Rocky LaPorte is my kind of clown
April 1, 2009
Comedian Rocky LaPorte is a true Chicagoan. After several years living in Los Angeles, he recently moved back home where he has three daughters and two grandkids. L.A.’s just for business trips now.
A lovable guy with an Italian heritage, LaPorte’s a South Sider who hates the Cubs and loves the White Sox. No doubt he loves White Castle, too.
He’s even a bigger football fan who would pick Walter Payton over Gayle Sayers as, not just as the Bears’ but the NFL’s greatest running back ever. Payton, of course, played with the 1985 Super Bowl champs, including all-pro defensive tackle Dan Hampton. LaPorte’s son played ball with Hampton’s.
And LaPorte is a good buddy of ex-Packers star Brett Favre. What? Holy cow! What kind of hot air is that blowing out of the Windy City?
“I’m a die-hard Bears fan, but I don’t hate the Packers or anybody else,” he said. “I remember being up there with a Bears jersey on, and the Packers fans were giving me bratwurst. I mean, they couldn’t be nicer people.”
Now this could only happen to a guy like me, LaPorte might have been thinking, perhaps recalling the Frank Sinatra song about Chicago, “My Kind of Town.”
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Back in 1996 Favre’s wife, Deanna, saw LaPorte’s standup act in Green Bay. She and Favre’s agent liked the show so much they invited the comic to Lambeau Field the next day.
“I was in the box with Hootie and the Blowfish and Favre’s brother and dad,” LaPorte recalled.
After the game, he met Favre who then went with teammates Mark Chmura and Frank “Bag of Doughnuts” Winters to see LaPorte’s show.
“Then we all went to Brett’s house, and we just kind of hit it off,” LaPorte said. “I went to their games every year, and he invited me to Mississippi to his celebrity golf event for the NFL charities.”
A Bears fan who doesn’t mind the Packers is certainly an exception. A Sox fan who also likes the Cubs is even rarer. The city’s shoulders aren’t broad enough to have fans who support both clubs: Just ask actor John Cusack.
“You know how the Lakers have all these movie stars that go to the games?” LaPorte said. “The South Siders like the Sox, and the North Siders like the Cubs. They don’t even read the same newspapers. Sox fans read the Sun-Times and the Cub fans read the Tribune.
“We had just two damn celebrities: Bernie Mac, who died, and Vince Vaughan. The year we went to the World Series, John Cusack wanted tickets to come to the playoffs.”
A casual fan would have assume that Sox fans loved Cusack: He played Buck Weaver in the 1988 movie “Eight Men Out,” the story of the 1919 White Sox team that fixed the World Series. Weaver, in the prime of his career, was among the eight players banished from baseball, despite never making a fielding error and batting .324 in the series.
But Cusack, an Evanston native, claimed to be a fan of both the Cubs and White Sox. After the paper published a picture of him wearing a Cubs hat at Wrigley Field, the White Sox denied the actor playoff tickets.
“We needed all the help we could get, but that’s how serious dyed-in-the-wool they get,” LaPorte said.
Things can get more intense in the streets of Chicago.
While driving his truck route, LaPorte was shot twice and stabbed once in three separate incidents.
“People asked if I had been in Vietnam,” LaPorte said. “I’d go, ‘Naw, Chicago.’ “
After one of the shootings, LaPorte’s employer put him on a different route, which included a prison.
“This ain’t your job when working at a prison is a step up from what you’ve been doing,” LaPorte said.
However, he always had a penchant for humor. He enjoyed seeing one person on a regular stop in a mall.
“I used to make her laugh,” LaPorte said. “And she asked, ‘Did you ever think about being a comedian?’ It was a revelation. It was like a light went off. I always loved comedians but I never put it together in my little peanut brain that you could do this for a living.
“So that night I call up this place that did open mics and killed. And the guy goes, ‘How long you been doing comedy for?’ And I go ‘About five minutes.’ “
The club invited LaPorte back to perform the next weekend.
“I started February ’88, and in October I quit my day job,” he said. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it full time and jump into it.’ I never looked back.”
LaPorte’s material is mostly family-friendly. He puts down hecklers with subtle comebacks. He has a huge legion of fans in the Midwest, and he recently finished a large-venue tour with Brad Garrett.
LaPorte eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he received a standing ovation on his “Tonight Show” debut. He’s appeared on several television shows and in a handful of movies. He’s also made a couple of sitcom pilots, but he said the timing was poor. He says he will make another pilot, and Tahoe Improv host Howie Nave says eventually LaPorte will get his own show.
“There is no justice in the world until Rocky LaPorte get a sitcom,” said Nave, who says LaPorte is his best friend.
The two comics hit it off around the year 2000, when Nave was the host of The Improv and both were just finishing divorces. They’ve decided if they ever get married again, the other comedian will be the best man.
“Rocky is a comic’s comic,” Nave said. “They will laugh at his stuff, and usually they won’t laugh at other comics’ stuff.”
LaPorte spends more time in Tahoe than anyplace other than Chicago and L.A. He headlines at the Improv four weeks each year, including through Sunday, April 5.
“I love Tahoe,” LaPorte said. “It’s one of my favorite places to play. Every time we will go snowmobiling, or the gondola or a boat ride. How can you not take advantage of that place, it’s so wonderful.”
Like Chicago, Tahoe is LaPorte’s kind of town.