring overseas, entertaining our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Graham’s been over there six times. It was Graham (along with comedian Scott Kennedy) who I went overseas with to perform for the troops in Kuwait and Iraq. We’re hoping to make a return trip to Afghanistan next year. On one of his tours to Afghanistan, Graham chronicled his experience in a DVD entitled “Comedy From the Front Lines: Live From Afghanistan.”
The Chicago native has appeared on numerous television programs including “The Test” (F/X Network), “The Late Late Show”(CBS) and as host of the USA Network show “Strip Poker.”
Graham directed a short indie movie entitled “Hello Junkie,” which received nice reviews at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival as well as The Albuquerque Film Festival in New Mexico.
Both Graham and Zany are excellent comedians and this marks the first time that the two of them have performed together.
Just think, folks, it’ll be the “Bay-bee” and the “Palm Strike” on the same stage. I should have called HBO for this one.