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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

Wacky `Gong Show' gave comic his start

BY MIKE KELLY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It was more than a quarter century ago that Bob Zany got his first paying gig - and it wasn't in a small, dingy club, the kind of place where most stand-up comics get their start. It was on national television, on the infamously bizarre 1970s program, Gong Show.

No, he didn't win, but he wasn't exactly gonged out, either. In the middle of his “act” - which consisted of the 15-year-old Zany reading jokes from a sheet of paper - he was dragged off the stage by a guy wearing a nun's outfit and carrying a net.

“I wasn't gonged, though,” Zany points out. “I got paid, like, $128, and if I'd gotten gonged, I wouldn't have gotten anything.”

From that auspicious beginning, the native Californian has built a comfortable career as a stand-up comic, television actor, and radio-show host. Tonight and tomorrow night, the 41-year-old comedian is headlining at Toledo's Connxtions Comedy Club.

Four years after his Gong Show appearance, Zany began emceeing a comedy show at a club in Pasadena. It featured such newcomers as Garry Shandling, Robert Wuhl (HBO's Arli$$), Kevin Nealon, Nia Peeples, and Yakov Smirnoff. Since then, he's appeared at comedy clubs across the country, and has opened for big-name comics such as Jay Leno and Rodney Dangerfield.

He's also hosted radio shows in Los Angeles, had small parts in a few movies (most recently Joe Dirt with David Spade), released a pair of comedy CDs, and appeared in TV shows including Roseanne, The Drew Carey Show, and Star Search, where he faced off against a red-headed comedian called Carrot Top on his way to the semi-finals. (“Don't forget to mention that I beat him,” Zany adds.)

Zany says he is on the road more than 45 weeks a year. Much of his act is improvisational, playing off his audience, and he tries to keep his one-liners current. For instance: “Research now says that the SARS virus can live on a toilet seat for four days.” (Pause.) “That beats out Elvis by one day.”

Zany currently hosts a cable show called Comcast Comedy Spotlight, for both new comics and veteran performers. He's also taping appearances on National Lampoon's Funny Money, a new program on the Game Show Network.

Plus, he does recurring comedy bits on several radio programs, including the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom Show, which airs in Toledo weekday mornings on WIOT-FM (104.7). His “Zany Report” on Bob & Tom has aired each Tuesday for more than six years.

He's appeared several times before in Toledo, and says it's one of his favorite cities.

Why is that?

“The Mud Hens, baby,” he says. “It's all about the Mud Hens.”

Has he ever seen them play?

“No,” he says. “Why, you think I should?”

Bob Zany appears tonight and tomorrow night at Connxtions Comedy Club, 5319 Heatherdowns Blvd. Showtimes are 8 and 10:30 both nights, with both 8 p.m. performances nonsmoking shows. Tickets are $15 Information: 419-867-9040.



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