Talking Funny: Fuzek catches up with comedian Bobby Collins
Okee dokee folks… In the 1980’s there was a comedy boom. New comedy clubs were opening all over the country and cable television began presenting comedy programming. A relatively new comedian, Bobby Collins, had to make a choice: should he keep his job as vice president at Calvin Klein in NYC or should he take a leap of faith into stand-up comedy? He jumped and never looked back. Almost forty years later Collins has maintained a successful comedy career and regularly performs two hundred shows a year across the country. Collins will be bringing his stand-up to the Greenwich Odeum on Saturday, February 26. I spoke with Bobby via phone from his Santa Monica home.
JF: So I remember when you started back in the 80’s, I used to see you a lot on TV and I even remember the Certs commercial you did!
BC: Oh, God, that was wonderful! They came to me after I did one of them, there were two other comedians that did them as well. They told me that mine did the best and wanted me to do more. Then they wanted to put “Certs Presents: Bobby Collins.” I didn’t say anything but I felt like saying “I will pay you to put that on!”
JF: It’s all about PR!
BC: True, but you always have to be truthful.
JF: Do you have any comedy specials out right now?
BC: No, but I have a best-selling book and I just finished another book. As a matter of fact, when I was in Denver last week I brought 175 copies with me and they all sold out during the first show, I didn’t have any left for the second show!
JF: What is the book about?
BC: It’s called, On The Inside-Witisms and Wisdomisms. It’s about all the things that I wish someone had sat me down and told me but I learned in life. People love it! I use comedy. I use examples. God first, family second, career third. I do the right thing and it pays off. That’s how I wound up being the host of VH1’s Standup Spotlight. Rosie O’Donnell passed that show onto me.
JF: I haven’t heard about Rosie in a long time. She used to battle with Trump all the time and I figured when he was in power it would have gotten worse but I didn’t hear anything.
BC: Oh, God, Oh, God. Donald Trump. Sometimes I do politics on stage… I make fun of Biden, too, someone get him a shawl or a blanket. But, Trump, I’ve known Donald Trump for over 20 years, but if I sat next to this guy on a plane I’d tap him and say, “you gotta lose the spray tan and your hair is the color of Tang, you look like an emoji, you can’t tell people to drink bleach and put lights up their ass!”
JF: You have had some great gigs over the years, opening for Frank Sinatra is pretty cool!
BC: I opened for Frank, Dolly, Cher, Julio, I put it all in the book! They asked me to open for Sinatra because his usual opener was sick. The guy picked me up at the airport, he said, “Bobby, don’t call him Frank, it’s Mr. Sinatra, don’t talk to him unless he talks to you…” I go into a room and the guys are all answering phones and they’re all named after parts of the body, “this is Tony the foot, this is Billy the arm…”
JF: How is it in comedy now that people have become so delicate?
BC: I just put it out there the way that I see it. For example, the other night I was in Florida and someone hollered, “Yo, we love Donald Trump!” and I looked at the audience, the guy stood up, and I said to him, “when you’re dead you don’t know you’re dead, other people feel the pain. Same thing when you’re stupid!” They all applauded and he sat down and was embarrassed! You have to do it cleverly.
JF: That’s from all your years of working stand-up.
JF: When I saw that you were going to be at the Odeum I had to talk to you! I used to see you on TV a lot but I haven’t seen you in a bit, what have you been doing? You are still very active, obviously.
BC: I do about 200 shows per year. I have been on all three tonight shows, I am always getting calls, I have a new series coming out from Disney, I’m just taking it easy with it. Some guy wrote a book called The Adventures of Little Billy in The Forest. I am the voice of Bosco the Bear. Disney picked it up and asked me to do the series. That’s pretty cool! I’ve been lucky and I’ve toured with the best. The best compliment I get from venues is that they tell me they get such a variety of age groups when I am there. They get the young, middle-aged and the old! We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Right now people are so anxious and want to come out, they want to laugh! You can feel it; you can see it in their eyes! They just let it out. I look at them after an hour and fifteen-minute show and I said “you really needed to get out, too, didn’t you?”
JF: Yes, people do want to get out, I have seen it as well. You used to say, “I got ca-ca”. I thought that was funny. Do you still do that?
BC: I got ca-ca? I don’t remember that. (laughs) I do use the one where I am impatient with someone because I am a New Yorker (he makes these weird sounds that I cannot translate into words). I lost my keys, can’t find my car, gimme a gun. Who was the guy in Rhode Island, was it the Mayor, what was his name?
JF: Buddy Cianci.
BC: He used to come to see me perform!
JF: He was an interesting guy, to say the least, but he did change Providence.
BC: My father was brought up in Swansea, MA. My whole life and people still ask me about this. “You’re a New York City kid? But you made the baseball all-stars.” Yeah, but I didn’t play because I was going to Massachusetts to stay in Swansea with my grandparents. I would do work there and then I would go to the private beach club and then we’d run to Providence and eat in some of those great places. Loved it! Loved it!
JF: OK, something else you used to say a lot, maybe you don’t anymore because she got tired of it, was you always joked about having a hairy, Italian wife.
BC: We vacuum a lot! As a matter of fact, people think we have cats.
JF: Doesn’t she get tired of that?
BC: No, she just says, “Why do you tell people I’m so hairy?” I say because you are! I say, “kids, mommy’s off the couch grab the vacuum.” She’s a special lady! I do have a special needs child, my youngest, my favorite. We do everything to accommodate her. She goes to a camp that is up in Vermont. There are 94 of these kids. Nobody pays. Me, Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall we do, three times a year, “Comics For A Cause” to fund it because none of those kids have money. Remember when we were kids? People called them “retarded” or “mongoloids” and their parents would put them in closets, especially in NY. I remember my mother used to say about this one kid Julius, “If anyone makes fun of him, do something” and we did, me and my brother. We stood up for him, and here I am with a special needs daughter and I say “God works in mysterious ways.” She doesn’t walk, she doesn’t talk, but I must be pretty special if God gave her to me. It’s the best but it’s not easy.
JF: I can imagine. It must be tough but she has you and that’s a good thing.
BC: Look at us, we’re circus people! A musician and a comedian. Here we are! What do you play anyway?
JF: I play guitar, solo and in a Neil Young tribute band.
BC: Wow! Very cool! I used to know his manager! What was his name?
JF: He just died. Ugh, I can’t remember.
BC: He wanted to manage me! He hooked me up with ICM years ago. What was his name, John????
JF: Ugh, I can’t remember, let me look, I have my laptop right here, it will drive us crazy!!!
BC: I know, he was a good guy, and we played basketball!
JF: Elliot Roberts!
BC: Elliot Roberts! Yes, lived here in Malibu. And his main guy called me recently. “Bobby, you’re a best seller!” Yeah, I just put down some feelings from my heart, On The Inside, you know, and it worked. It’s a pandemic so I wrote another one!
JF: At least you did more than I did. I hung out in my jammies and binged a lot of Netflix!
BC: Ugh, did you? Ah, Shit! Did you go out and perform? Anytime?
JF: No, it was a year and a half of nothing.
BC: Ugh, John, I would have killed myself!
JF: It was tough. I am getting out now but have had shows cancel again.
BC: I know. Remember we all thought this thing was going to be a month, month and a half? Don’t touch your eyes, don’t touch your nose…I was peeing with my elbows! I tell stories because it lightens people up.
JF: That’s what good comedy is, you hear the truth in a funny way.
BC: And you can change people’s minds about how they look at things, that’s a gift, that’s what I love. That means to me more than anything. You see that staunch Republican talk about money, money, money and then you do this one bit and you realize he never saw The Wizard of Oz, it’s about your heart: if your heart is in the right place that’s gold, no but one ever taught him that.
JF: Some people just don’t get it.
BC: They don’t, they don’t and that’s ok but our goal is to keep trying to change that.
JF: Hopefully you will keep doing it for a long time!
BC: I hope so! They’re all dying now. My two friends died.
BC: Bob Saget and Louie Anderson, Louie was a great guy, gentle, sweet man.
JF: Evidently they have a seat dedicated to him at The Greenwich Odeum.
BC: I did hear that. He was just a sweet, good guy. He would go out of his way to sit down and have fun with a new comic. Comics ask me all the time, “can you watch my set” if they are opening for me or something, “can you watch my set, Bobby and give me any advice?” Yeah, I’ll tell you but don’t turn it around on me! You know, some of them do!
JF: The only way you will get better is to hear the truth and move on.
BC: Thank You!
JF: If someone tells you that you are great all the time then you never progress.
BC: Right, right! Growth means change. Change doesn’t always mean growth. When you grow you have to change…and look at things…move on. Especially during a pandemic! God’s pushing the reset button for us.
JF: So, what can folks expect at your Odeum show on February 26th?
BC: Oh, we’re going to talk the truth. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to talk about everything from the pandemic to politics to the pharmaceutical treadmill-what I’ve been through and what I went through, also technology. This call is being recorded, monitored…blah, blah…bullshit, it’s a con job! Anything you do they want to know. You’ve got thirteen e-mails telling you this and that…it’s a game!
JF: Don’t get me started with technology. I have kind of had it with tech!
BC: I am with you on that, John! It’s a joke! You need a password to take a shit now! I had to go to a urologist, I don’t go to doctors, I’m from NY, our attitude is doctors treat the symptoms and we create the causes. So, here I go to a doctor, a urologist, and next thing I know I’ve got a prescription, I’ve never been to CVS, I was on line, there were so many people, I thought people were buying tickets for a Billy Joel concert. And I was behind people and I hear their conversations, “I have restless leg syndrome, then my throat started hurting now I’m taking antibiotics, and then my nipple fell off, then mesothelioma.” Oh my God get me out of here! Then you read that the pharmaceutical companies made 78 billion dollars during the pandemic. Everything on television is all about drugs.
JF: That’s why I binge Netflix, can’t stand the commercials!
BC: Good boy, good boy!
JF: Well, I should let you go. I am hoping that I am free and can get to your show. So far, no gigs that night!
BC: We’re performers, we hope something comes through! Well, thanks, John. We’re circus people! Let’s change the world!
BC: We’ll do it! We’ll do it! Keep it up!
JF: Thanks! Fun talk!
Grab your tickets for this show before they’re gone. We all need a good laugh and Bobby Collins will surely fill that prescription. Catch his show on Saturday, February 26 at the Greenwich Odeum. For more about the show, giggle over to: GreenwichOdeum.com