Yo Rocky, welcome back to Tahoe’s factory of funny
When he last appeared at The Improv, Rocky LaPorte was still working on his soon-to-be-shot sitcom pilot. While Rocky and his writers continue to come up with a finished product, “Rock” has been able to squeeze in some stand-up comedy; hence his appearance this week.
Rocky loves performing here; he considers Tahoe a nice break from the daily grind of Southern California’s dream factory. We’re not sure how long that his schedule will allow him to continue to make trips this way, so having him here is a treat.
It’ll be nice when he can finally remain in one town and concentrate on his comedic acting, but that also means less time on the road. It probably won’t be too long until Rocky headlines the bigger rooms, as more and more people discover the talented comic.
This isn’t the first time Rocky has shot a television pilot, but in the last one he wasn’t given much input, so it was never picked up by the networks. In an odd set of circumstances, though, that original pilot (short for CBS) has made its way online, popping up on YouTube, which just goes to show one never knows where their canceled project will reappear.
Despite all of his television credits, Rocky is best seen live. He is one of The Improv’s most requested comics, and his comedy isn’t limited to clubs and theaters here in this country either. He has appeared overseas, entertaining our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was chronicled by fellow comedian Jeffery Ross in his home journal entitled “Patriot Act,” which aired on Showtime.
Before that Rocky was in the remake of Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog,” with comic/actor Tim Allen. In fact, Allen wants Rocky to try out for the sequel to the very successful movie “Wild Hogs,” which not only starred Allen but also William H. Macy and John Travolta. Before the movie and Showtime special, Rocky was on the road as usual performing not just locally but also in Canada for the “Just For Laughs Comedy Tour,” and in Europe.
Rocky’s Comedy Central special still airs frequently, and he was voted the second-most popular comic on that network (Dane Cook came in first). We stay in touch frequently, since good friends are tough to come by; Rocky has been my best friend for more than 10 years. Has it been that long? Wow.
He’ll spend a few days either on his way back to Southern California or coming up here, to just hang and catch up on things and of course do the barbecue thing. Rocky is a comic’s comic who works the road constantly. He truly loves the art of stand-up and is considered by many to be one of the most gifted comics performing today.
Just this past week I was watching the movie “Terminal Velocity,” with Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski and James Gandolfini and, of course, the great Suli McCullough. And now here he is this week, performing at The Improv. Life is so surreal sometimes.
Suli’s great, and brings with him to the stage years of experience both as a talented writer and stand-up. His writing experience started when he was young, in high school, where writing came to him naturally. He won the state championship in speech as a senior, so talking was also a gift he possessed.
Suli started doing stand-up after graduating from UCLA, where he majored in political science. The comedy was a side gig. It wasn’t until he opened one night for Jerry Seinfeld that his career was laid out in front of him. Suli not only had a good night, but wound up signing with a management company. He would later go on to appear on late night television shows such as “An Evening At The Improv,” “The Arsenio Hall Show, ” “MTV’s Half Hour Comedy Hour,” VH-1’s Stand Up Spotlight” and “Comic Strip Live.” That would later lead to TV series, “Married With Children,” “In Living Color” and “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.”
In addition to his comedic skills, Suli made the graceful transition from the small screen to the big screen with numerous movies. His best known character was that as “Crazylegs” in the spoof movie, “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,” with Keenan Wayans. Other film credits include “The Fence,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “The Ernest Green Story” for Disney and “Terminal Velocity.”
Things came full circle when Suli was recognized for his writing, becoming a lead writer for “The Jamie Foxx Show.” He was also the head writer for the 2007 ESPN “Espy” Awards. He also co-authored the hysterical book, “150 Ways to tell if you’re Ghetto.”
Starting on Tuesday, Shelley Berman will appear at The Improv inside Harveys Cabaret.
Q&A with Rocky LaPorte
Comedian Rocky LaPorte is appearing every night this week through Sunday at The Improv at Harveys, along with Suli McCullough and host Howie Nave. He is currently in the process of developing a TV sitcom for ABC.
Q: How is the sitcom progressing?
A: It’s a process. Right now we’re meeting with writers and coming up with ideas. Then we’ll pitch them to the studio, and the one they like, they’ll go OK, write the script. Around November or December, if they really like the script, they’ll order a pilot. Pilots are shot in the spring, and May is fall pickups. Although there are no guarantees, I feel like I’m in the game and I’m at the plate, so I’m happy about that.
Q: What’s the best part of living and working in Hollywood?
A: I don’t think there is a best part. Traffic’s horrible, you name it. It’s just a tough business. At any one time 90 percent of people in the Screen Actors Guild are out of work. It’s a lot of rejection. But if it’s in your blood and it’s what you do, you stick with it.
Q: What would you be doing now if you weren’t in comedy?
A: I’d be driving a truck in Chicago. I used to drive a truck and work on the docks. Breaking my ass somehow. I grew up in Chicago.
Q: What started you on the road to comedy?
A: I was driving a truck and it was in a bad neighborhood and I was held up, and I got shot. So they told me they’d put me on a better route, and I started delivering to prisons. Like how bad is your job when prisons is a step up from what you’ve been doing? So, I just started delivering to different places, and there was this lady who worked in a mall, and I used to make her laugh so hard. One day she asked me if I’d ever thought of being a comedian, and it was like an epiphany. A light went on.
Q: Where did you start?
A: I went to an open mic night at a club in Chicago, and it went really well. They asked me, “How long have you been in comedy?” And I said, “Like, five minutes.” I was back the next weekend and it just kind of took off from there. I was 29 when I got into it. I started in February, and by October I quit my day job. But you know what’s weird? If I didn’t get shot, I would never have done that. So actually getting shot was a good thing, believe it or not. It got me on this road.
Q: Who were your early influences?
A: When I was a kid I used to watch the comics on “The Tonight Show” all the time, and I thought what a great job that would be. But I never thought in my peanut brain that you could do that for a living.
Q: Any other early memories?
A: When I was a kid I used to lie in my bed at night, staring at the stars, thinking to myself, “Where the hell is the roof?”
— Rick Chandler