The comedian and I first met in early 1992. A mutual friend knew him from Los Angeles, when he was trying to make a go of things and living out of his car. After two very successful appearances on Johnny Carson, he was fast becoming one of the most famous people from Cleveland, even more than Trent Reznor or Tom Hanks or other famous Clevelanders who aren’t actually from here. His sold-out appearances at The Improv at the Powerhouse were like the return of a conquering hero. We weren't there merely to laugh, but to celebrate his success along with him.
The comedian came to see You Have The Right to Remain Silent in January, 1993. His appearance went largely unrecognized by the rest of the audience, his debut as a supporting character on a short-lived ABC sit-com was only then in the works, and his eponymous hit show still a few years off. He looked like everyone else in his jeans and Indians jacket, only the trademark glasses and buzz cut set him apart.
Following the performance, while the Guerrillas mingled among the audience, he pulled me down into a chair to show me his program. There were pencil marks all over it.
"I hope you don't mind," he said, "I took the liberty of grading the show."
"Hey," I said. "Cool."
"You'll have to help me out here," he said, "these are all out of order 'cause of the show, and I can't remember which are which -- this one here, this is the one with the guitar?"
"Very funny, folk singer humor, very good. Now which was the one with the two guys with the guns, the John Woo thing --"
"Torque wrote that one."
"Brilliant, I was howling. I got it, too, it’s like an arms treaty thing, right?"
He continued. "Now this one, the one with the guy with the telephone, who gets mugged, right?"
"Yeah. That's one of mine."
"Pretty gross," he said, "not my thing, not too funny."
"Yeah, but, it wasn't supposed to be funny," I said.
He looked at me like I was an ungracious little turd.
"I know that," he said. "I'm telling you what's funny."