Great comedians are sages in the eyes of Carl LaBove. In the 1980s, when slapstick and impressions were at an all-time high in the world of comedy, he and his friend Sam Kinison set out to change the status quo. With a rotating cast of players dubbed the Outlaws of Comedy, they eschewed disposable one-liners in favor of brutal honesty, memorable anecdotes and well-timed delivery.
LaBove told me about his approach to his craft before his year-end run of shows at the Comedy Club on State. He is performing twice on Saturday, Dec. 29, twice more Sunday, and three times on New Year's Eve.
The Daily Page: What kinds of stories can we expect from you on New Year's Eve?
LaBove: Just real stories from the heart. Stuff that's happened to me in the last year. ... I want them to be timeless pieces. I don't talk about the President and all that because those names change and become dated. But if you talk about real life and real emotions and find that comedy twist in it, then you've told the audience the truth. So I'm going to be talking about my relationships, my adventures, my losses. And then what I've learned through it.
What are some memorable New Years you've had?
My New Year's trip to Hawaii some years back was riding a bicycle at 60 miles an hour down a mountain. Being in the ocean and swimming with a shark was a great New Year's. ... So who's to say that this year won't be another story in my life that I'll be able to tell my grandkids someday? That is, if I ever have kids and am around 25 years later.
It sounds like your love of comedy hasn't wavered as you've gotten older.
Yes. And I compare that to songwriting. As a musician, I write songs that affect me emotionally. I let it come out on the page, and the music and singing falls in with my emotions. It's the same way with standup. It's one of those things where I just want to talk about what's in my head right now, and I'll write notes. And one day, I'll [hear] a cadence to it. I'll realize how to tell that particular story and how I want to pull the audience in, what I want them to feel and where I want them to burst out laughing and forget every single thing that's happened to them.
Do you remember your breakthrough moment?
I was probably four or five years into standup. I was maybe 23, and I had one of those shows where I think I'd just broken up with a girl. ... I had a 10-minute showcase, and the people who were supposed to see me didn't show up. So I just kind of ranted, and the rant communicated so well with the audience that I almost stepped out of my body and watched that relationship between me and the crowd. That was the first time I stepped into comedic nirvana.