COMIC RELIEF

If Diogenes with his lantern could not find an honest man, it’s because there were no comedians in ancient Greece. In a world of tangled alliances, comedians-those equal-opportunity offenders-rise above the fray and view the proceedings with sometimes startling clarity.

Like many in more serious-seeming professions, comics are in hot pursuit of the truth. But unlike that of religion and politics, the truth of comedy doesn ’t always come with an agenda attached. These jesters



REV. Bob’s pale, doughy, kind-eyed face appears on the television screen as a voice intones in the huckster style of a game-show announcer: “The man of the power tie, if not the hour The small appliance king. He’ll heal your car and more A guy with a nice jacket. He is what he is and more.” With that, “Rev. Bob’s Inspirational Moment” begins.

During the half-hour cable access show, Rev. Bob-a.k.a. local comic actor Farley Scott-will read stream-of-consciousness ravings from the Book just want you to open your ears. They love nothing more, as George Carlin said, than messing with your mind.

Sounds good, we thought, so we put together a gallery of local jokers who regularly cast a laughing eye on Dallas, carrying on a lovers’ quarrel with the city. Through belly laughs and barbed satire, they’ve got plenty to tell us about the place we call home and the people we call our neighbors. Now here’s the curtain. Sbbb. They may be talking about you.



of Bob-” Direct from me to you through Bob.” The tortured metaphors are usually about money in the equally tortured syntax of television preachers. Occasionally messages will flash on the screen: Get your checkbooks ready: Prepare to squeencb. Squeenching has something to do with transmitting the “Power of Bob” on the “Astro-Bob Projection Plane” Tonight, with his dog Bea, Rev. Bob asks us to “Bring your mammals to the TV. We’re going to do an anti-flea squeench.”

Healing miracles, performed via “inter-TV healing,” take place frequently on “Rev. Bob’s Inspirational Moment.” The process involves placing one hand on the television screen while another hand “squeenches your neighbor’s thigh” and another touches the object to be healed. {The process seems to require three or more hands.) Most of the callers ask for healing-small appliances seem most in need of divine help. On occasion, an out-of-the-loop caller will spout indignantly: “Hey Rev. Bob. You seen the guy on Channel 27? He’s ripping you off!”

The guy on Channel 27. of course, is the locally based Rev. Robert Tilton, he of the giant Word of Faith church and the “Success-N-Life” syndicated show. Says Scott: ’”Novices to the genre who see Rev. Bob first soon learn it’s not completely a joke. They’ll turn on the TV and see what I’m doing done by Tilton and others, because sometimes 1 copy them directly. Sometimes I can’t even keep up with how bizarre they get; it’s unbelievable.”

Scott, a gentle man who spent the first eighteen years of his life going to church three times a week, is genuinely, sincerely angry about the modus operandi of the televangelist. “The Bible, except quotes pulled to verify a preacher’s opinions, is ignored; the spirituality is removed from it. It’s never about orphanages. It’s about how if you send Robert Tilton money, God will increase your income, get you a new job, or whatever.”

When we laugh at Rev. Bob, it’s not just fighting back at religious rip-ffs. We laugh at the people who are conned by him as well. It’s a dark laughter of the victor, one of relief. Audiences laugh at the clumsy, overt manipulation of a Rev. Bob or a Suzanne Sugarbaker on “Designing Women.” But when we don’t notice it, when we’re the one caught in it. it’s not so funny.

“I’d like to specialize in satirical comedy of all religions,” says Scott, whose definition of “religion” includes politics as well as New Age metaphysics and obsessions with dieting. One thing he will not do is a parody of a fire-and-brimstone preacher: ’’Dallasites do not laugh if you go out and start pointing at them and calling them sinners. They don’t like being called a sinner, even in jest.”

Scott has branched out recently, appearing on the short-lived “Ninja Box Office” television show, but his mainstay remains the “Inspirational Moment” on cable. When people ask why he doesn’t move into the comedy club network, he replies, “If I went to a comedy club, they might not take me seriously.”



TOM BLACKWOOD is as close as you get to a working philosopher these days. Instead of the Lyceum, however, he cogitates in a Lakewood office with a parking lot view and a tiki bar theme. From there he spins out commentary, witticisms, and observations about life as we know it. He even looks the part of a sage, with his salt-and-pepper beard, silver-strewn hair, and a face that shows a lot of living has been done. At the ripe old age of thirty-seven, he is a self-described “crotchety old man” who makes a living from selling sour grapes.

Blackwood shares his mood afflictions with an estimated one million listeners on more than forty radio stations. “My main job now is two pages of jokes, five days a week, for Morning Punch.” Blackwood says. The overnight radio humor service for deejays operates with help from radio personality Scott Parkin and comedian Leo Nino.

Inspiration, for Blackwood, depends largely on the news. He starts each working day by reading both local papers at home, a ritual he shares over coffee with neighbors Parkin and Nino. The car radio stays tuned to news-talk stations and the home television to CNN. His reading material ranges from People magazine to The Washington Journalism Review. “1 am Mr. Current Events,” he says. It’s a duty that has its drawbacks. The Sunday morning public affairs programs he must watch, falling on what amounts to the beginning of his work week, can be “kind of a life-ruining experience.”

With this daily inundation of grim reality, how does Blackwood keep from slipping into nihilism? The answer: “I’ve been a nihilist all my life” He muses (perhaps seriously, perhaps not) that it’s likely to drive him into therapy. “We all have flaws,” he notes, “and mine is attitudinal. I’ll press the edge of hostility back at an audience. Some of it is me being hostile; some of it is just ’Get your ass up!’ I’ve got to get a reaction out of them:”

Blackwood sells his mind, however twisted, and its perceptions. To keep the toots of his trade in shape, he performs with Four Out of Five Doctors, an improvisational comedy troupe. “The reason I love improv,” says Blackwood, “is that there’s no work involved.” He’s kidding, but the weekly free-associating on stage keeps his humor sharp.’ ’The rule in improv is trust your second instinct,” he says, “because your first instinct may be the same as the audience’s, and if they beat you to the punch line, you’re dead.”

The quality of an improv show hinges on the audience input, and before each Doc performance, Blackwood admonishes them: “You set the level of the show, we won’t be embarrassed by anything you do,” Suggestions for improv skits do tend to be quirky or silly, obsessed with sexual or career matters-like the Dallasites themselves. It’s rare for the Docs to do topical or political gags. “The Dallas audiences don’t get it,” he says, “either because they don’t know or don’t care. Mainly they just want to escape.”



Ed YEAGER is the yuppie successor to Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman. A well-groomed man in a designer suit, he spins self-deprecating humor in a barrage of one-liners and short jokes. Yeager focuses on men, women, and materialism, sometimes getting all three into a routine: “I get tired of all these singles complaining about being single. They say, ’To get someone to go to bed with you anymore, you have to have a condom.’ Big deal. When I was single, you had to have a Porsche.”

The humor of Yeager is Dallas, or at least how Dallas is perceived. The subjects of his stories, often couples who quibble over money, sex, and vanity, are impatient and driven to achieve. His repertoire is current, but not controversial. He selects targets like himself, his family, or. more frequently. inanimate objects. A high point of his act, where he needles the car-as-status-symbol obsession, strikes at one of the safest targets ever in this age of hyper-sensitivity: the Yugo, a car not even Yugoslavians will defend.

’’Ever looked at a Yugo real close?” Yeager queries his audiences. “They have kickstands. What’s the payment on a Yugo. twelve dollars a month? It’s less than cable. You buy a Yugo and you get the Five-50 Protection Plan, which means your car is covered until ten till six.”

Dallasites love it, and sold out several of Yeager’s shows during a recent six-night run at the Addison Improv. More than fifty people were turned away on the final night, a usually slow Sunday evening. As the crowd streamed out the door, most were repeating lines from his show, jokes that would be retold at the office Monday-something you can’t do with deep-blue, “attack” comics like Andrew Dice Clay. “The last thing I want to do is offend people,” says Yeager, and indeed, even mild jokes about strip joints, bong water, and other less-than-wholesome pursuits were deleted from the Addison show because his daughter’s babysitter’s parents from his Lake Highlands neighborhood were in the audience.

“I hope that with all the concern about filthy comics and how generic and homogenized comedy is getting,” says Yeager, “that when I do get on Carson, when I do get that type of exposure, people will hear me and say, ’That stuff’s smart, clever, and it’s harmless. Let’s go see this guy.’”

If it sounds like Dallas is hooked on sitcom humor, it is. There’s a saying among stand-ups that if you can get big laughs from conservative Dallas audiences, your future in prime time as well as on “The Tonight Show” is assured. At a May audition, in fact, Yeager got the nod to appear on Carson’s show, although a date has not been set yet.



MARK FICKERT and KATIE MARIS are husband-and-wife industrial-strength comedians. In the corporate milieu of Dallas, a town whose blood runs green (and we don’t mean environmental), comedy is good business. Comedians like Fickert and Marts-who also do stand-up in clubs, write scripts, and act-perform at corporate parties as a perk for employees’ jobs well done. At gala events to introduce the new president or CEO, they serve as comedian ghost writers to craft all the witty bon mots and self-deprecating humor that make the big boss sound like a warm, approachable human being. That’s infotainment.

Business humor has come a long way from Toastmaster-trained after-dinner speakers and their endless anecdotes. As a way of introducing a new, somewhat stuffy CEO recently, Fickert and Maris took the businessman’s standard-issue speech, jazzed it up with a round of jokes and asides, and presented the hapless exec as a take-off on the Joe lsuzu character, complete with “He’s lying” disclaimers broadcast behind. To present a new product line at a beauty supply convention several years ago, Maris took Suzanne Sugarbaker of “Designing women’’ and crossed her with an even more addled television preacher to create a deep-South “beauty evangelist.” After singing the praises-be of a product, Maris drawled, “This one is also very good for nail roots, and we all know how important roots are. They had a whole mini-series on it on television.”

What kind of humor do Dallas business folk want to hear the most? “I’ve never run into a situation where a company did not want you to make fun of their competition,” says Fickert, “and I mean be brutal.” Think of it as motivational training. But Dallas businesses also turn the comedic sword on themselves with regularity. Roasting CEOs, executives, and board members, especially celebrities, is a popular sport among business luminaries, and a “dangerous and wide open” way to make tunny money, says Fickert.

While the pay scale for “industrial comedy” is five times that of the average comedy club gig, it’s more than good business for comedians: it may be the new home for humor in the Nineties, especially in a corporate town like Dallas. “Comedy clubs were the discos of the Eighties,” says Maris. “I think it’s peaked and people will get tired of going there. There is something to be said for the fact that you don’t have some drunk guy standing up spouting gibberish at you just before he pukes on his shoes.”



JUDY TRUESDELL’s comedy exhibits a fine sense of nostalgia enlightened by a strong sense of the absurd. Both arise from her years growing up in Mesquite during the Sixties and Seventies. Stepping back in time during her act, she slips into the persona of a sexually repressed PTA president, one of many characters she brings to life. After donning a frosted bouffant wig, lime green-bonded knit jacket, and matching silver-dollar-size “ear bobs,” she welcomes the audience to the “monthly meeting of the Hoot Gibson Memorial Elementary School PTA.”

In a very somber twang, she warns of something “very shocking” at Hoot. It’s “The New We Come and Go” reader, she says, stressing the “new” and “come.” She continues indignantly: “Listen to this. ’Come. Oh, Sally, come. Come, come, Sally, come. Oh, Sally, see Jane go down. Down, down, down, see Jane go down.’” The moral guardian practically collapses in shock.

Truesdell first met administrative inanity in high school. During the late Sixties, a main issue was dress code enforcement. “The stupidest one I felt was: girls must wear sufficient undergarments,” says Truesdell. “In the first place 1 thought, ’Now, who’s going to be the lucky guy to assess what is sufficient for who?’ For some of us, Curad Ouchless spots did real well.” Now she wonders about current dress rules. “What would codes say now? Students must have hair. Tattoos or swastikas must not obliterate facial features.”

Even considering today’s educational crises, which as a former school teacher she knows very well, Mesquite in the Seventies “was a real scary time to go to school,” says Truesdell. She notes that while we laugh at the earnest protector of Hoot’s morals, we might forget that Mesquite schools once threatened to kick a cancer chemotherapy patient out of school because his wig was too long. A more innocuous routine deals with the continuing travails of Mitzi Malone, head cheerleader of Fisher High School-“Home of the Mighty Fighting Trout! Yeah! ’-whose life revolves around getting the spirit stick at cheerleader camp, and who every day “prays that I never, ever graduate high school.”

Truesdell says the birth of her daughter Jensen, and the parental concern it has brought to the fore, have made her a little less judgmental of the old gang at Hoot and Fisher. “1 have always thought of myself as outside looking in. Out there in Mesquite where I grew up, with the rodeo and guys with names on their belts, 1 always said I was a northerner trapped in a Texan’s body. Since I’ve grown up, I’ve become true to my state again and I say,’ T’m a Texan and we’re not all that way.’”

REV. BOB.THE ANTI-TILTON farley scott

RELIGIOUS SECT: Secular Humorism.



ACTUALLY ORDAINED BY: American Fellowship Church (by mail), located in California (of course).



COSMOBOBOLOGY: Rev. Bob first appeared in a trailer park in Sherman, Texas, in 1979.



BEST PIECE OF WISDOM: We live in the preset, we look to the future, and there’s no turning back, do wah, do wah.



FAVORITE BLESSING: Peace on you.



FAVORITE HYMN: Bob is good. Bob’s not bad. Bot is the best peace we’ve ever had . Bob makes sense. Bob make change. Bob makes ordinary things seem strange. Yeah boy.



SQUEENCHING: It amplifies your desire to send me boatioads of money.



ON CURRENT POPULARITY: Heck, I’m on as many channeis as Jimmy Swaggart.

ON THE TEXAS GOVERNOR’S RACE: Why do you think they call it Goober-natorial?



IF DALLAS WERE A PLANET, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL ITS THREE MOONS? Moe, Larry, and Curly.



WHERE TO FIND HIM: “Rev. Bob’s Inspirational Moment” is aired live on TCI Cable Channel 25-8 on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. For performance dates and readings from the Book of Bob, call the bobline at 699-5996.

tom blackwood THE THINKER

Listeners of John Rody’s morningdrive show on KZPS-FM find Black-wood’s topical observations on the world at large plenty tunny. Here are a few of hisfavorite lines:



NEWS ITEM: Children see thirty-three acts of television violence on an average day in America. (“Twenty-seven ot these involve their parents fighting over the remote control.”)



NEWS ITEM: The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are going to entertain the troops in Panama… (It’s the first time In two years they get to cheer for someone who won.”)NEWS ITEM: It’s the birthday of Rene Descartes. He was the French philosopher who said. “I think, therefore I am.” (“0f course, it was Captain Hazlswood who said, I sink, therefore I am,’ And Rick Moranis who said, ’I shrink, therefore I am.’ And Jimmy Hotfa who said, ’I link, therefore I ain’t.’”)



NEWS ITEM: King Solomon had 700 wives. (“Can you imagine being told. It’s in the refrigerator, get It yourself’ 700 limes a day?”)



NEWS ITEM: A demonstration over Britain’s new Poll Tax turned into a riot, with Londoners running amok in the streets. It started out peacefully. . . (“Then someone threw out a soccer ball.”)

IF DALLAS WERE A PLANET, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL ITS THREE MOONS? Hurst, Euless. and Bedford.



WHERE TO FIND HIM: Four Out of Five Doctors performs at the Improv. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 750-5868, on Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

ed yeager SILVER-DOLLAR REFLECTION OF UP WARDLY BOUND DALLAS

A relleclion of Dallas In the comedy and commentary of Ed Yeager:



ON SEXUALITY: Condoms… they’re selling them to younger and younger people. I opened one the other day and there was a Bazooka Joe comic.



ON ETHNIC ACCENTS: I was in a Chinese restaurant. I was in the bar and I asked the bartender, “Let me have a Stoli.” He goes. “Once upon a time…”



On BANKS: I went up to the teller at my bank and said, I’d like to check my balance.” He leans over and pushes me.

IF DALLAS WERE A PLANET, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL ITS THREE MOONS? D/FW International Airport remote parking lots A, B, and C.

WHERE TO SEE HIM: Yeager has small roles in RoboCop II and the upcoming Problem Child. He also perregularly at the Addison and Dallas Improvs (404-8501,750-5868).

katie maris & mark fickert THAT’S INFOTAINMENT!

A round-table view of Dallas by Katie Maris and Mark Fickert:



ON CAREER: Katie recently worked for a bulimic group. The other entertainment was a cake coming out of a girl.



On MARRIAGE: A woman gels married for love, security, to have a family, the use of someone else’s credit cards. The basics in life. A man gets married tor one reason and one reason only. It’s so he’ll have someone to carry his wallet, his car keys, and his sunglasses when he gets out of the car.



ON SATANIC MESSAGES IN ROCK ’N’ ROLL: Mark played an old Ozzy Osbourne record backwards and heard a presidential acceptance speech by Dan Quayle.



IF DALLAS WERE A PLANET, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL ITS THREE MOONS? Waspus, Bureaucreo, and Bubba.



WHERE TO FIND THEM: Fickert has small guest roles in two NBC series, 13 East” and “The Story Behind the Story.” Maris performs occasionally at Philachi’s deli/comedy club at 3701 W. Northwest Hwy., 352-2599, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 9 p.m., $3.

judy truesdell THE HUMOROF DAILY LIFE

A look at the domestic side of Dallas and its suburbs from Judy Truesdell:



ON HER MARITAL STATE: I have been married for seven years to George Mecca. Yes is a comedian too, so you know we’re really, really rich.



ON THE DELIVERY OF HER DAUGHTER: It was the most nightmarish, hideous delivery in the history of women, and it was the only time I experienced penis envy.



ON HER ALREADY HIP CHILD: She’s got a bumper sticker on her tricycie: #2 Happens.



ON SEXUAL DIFFERENCES: Men and women are from two separate planets and were put down here so that God would have a never. ending “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh in.”



ON ADVICE COLUMNS IN WOMEN’S MAGAZINES: My favorite one: “Dear editor, sometimes when I am walking down the street aaccidentally have an orgasm.” And I’m thinking, this is a problem.



ON CATS, KIDS, AND WORKING: Cats have decided that if something is important they want their butts on it, just like kids.



MOST COVETED JOB: THE GIRL Who Handles That” If you go into the bank and you want to buy some travelers’ checks, they say “The Girl Who Handies That” is at luch, “The Girl Who Handles, That” is on vacation, She never works.



IF DALLAS WERE PLANET, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL ITS THREE MOONS? Lipscomb, Ragsdate, and strauss-and their orbits would always be cottiding.



WHERE TO FIND HER: Truesdell does occasional weekend late-night shows at the Greenville Ave, Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 1611 Greenville, 821-1860, including the annual holiday show, “What the Dickens.”

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