A View from LaBove
Back in the 80s, comedian Carl LaBove founded the “Outlaws of Comedy” Tour with the beast of stand-up, the late Sam Kinison–so you can probably imagine all of the wild tales of mayhem and debauchery that he could share with you over a few beers.
“No, most of them are just nice Christian stories,” says Labove, in an obvious moment of facetiousness.
Like many of the comedians I’ve talked to, LaBove romanticizes the days of old in the nostalgic spirit of an overplayed Bob Seger tune. Those early years were the most important time for him in terms of honing his writing process and creating an inseparable bond with Kinison, who he describes as his best friend. This isn’t to suggest that there weren’t some difficult times for the duo, with LaBove recalling a few off the top of his head.
“Sam and I had starved for about six years. Sam and I were connected at the hip, so we used to have to go to the store together. He would buy the five dollar package of meat, and I would get the spaghetti and stick it down my pants, and we did that a thousand times ‘cause we didn’t have ten dollars between us when we were doormen…we’d hide behind the couch when the landlord banged on our door when we had to pay their rent seven days after it was due and so forth.”
Sam Kinison cowering behind a couch–try recreating that scene in your head without laughing. As he mentioned above, during this financially difficult period, LaBove buttered his bread by working as a doorman–at one of the most famous comedy clubs in the country, a gig that gave him a little taste of celebrity and provided him with a goal for which to strive.
“The best part of it was struggling for so long, and no one believing in you…just surviving all that and, meanwhile, working on your dream every night and telling each other, ‘this is gonna work out, all we have to do is survive this time. We’re making strides every day. We’re working hard towards our goal, blah, blah, blah.’ All those things.”
“All those things” eventually led to the formation of one of the most famous (or infamous) tours in the history of stand-up. “Two or three years into it, we’re sitting in the back of this million-dollar tour bus, looking at the front at six people who work for us…and they were having more fun than we were. It dawned on us, we worked too hard to have people come in only when success has showed up and be enjoying it more than we get to. So, we invited our friends–who helped us in the early days during the hard times and believed in us–to be a part of the show, and that’s how the “Outlaws” was formed. So then it turned into a busload of people celebrating life, going to a different city every night, and, you know, driving the bus driver to a heart attack.”
Being a child of a family that moved around a lot at my father’s whim, I am no stranger to being a stranger. For better or for worse, people who grow up in such transitory lifestyles are–just different. You must quickly learn the ability to adapt to your perpetually new surroundings, and a good sense of humor is one of the most common defense mechanisms crafted as a result. LaBove, who grew up in a military family that frequently moved from station to station, can relate to this notion.
“Being the new guy, you’re instantly scoped and it gives you an opportunity–as I learned after my third or fourth move–to be a new person everywhere you went ‘cause you’ve grown, you’ve already experienced it two or three times and now you’re in seventh grade in Japan and you don’t know a soul. So, all the sudden, for me, I just opened up, I didn’t care what people thought about me, and I had fun and brought humor in with me as my protection. The training ground was very early…I’ve had so many horrible experiences in my life, and I deal with them with my sense of humor.”
“What I like about my business is there’s no age to creativity. It’s not like you’re 35 and, sorry, you can’t be funny anymore. You change every ten years of your life once you get into this business. That’s what you’re constantly thinking: how do I reinvent myself? How do I let people know who I am now, performance-wise. What are you gonna leave your audience with? What’s their memory of you?”
You can see the latest incarnation of Carl LaBove on April 17th and 18th at the Comedy Club of Jacksonville. Go to www.jacksonvillecomedy.com for details.