Comedian is the perfect vocation for Bob Zany, considering his last name.
“An old joke I did was that my real name is Big (a part of the male anatomy) McGee,” the animated stand-up cracks while calling from his Los Angeles home. “When I did that bit years ago for a TV special for Rodney Dangerfield, he said, ‘Man, that’s the money piece.”
Tetreault is Zany’s actual surname. The veteran humorist, 57, has been delivering one-liners and observations for 41 years.
“I knew immediately what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Tetreault said. “When I was a little kid, my older brother listened to George Carlin albums and I was hooked.”
The laid-back wiseguy, who often performs with a cigar in hand, took notes when cutting his teeth at clubs whenever such icons as Garry Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld and Dangerfield would perform. Those legendary comics would return the favor.
“After I did a set, Garry Shandling came up to me and made my night by saying to me, ‘I like a good (penis) joke and yours is a good one,” Tetreault said. “I worked for Rodney Dangerfield for two years. He hired me to book comics into his clubs. I was an independent contractor. I learned so much from the guy. I learned that he did his ‘I don’t get any respect’ routine during the ’60s, but it wasn’t fully formed like it was during the ’80s.”
Tetreault never reached comedy’s upper echelon, but he still loves playing the clubs.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “I go on and perform for an hour and 15 minutes. When I come to Iowa you’ll hear some new stuff. I always do at least three new jokes a night. I used to work on ‘The George Burns Show,’ which was produced by my idol, Steve Martin. I loved George Burns. He performed in Las Vegas at the age of 98 and he told me that he used three new jokes during that show. If George Burns on the edge of 100 could do new material, I better be able to do the same.”
Tetreault will perform Friday and Saturday at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids. Perhaps he also will stop by a college class to talk comedy.
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“I’ve done that in the past,” he said. “I did it in Iowa. I spoke to a University of Iowa comedy class a few years ago. It was so much fun interacting with the kids. I told them what I know, but I stressed that I don’t know it all and I never will.”
Tetreault is an occasional actor, and has appeared in such films as the David Spade vehicle “Joe Dirt” and Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed film “The Informant.”
“I’ve enjoyed acting but my thing has always been stand-up,” Tetreault said. “There’s no gatekeeper. You go up there and it’s all you.”
When he isn’t on stage, he’s “on,” which means he’s constantly cracking jokes.
“It’s what I love to do,” he said. “It’s like a guitarist who is playing at home or wherever when he’s not recording or performing. The guitarist is honing his skill with his instrument. That’s how I feel about comedy. If I say something funny when I’m not on stage and I’m just hanging out, that’s just me working it out verbally.”
Even though Tetreault can’t help smoking cigars, he’s trying to lead a healthy life. A few years ago he was obese.
“I had to change things,” he said. “I didn’t want to be known as the fat comic. I was also very depressed, which isn’t good for any comic. So I lost weight and perhaps extended my life. Hopefully I’ll be able to do many more years of stand-up.”
WHAT: Bob Zany
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (10/26) and Saturday (10/27)
TICKETS: $15 advance, $17 show day; door, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Bobzany.com