No joking: This comic is a real success story
By Nicole McLaughlin
Times Staff Writer
For Perry Kurtz, getting paid to make people laugh is a dream come true.
The Oxford Circle native gets a big thrill from the power of live entertainment. He has a knack for making even the most serious person convulse into laughter.
Kurtz possesses the gift of wit, and it took the comedian all the way to the big tube.
His story proves that hard work pays off. With a little luck and a lot of effort, even the biggest goals are attainable.
When I told people I wanted to be a comedian, I had some who said, Youre never going to make it, he recalled in a telephone interview from South Carolina. Its never really a fast reel unless youre one of the lucky ones, but if you work hard at it, it will come.
And work at it he did. Now, 23 years later, Kurtz is one of the most successful comedians on todays comedy circuit.
After decades of national comedy tours, radio broadcasts and television appearances, this 51-year-old is coming back home to entertain his family and friends.
On Friday and Saturday, Kurtz will appear at the Comedy Cabaret in the Best Western Hotel, at 11580 Roosevelt Blvd. in NE Philly.
HES JOINED THE CLUB
His resume is quite impressive, to say the least. Hes played famous comedy clubs like Dangerfields in New York City and the Comedy Store in Hollywood. Hes also been featured on Americas Funniest People on ABC, the HBO Comedy Showcase and programs on the Comedy Central network.
He has also opened shows for celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams and the late Sam Kinison.
Kurtz lives in Roebuck, S.C., with his wife and three children and is a free-lance writer for The Tonight Show on NBC.
After graduating from Northeast High School in 1968, he left the city with hopes of earning a living by making people laugh. His journey naturally led him to California, where his dream came true when he was hired as a satirical male stripper.
In 1979, after landing his first job in a San Francisco male revue club as a master of ceremonies, Kurtz decided he could probably make more money if he were stripping facetiously, that is.
His Comic Strip Routine parody was born, and the crowd loved it.
After three weeks, women started yelling at me to take it off, he said. I thought to myself, OK, but youre going to laugh. So, I put together a strip routine, and I did it for three years.
I have another version that I do now, but I only take off my jacket. Generally, people are eating, and I dont want to ruin their appetite.
Despite making good money as a stripper, manager and master of ceremonies of the club, Kurtz was tiring of the fast life and yearned for more.
After several years of taking it off, he was ready to move on.
I wasnt really doing what I wanted to do, he said. Life on Broadway ages you quickly
Shortly after that, he started touring the country with an improvisational comedy routine, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Within a few years, he was averaging 30 to 40 weeks a year headlining comedy clubs.
SING A SILLY SONG
Kurtz describes his act as a collection of stories about his life, with a lot of characters and music. He usually closes his act with a song that he makes up based on what the audience is doing.
Its not disgusting or anything like that, Kurtz said of his routine. I never know what Im going to say. Every show is different.
The improvisational style seems to be a hit with critics.
In one such review of his act, San Francisco Calendar magazine raved, He possesses the boy-next-door quality, like Dana Carvey and Kevin Pollack, that makes you laugh at/with him. Perry Kurtz is a performer who MUST be seen to be believed.
Even in the midst of such praise, Kurtz seems to remain humble about it all. He enjoys his job for one simple reason the joy that it brings others.
Im making people happy, even if its just for an hour or an hour and a half, he said. Everybody wants something to focus on, even if its just for a little while. So, in a way, Im brightening peoples lives.
Kurtz believes that theres much to be said for seeing a live show.
A live show is so much different than watching one on TV, he said. People are looking for a live, personal experience. Everybody wants something just for them. You cant get that on television.
In the meantime, Kurtz will continue to make people laugh. Hes been in Philadelphia since April 11 and performed at the Comedy Cabaret in Doylestown last weekend. Being back allows him to catch up with friends and spend time with his family members, many of whom still live in the Northeast.
Hes psyched about the upcoming shows at the Comedy Cabaret in the Best Western. He hopes to see some familiar faces.
I just hope to see lots of old friends and some new ones, he said. I hope people can get some pleasure out of the show.
Kurtzs shows begin at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door. For more information or to make a reservation, call 215-676-JOKE