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09:49:37 - 2000-02-06

The First Time (TM) I ever got up in front of an audience and tried my hand at stand-up comedy I stunk worse than a hamper full of Liza Minelli's dirty Depends.

The Last Time (not TM yet, but I'm working on it) I ever got up in front of an audience, I was heralded as the predecessor to Robin Williams.

Whatever happened to me?

What happened to Uncle Bob??

It's a long story. Gotta minute??

Throughout 1983, I would spend every Tuesday night going to the local Punch Line Comedy Club and watching the comedians. We would go on Tuesdays because that was "Amateur Night" and it was only three bucks to get in and see a show that normally cost $6-$10. BUT you had to sit through 30 minutes of amateurs.

Nothing beat amateur night if you're a fan of the sadistic. To watch people hop up on stage and fail miserably at reaching their dream, was oftentimes hilarious.

Still, every week, I would sit there with my buddies and KNOW that I was funnier than every single amateur onstage. Those guys COULDN'T WIPE MY ASS BAYBEE!!!

...Yet...I had a horrible fear of getting onstage and finding out that I WASN'T as funny as those guys. So I would just sit at my table and bitch that I was funnier without doing anything about it.

That only goes so far with my buddies. One night, while I was in the bathroom sucking off Jamaican boys for beer money, one of my buddies went to the manager of the club and had me slotted to be one of the amateurs on next Tuesday's Amateur Night.

I wanted to vomit. But... I also figured it was either put up or shut up.

I worked for a week on material for my big FIVE MINUTES on stage. I gathered as many props as I could, because (in my demented mind) prop comedians ruled. I wrote key joke words on the palm of my hand in case I panicked.

I practiced in front of the mirror for hours.

That Tuesday night, I had butterflies the size of poodles in my gut. Somewhere in my panic, I decided it might be a good idea if I got totally trashed before I got onstage. Because my friends had always told me I was hilarious when I was drunk.

I drank three beers and three shots of Jagermeister in 30 minutes. My friends had already cast their votes and 89% said "C ...Bad Idea".

My name was called to get onstage and I panicked. I made a split-second decision to adopt the gimmick of a guy who was scared shitless to get onstage and told all his jokes nervously.

The only joke I remember doing that night, was my Impression. It was an impression of a dyslexic doing a Moonwalk. I stood on the stage and pretended like I had the determination of an Olympic skater as I got in "The Zone". I then stumbled drunkenly forward.

As it was a sight gag, I will explain to those who don't get it. Dyslexics read backwards. The Moonwalk is a dance step that moves the dancer backwards. Thus, a Dyslexic doing the Moonwalk would walk forward, not backwards.

THE SIMPLE FACT that I had to explain my best joke to you would tell you how good I did.

I completely sucked. Hard. I was so unfunny I had people in the audience tearing up with sadness on how bad I was.

But...I got bitten by the comedy bug.

By the show's end, I had sobered up a bit, introduced myself to the manager, Rick Colquitt, and asked if I could please give it one more try next week.

Rick told me he had one spot open. But to stay sober next week. That was not a problem I explained to him. I realized then it was my downfall. Had I been sober I woulda KICKED ASS BAYBEE!!!

I worked hard on a whole batch of new material for the next Tuesday. This time, I didn't have the gnawing fear of being onstage and failing. I had done that and survived. Now it was time to get onstage and succeed.

(Jesus ... I feel like I'm writing some sort of self help manual here. My apologies).

The following week, I got onstage, completely sober....and kicked ass baybeeeee!!! I left the props at home and just told topical jokes, made fun of commercials and did my impression of the carnies at the State Fair. That night, I won the coveted "Amateur of the Night" World Heavyweight Belt that was defended each week at the Punch Line.

After doing the amateur night thing for about three months, the club's emcee decided he was going to leave the club and go on the road with his act. The manager needed to hire a new emcee.

And he chose me.

(Bob flutters his eyelashes delicately and blushes)

I then became the official emcee of the PunchLine. I was in shock how quickly it happened. Now, every night of the week, I was in the comedy club -- for free no less. I would do a 15-minute set each night to open the night up, then introduce each comedian and tell some jokes between comedians for people to get up and go to the bathroom and crap. Well ...not LITERALLY crap ... but "Crap" meaning get drinks, stretch, whatever.

It was definitely the coolest job I've ever had but it was also very stressful. I had a few bits that I could do every night that killed week in and week out. But for the most part, I was on the SAME STAGE every night for close to a year ... so my act HAD to change each week. Simply because we got the same clientele each week. I may tell a joke that kicked ass ... too bad. It's retired. Because the next week...the same crowd isn't going to laugh at the same joke.

Doing that for a year gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other comedians who were searching for their big break at the time. At the time, the big deal was to someday get on "Star Search". Jenny Jones, the talk show host who was one of the first big winners on "Star Search", came to town for a week in '85. She was soooo fine. She called me "Monkey Slut" because I screwed up her intro on her last night there and called her "Jimmy Jones".

I also got a chance to share the stage with Tim Allen, Louie Anderson and Sinbad among others. Sinbad was by far the nicest. He has a great personality and is a genuinely good

One of the guys that I got pretty close to for the week he was here was Vince Champ. I doubt you've ever heard of him. I hadn't heard from Vince in about ten years and then I saw in the paper that he was arrested for being a serial rapist in the midwest. He was doing a college circuit comedy tour and was date raping girls after the show. Freaked me out because I thought he was one of the nice guys.

Why did I quit doing comedy? Simple. I fell in love.

The Punch Line closed down due to poor management in 1987, leaving me without a gig. I did a couple of shows around the south but really wanted to stay at home with my new piece of ass.

....Had I known she's still be hanging around 13 years later, I woulda went on the fuckin' road for a few years and have my own damned sitcom by now.

By the way ... she's the one who compared me to Robin Williams. What? You thought there were comedian critics out there "heralding" people???

Wake up, Princess Naive. Smell the freakin' coffee already.

So now I've got a gig as a humor columnist. At least I'm still getting paid a healthy salary to just be a sarcastic smartass week in and week out.

...But I'm really beginning to miss the heat of the spotlights and am beginning to think about possibly trying stand-up one more time. And this time be totally committed to it.

Except I won't quit my day job.

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