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Packing Punchlines

November 14, 2018

C

omedian Bobby Collins doesn’t miss a thing in this crazy world. His unique perspective comes from years as an observer and an active participant. He tells it like it is and when it comes to politics — sure, he has his opinions, but he doesn’t choose sides and jokes are at everyone’s expense.

A conversation with the man makes that very clear. Collins includes stories from life on the road, parts of his comedy shtick, tidbits about his family and what happens when he and his irreverent comedy friends get together — all of it hilarious. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

Collins instantly builds a rapport with everyone — childhood friends who are still close friends, airline employees in just about every state, comedy club owners, and the President of the United States, insert name here.

He’d be the first to tell anyone life is too short to take everything so personally and literally. Collins’ ability to laugh at the ridiculousness all around him, to see the humor in the most difficult situations, and to find commonality in all of it is what understanding the human condition is all about.

Collins is a storyteller who connects with audiences about the same day-to-day situations everyone finds themselves in, serves up comedic characterizations to illustrate his points, and rants resplendently on world events.

Collins started out in the 1980s, working at Catch a Rising Star Comedy Club on the Upper East Side of New York City, before performing all over the city and in New Jersey, honing his craft from hole-in-the-wall clubs to sold-out theaters across the country.

It was only a matter of time before Collins would rise to become a top headlining and comedic master. He hosted VH1’s “Stand-up Spotlight,” acted in television and movies, and authored a best-selling book. He’s a popular keynote speaker for Fortune 500 corporate events, been on day and night talk shows, appeared at charity events and garnered a Grammy nomination. Collins toured with titans of entertainment; Frank Sinatra, Cher, Julio Iglesias and Dolly Parton. He’s worked alongside Chris Rock, Ray Romano and Drew Carey, as well as other contemporary comedians.

He’s one of those rare people where what you see is what you get.

Born in Queens, Collins is a proud, tried and true tribesman of New York City and to the world he is simply “Bobbbyyy!”

You’ve been in this business and you are still everywhere, doing what you love. What’s up with that?

You know what, somebody said to me the other day, ‘Hey Bobby, when are you ever gonna give this up?’ I sat around with some guys I know recently and most of them did everything for the wrong reasons and they admitted it, for money. Yeah, they had money, but they weren’t very happy with the way their lives are. I go and get paid to have fun. How nice is that?

You are still constantly on the road going back and forth across the country and parts unknown.

So I’m coming to the Avi Casino next week — that to me is like eight months away. I was in Boston two nights last week, two different theaters, then I flew down to West Palm and I opened for Cher on a Friday night, then did my own theater on a Saturday, it’s crazy, crazy…. The travel sucks, I’m home now in California, because I have a special needs daughter and she got sick, so I flew in real quick for that. But I have to be back in Fort Lauderdale Thursday night — you know the life.

Home sounds like a dream with your nomadic lifestyle.

Writers like you, comics like me … we’re circus people, we’re carnies.

We talk straight to each other. It’s funny, when I sit with comics — I was with, Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall recently, doing a benefit. We were sitting around in the back laughing, and we’re talking about anything, everything and everyone — and if the people heard us, they’d be like, ‘you guys are ass----s.’ We were that all along. Growing up, we were just trying to get laid. We thought we were being gentlemen, you know what I mean?

When we were at this benefit, the lady comes to me who was emceeing and says, ‘you’re up next, what do you want me to say?’ I said, ‘oh, I don’t care.’ Those two guys got on me, they go, ‘Bobby, we’ve never played the White House, we weren’t Grammy nominated.’ I go, ‘I didn’t win.’ ‘That’s not the point,’ they said, ‘you were nominated, we weren’t nominated. You were on all three Tonight Shows with Jimmy, Jay and Johnny and you’ve got a best selling book. You’ve sold over 600,000 copies.’ ‘I don’t give a s--- about that,’ I said. ‘They go, Bobby, play that to the public, because we’re carnies.’ I was like, ‘Nah, let’s smoke another joint and we’ll kick back.’

You’re one of those comedians who took the traditional route of performing at comedy clubs in the early days to build your career. What do you think of comics who find their audiences on YouTube without leaving their living rooms? Do you care? Do you think funny is funny no matter what?

It reminds me of an old saying — I love comedy and I love making people laugh — I’ll give you an example. I worked at a comedy club recently for a one-night special event and it sold out. It was called Bananas in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. The girl who worked there, I’ve known her for 20 years, and she said, “Bobby, would you come again next year?” I go, “Sure,” because that’s what we call a “fill-in.” Well, I looked up at the board of the comics coming in — she had a list of them. I only knew the name of one, but I said, “who are these other guys?” And she said, “Bobby, those are the new hit comics that have Netflix specials and things like that.” I go “Wow, I never heard of ’em.” She says, “Bobby we seat 325, you sold out two shows for 325 each.” I point to the board, “How about this guy?” “He sold 29 tickets on a Saturday night,” she said. “What about this guy?” She said, “He sold 57 tickets.” And the answer to the question and we’ve always looked at this, the cream rises to the top. S--- floats for a while then it sinks, and that is how it is. I was always taught that — work hard, learn your craft.

What’s the best laugh you ever got?

That’s a hard one. I think it was during a routine, and something happened off the cuff in a venue. I’m in a theater of 1,200 people and I started on politics. I do a whole thing on “polly-ticks.” I break it down — what’s a “polly …an expensive trained bird that repeats everything you say. What’s a tick? It’s a blood-sucking insect.” I said, “People, I’ve been to the White House twice, I’ve shaken hands with many politicians, …you shake their hand, you want to clean yourself with a chicken.” This one guy stood up because he knew I was going into politics, and he went, “Good bye, Bobby Collins, good bye” in the middle of the show. I’m looking at him, everybody’s looking at him, “Good bye I didn’t come here to hear about politics.” I looked at the audience and I said, “Ignorance can be educated, crazy can be medicated, there’s just no excuse for stupid.” They went nuts. So I play to the tension of what’s happening and they just went nuts…and this poor guy his pants were stuck in his ass as he was leaving. And they were just crying. Something like that is the reward for the comedian.

Do you think comedy and humor will help with the division and negativity of the country?

Most people are too serious about what’s going on in the country. The tension is very thick and my job is to lighten it up. To break the ice, literally, I say to them, “turn the television off people. I’ve traveled the world. We’re the greatest country and the greatest people in the world…we truly are. Don’t let anybody ever tell you differently,” and they applaud. Remember, they’re coming to see me, so they know Bobby’s gonna tell it like it is. Then I say to them, “Do what I do, turn the television off, it’s making you crazy, everything is either drugs or cars, so go do what I did, I disconnected our home security system, I went out and bought two Syrian flags, and I went online and got that black ISIS flag, and anywhere I perform, I say, “I’m standing in front of you right here, but sitting now in front of my house is the local police, sheriff, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, Secret Service — and I’m saving $69 a month.” They applaud, I go, “They work for us, your taxes pay their salary, put ‘em to work” and they go nuts. Nobody’s tellin’ em.

Where’s the strangest place you never thought you would perform?

I never would have thought that I would perform in Mar-a-Lago, that’s Trump’s place down in Florida, that’s his hotel. They call it the southern White House. He’s a big fan of mine, and he literally had me and Celine Dion perform there when he became president. My wife’s Italian, she says, “Don’t do your political stuff, you can get a lot of work from this, this guy’s president now.” I go, “Honey, I’m a truth-sayer, we’ve gotta have fun.” I walked out and I looked at the audience and I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new president, and he is here tonight.” They all cheered loud, and I went “I guess orange is the new black.”

Money doesn’t discriminate, people do. I’m from New York. So I took the money and ran. And he had me back last March. So that’s the strangest place I never thought I would perform. I was like “wow, I’m performing in front of the president, I performed at the White House for the Clintons, I performed for Obama, he’s a fan, now I’m working for the guy I just don’t like. You put yourself in situations in my life…I could have told you, “yeah, when I was asked to do the Diplomatic Corp in Bangladesh,” or when I was in China representing the United States for comics, but no, it was Mar-a-Lago. Circus people…

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