Hoopla

Pre-hype man? Craig Gass returns to Cedar Rapids to open for Slipknot, perform at Penguins

Linda Hughes photo

Comedian Craig Gass will bring his humor and celebrity impressions to Penguins Comedy Club in downtown Cedar Rapids on April 26 and 27.
Linda Hughes photo Comedian Craig Gass will bring his humor and celebrity impressions to Penguins Comedy Club in downtown Cedar Rapids on April 26 and 27.

Andrew Dice Clay, who has sold out arenas and won acclaim for his performance as Ally’s father in “A Star is Born,” stressed that one of the highlights of his career was performing between Metallica and Guns N’ Roses at the Rose Bowl a generation ago.

Guns N’ Roses vocalist Axl Rose “went up to me and asked me how I do what I do. He said I need a band to do what I do,” Clay said. “Performing with metal bands is amazing.”

Craig Gass agrees. The veteran comic also has opened for Metallica.

“It was awesome,” Gass said by phone from Chicago.

However, Gass had a different approach than Clay, who was a massive star when he warmed up the crowd before Guns N’ Roses took the stage.

“When I open for all of these metal bands, I don’t say that I’m a comedian I say, ‘I’m Craig, Metallica’s sound man and I have some important announcements to make.’ Everything I say is crap. I start making jokes and before they know it I say, ‘Are you ready for the show?’ The guys in the bands I’ve opened for have gotten texts from friends saying, ‘Your sound man is hilarious.’”

Opening for Iowa’s most famous metal recording artist — Corey Taylor of Slipknot — is the reason Gass is making his long awaited return to Cedar Rapids on April 26. The Slipknot frontman is performing in Dubuque.

“I won’t be that far from Penguins,” Gass said. “I’ve wanted to go back for a long time. It’s been more than 15 years since I’ve played the club. I’m ready to return.”

Expect Gass, who does spot-on takes of the late comic Sam Kinison and iconic actor Christopher Walken, to deliver a number of celebrity impressions and detailed stories about those he impersonates.

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“I had dinner with Christopher Walken and he hated me,” Gass said. “(Comic-actor) Richard Belzer tried to get me to do Walken in front of Walken and I did it. Walken finally had enough. ‘I get it. You’re talented, good for you.’ Man, Walken was clearly annoyed.”

Alec Baldwin, who does his fair share of impressions, told Gass why some entertainers aren’t keen about being impersonated. “You know why that is, is because they think you’re taking a piece of their soul,” Baldwin said.

But some personalities believe Gass’ work is flattering. Kiss vocalist-bassist and entrepreneur Gene Simmons, who can be very serious, loves Gass’ impression of him.

“It wasn’t that way at first but now he’s cool with it,” Gass said. “His son (Nick Simmons) told me that Gene is finally good about laughing at himself. He told me there were times when his father wanted to kill me.”

Simmons was even inspired by a Gass joke.

“I went on Howard Stern when he was on and I impersonated him,” Gass said. “I told him that I’m the real Gene Simmons and I’ll prove it by trying to sell him something. I pulled out a New Kids on the Block lunch box and crossed out New Kids and wrote Kiss on it. I tried to sell him a Kiss toilet. I told him you could sit down and listen to (the Kiss song) ‘Deuce’ while you’re taking care of business. After I joked about that, Gene told me that he could actually market a Kiss toilet and it’s not a bad idea.”

Gass was born into a family where his mother, father and sister were deaf.

“I used to do impersonations for them without using my voice,” he said. “I enjoyed entertaining them.”

Many of his impressions are from a prior generation, including Kinison, Al Pacino and Walken and have a unique voice.

“Many of today’s celebrities have what you would call a normal voice,” Gass said. “That’s why I like impersonating someone like Tracy Morgan. He’s crazy, and crazy is more fun to impersonate. Fortunately, there’s enough crazy people out there for me to have a career.”

Get Out

WHAT: Craig Gass

WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 8 p.m. April 26, 7 and 9 p.m. April 27

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TICKETS: $22 advance, $25 day of show; Penguins, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com

ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Getgass.com

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