In 1980, at age 21, I answered a newspaper ad from a guy in
Cincinnati who was forming a comedy group. I had just completed an acting
course and had always wanted to be a comedy writer so this seemed perfect for
Over on the other side of town, Alex Bernstein, a few years
younger, may have felt the same thing. Only Alex already had some street cred with a
comedy radio series of his own on a local station.
From April to October of that year, both Alex and I became
major players in the group. Sometimes it felt like we were the only ones taking
it seriously. We both wrote sketches and performed and it seemed like we rehearsed endlessly. Being underage, Alex was
unable to participate in the club shows we did but I took the lead in a sketch he
wrote when we played on Fountain Square and he both wrote and starred in one of
the three sketches we performed on television in August of that year.
None of that, however, is in PLRKNIB, Alex’s recently
published memoir of his comedy beginnings. Why? I don’t know. To me, it was THE
major part of my life that year. When the group fell apart, I kept on seeing
two of the young women for a couple years and even briefly had my own
offshoot comedy group which appeared twice on Alex’s radio show! He even came
by the house and bought some comic books from me. Maybe that’s why I get a
“thank you” in the book when none of our other group members are mentioned.
It just wasn't as big in Alex's life as it was in mine. Turns out Alex was busier than we thought that year,
struggling with school, parents, a therapist, impending adulthood, etc, but
also with an absolute determination to make it as a stand-up comic...even
though he was too young to even get in a bar!
We fell out of touch as I, too, got swallowed up by
adulthood, but Alex stuck to his dream and, against improbable odds, he really
did become the youngest successful stand-up comic in Cincinnati history! This is THAT story.
PLRKNIB is an old-fashioned warts and all, behind the
scenes, show biz story, the unusual title tying in to his ace killer joke. A
young, gangly, James Franco (with glasses and wacky hair) would play Alex. We
meet his friends, fellow students, and fellow struggling comedians, many of
whom I recall from back in the day but most of whom are fleshed out here just
fine for those who weren’t present.
He successfully channels his younger self’s insecurities and
offers enough of his routines and jokes for the reader to get a feel for what
it was like. After he made it here, he headed east to make it there. A tougher
CINCINNATI Magazine ran an excerpt from the book last month
and next month, Alex returns to the Queen City for a reunion of the old D.W.
EYE comics at the 20th Century Theater and a booksigning at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. He left
home a successful performer all those years ago and returns a successful
I suggested “getting the band back together” but of our core
members, one woman denies ever being in the group, stalking another reveals several recent tragedies, and most of
the rest seem to be just plain MIA.
Maybe that’s why Alex left us out completely. If so few actually remember it, did it really
PLRKNIB happened, though. It’s happening now. And anyone who likes a
good show biz underdog story will enjoy it.
As a kid in the mid-60s, I really wanted the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. weapons briefcase. It's not that I watched the show all that often but it sure did look cool! One Christmas, though, I received instead the SECRET SAM knock-off weapons briefcase. But that's okay! It turned out that the one I got came with a REAL camera that used REAL film! I was 7 and it was the first time I had ever been a photographer! I took shots of my pal Jimmy, my dad, my babysitter, and some random kids walking through the alley behind our apartment house. Cut off nearly everyone's head! Film was expensive! It was about 8 years before I was allowed to touch a camera again!
Forty years later, of course, I was briefly a professional photographer! Nowadays, though, you take 800 digital shots, delete the 700 that didn't quite work and you're considered a genius for the good ones that are left!
Rich Buckler and I got off on the wrong foot. A long time
fan, I had written something referring to his chameleon skills, his impressive
ability to channel other artists’ styles without specifically swiping their
work. He took offense. Later on, though, I contacted him about his work on the
1980s revival of the Archie superheroes for the Archie 70th
anniversary book and he said he didn’t remember the earlier incident. He ranted
about the behind the scenes issues at Archie but then gave me more moderate
soundbytes that I could use...only to have the entire chapter get cut from the
final book. After that, we stayed in touch for a few years, with Rich writing
from time to time just to chat, or wish me a Merry Christmas, or to rant about
this or that, or to discuss ideas for his autobiography which he said he wanted
me to help him write. Then, as often happens, we fell out of touch.
There is a new "book" out on Christa Helm, self-published in April via Createspace. It's overpriced at $7.99 for a mere 44 pages but it also STEALS most of its contents from the above online bio of the murdered actress that John O'Dowd and I co-wrote ten years ago.
I'm not going to name the author but I am warning you now. No matter how interested you are in Christa's case, save your money, don't support thieves, and read almost the exact same thing online here:
Just saw where THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WALLACE WOOD, Volume 1, the revamped anthology biography for which the late, lamented Bhob Stewart drafted me to write a new chapter on MAD Comics, has been nominated for a 2017 Eisner Award! Yay, team!