T-150 seats down for stand-up guys
By Kelly Feser Eells
Laugh, and the whole world laughs
with you. Cry, and - well, you could be on your own, especially
if the urge strikes on June 14 "Comedy Night" at the
St. Thomas Aquinas Center.
This evening of mirth, a Theater 150 benefit, is guaranteed to
put smiles on even the saddest of faces. That is because three
of the funniest performers working in television, film, and the
stand-up circuit will be there: No kidding.
Veteran sitcom actor Blake Clark, whose longtime, recurring roles
on both "Boy Meets World" and "Home Improvement"
(he was Harry the hardware store owner) make him one of TV-Land's
most familiar faces.
Between his TV work - which also includes running gigs on "The
Drew Carey Show" and "The Jamie Foxx Show" - and
stand-up jobs, Clark somehow finds time to film comedies for
the big screen. In fact, he just flew back from a six-week shoot
in Hawaii, filming "50 First Kisses" with Adam Sandler,
Drew Barrymore, and Rob Schneider. And boy, were his arms...
Tired. So tired, that wife Sharon graciously answers a few questions
on his behalf, even though it was the couple's thirty-first wedding
anniversary and she herself was making plans to celebrate their
youngest son's graduation.
"My whole family's funny," said Sharon, referring to
Blake and their two children. "It's always fun around here."
Blake, she says, still "can't get over how many kids recognize
him" from his work on "Boy Meets World," where
he played the father of the lead boy's best friend.
"I was visiting him in Hawaii for a week, and we were on
this flight to the big island with a group of kids on a field
trip to an orchid farm. When they saw him, they all started going,
'You're Sean's dad! Can we have your autograph?' but they didn't
have anything for Blake to sign, so he just signed (the plane's)
barf bags for them all."
The show's fans, Sharon adds, "are everywhere. Even at nightclubs,
where the ones who grew up watching the show will always want
to stop and say hello to 'Sean's dad.'"
Cary Odes, another "Comedy Night" performer, and Clark
go way back.
"We met at the Comedy Store about a hundred years ago,"
says Odes, who has been making a living - "But not an honest
one, as far as my mom's concerned," he chuckles - in comedy
In addition to Odes' seven-year stint as "Home Improvement's"
warm-up comedian ("He kept the studio audience awake and
alive," said Sharon Clark. "And he was really good
at it, too!") he's made countless appearances on television's
top sitcoms; warmed up "Mad About You's" studio audiences;
and written award-winning short film scripts, one of which was
optioned by Steven Spielberg.
But the project closest to Odes' heart is The Tracking Project,
an education al organization "... connecting individuals
to the natural world and indigenous peoples to their cultures
Odes, who has worked with The Tracking Project since 1989 and
is billed as its "on-call professional comedian and in-house
mortician," jokes that project founder John Stokes "is
a demented cult leader. I don't know why I'm here."
"Here" being Hawaii, where he and 20 TTP educators
(Odes has taught stand-up in high schools and to gang members
in prison) were having "hands-on fun teaching Hawaiian schoolteachers"
cultural awareness. His work with the non-profit organization
has taken Odes everywhere from New Mexico, where it is based,
to the Philippines, Sweden, Brazil, and, of course, Hawaii. He
met Stokes at a men's conference, and shortly thereafter, "...was
called upon to mock all the elders and mentors that pass through
the project's workshops." Stokes is a firm believer in humor,
"one of the most vital survival skills."
Retta (no last name), another "Comedy Night" performer,
has been doing stand-up since 1996; she started touring the college
circuit "and earning money" in 1998.
While Retta is not beholden to any one, particular kind of comedy
("black humor," "blue material," etc.) she
does enjoy a good joke now and then. "My new favorite,"
she said, "is one by Jeffrey Ross. He told this at Hugh
Hefner's Friar's Club roast on Comedy Central Ross said Hugh
had introduced him to an adult film actress, a nice and very
attractive girl. So, he said, he asked her out. The actress said
she was working Tuesday and Wednesday, so 'how about Thursday?'
His response was, 'ooh, how 'bout Monday?'"
Does Retta ever get nervous just before a show?
"I used to get really nauseous," she confides, "but
that doesn't happen anymore. I might get nervous, but I'm pretty
used to the nerves these days."
The worst gig Retta ever had was an outdoor campus carnival,
held at a community college. "There was all this activity
going on, games, food, sales, etc., and I had to perform for
people who really didn't care. Worse, the front two rows were
kids, who kept shouting back everything I said."
Though Retta has done a number of televised shows, few have ever
had a Green Room - the place where performers wait before "they're
on." But of all the shows she's done where there was a Green
Room, "I'd have to say Comedy Central's 'Premium Blend'
has the best food."
Does she ever laugh in inappropriate places, something many "in
the business" are accused of doing?
"Well, comics tend to laugh more at jokes the general public
doesn't get right away. They also tend to find it humorous when
another comedian is dying a horrible death (on stage.) So, I
guess those are some of the 'inappropriate' moments that I sometimes
find myself laughing at."
Please call 805-646-4300 to purchase tickets to "Comedy
Night." The event begins at 6:30 p.m., June 14; comedians
will be taking the stage at 7:30 p.m.
The Ojai Valley News
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