Double Down on Faith
By Bob Zany
Reach a certain age, you start questioning your faith. I recently turned 52. Finally playing with a full deck, I like to say. But the cards might not be in my favor because I’m a comedian by profession,
and although a handful of comics get gigs (and giggles) later in life, show
business is generally a young person’s game. Every day brings boomer
entertainers like me closer to headlining senior centers featuring pinochle
while the next generation of yuksters regresses to Uno at theme parks.
My friend Danny, who defends clichés because they’re true, reminds
me that age is just a number. So is zero, I shoot back. And who wants to
be a zero besides a supermodel or the Olsen twins?
Fifty is the new 30, he counters, citing a September 2013 Harris Poll. It
asked 2,242 adults, from teens to elders, in the U.S., “If you could skip
time and live forever in good health at a particular age, what age would
you like to live at?” The average of the answers came out to be 50. A lot of
good that did Errol Flynn, I remind Danny; the swashbuckling actor died
at 50. So did my colleague Bernie Mac.
So at my age, I have to double down on taking care of myself. And I must
keep the faith that the phone will still ring with offers. Some periods, like
when I play Las Vegas one week and New York City the next, I feel like the
Energizer Bunny — I keep going and going, making a bang (and a buck). Other times, I’m so desperate to drum up a booking that I’d consider
being a greeter at a big-box store, and I lose all
Something else in the comedy world tests
my faith: the work schedule. I often hire on in
advance at a spot for a stretch of days or a
week to trim expenses and develop audiences.
So I have to trust that the dates agreed upon
months out will still be on the venue’s calendar
as the appearance approaches. Most of the time
things pan out. But once in a while I find out last
minute that I’ve been cancelled — like when a club
suddenly announces on its website that the business
has closed but neglects to tell the talent. That happened to me last year in Sioux Falls, S.D. But faith
stepped in. Another joint that had opened nearby gave
me the same week I seemingly lost. I took a leap of faith
with that unknown entity. Management did the same
with me, because though familiar with my material, the
laugh-a-teria honchos and I had no prior relationship.
The replacement hotspot poked me on Facebook,
too, without my permission, but I rather liked it.
Now, I’m no Jeff Foxworthy. So the faith I
draw on to support my career is secular, not
religious. I’m no George Carlin, either,
But they did baptize us kids, my siblings thinking to please our departed
paternal Grandma Lee. Yet I remember how much my parents focused on
our personal hygiene. So I believe they seized on the opportunity to force
us to take another bath.
I do share one common denominator with Foxworthy and Carlin: always
being on the lookout for punch lines. So on occasion I’ve incorporated my
parents’ religious upbringing into my act just as I have in this column. My
rule about faith-based humor is: No topic is too sacred to rib, but don’t be
so sacrilegious that God wouldn’t laugh. So this gag passes my test: I gave
up being Catholic for Lent. I also like this quip: There’s nothing wrong
with nepotism. Look at Jesus. His dad got him the job.
But no matter what I riff on, faith plays a role. It has to. After all, entertainers must have faith in themselves to succeed. This principle applies to
everyone in every field, of course. Although I turned 52 not too long ago,
I’m not the only one playing with a full deck.
Comedian Bob Zany’s “Zany
Report” has been featured on
the nationally syndicated “Bob
& Tom” radio show for 16 years.
A three-time American Comedy
Awards nominee for best male
stand-up comic, he performs
and produces stand-up shows at clubs, concert
venues, casinos, and resorts across the country.
Zany cohosts a weekly podcast, The Bob Zany Show
with Zan Aufderheide; go online to sideshownetwork.tv.
Bob Zany Alone at the Movies can be heard on Rocket
101 FM in Erie, Pa., with Mojo and A. C., and on
KRRO 103.7 FM in Sioux Falls, S.D., with Cade and
Ryder. Recent film credits include 23 Minutes to Sunrise,
a 2012 thriller, and Close but No Cigar, Jay Kanzler’s 2011
documentary about Zany’s career. Zany has made more
than 1,000 national television appearances and for 17 years
was associated with The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy
Association Labor Day Telethon in front of and behind the
camera. Go online to bobzany.com or facebook.com/
bobzanyfanpage; follow him on Twitter@bobzany;
or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.