South Suburban resident and veteran comedian Rocky LaPorte is still in the running on “Last Comic Standing,” the NBC series airing on WMAQ-Channel 5 at 9 p.m. Thursday nights. The standup pro shared his thoughts on the show — plus his own approach to how he makes people laugh.
Q: What’s it been like on “Last Comic Standing”?
A: It’s really exciting. I’m getting a lot of new fans, after 26 years of doing this!
Q: You perform all over the country. Are audiences different in different areas?
A: I think people are pretty much the same everywhere. But for me, certain places are stronger. Like my biggest following is like Chicago, of course, but also Cleveland, Detroit, and Erie, Pennsylvania — like the Rust Belt areas. People there have like adopted me. They will bring food to the shows — cannolis, you name it! They’ll bring their grandmother or their Uncle Frank to my shows. I get to meet the whole family! It’s unbelievable.
Q: In watching you work, it’s clear that you can imply something somewhat naughty, but you never work “blue,” do you? Is that more of a challenge for you as a comic?
A: I like keeping it clean. I’d rather work that way. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and thank me for that — for keeping it clean. Frankly, you can take the most mundane thing — and make it sound somewhat sexual, but without having to use bad language. For example, the other day, my friend was showing me around his house and I said, ‘Nice porch.’ If I had said that to a woman, it would have sounded totally different — but still not using bad language.
Q: It would seem that working clean gives you a much bigger audience, right?
A: Yes. I try to tell a lot of the young guys coming up today, ‘If you keep it clean, that’s the only way to get out of the clubs, and find a bigger audience on TV, or whatever. Otherwise, you’ll be playing to drunk people at 2 in the morning for the rest of your life.’
Working clean gets you TV and bigger venues. … You can work corporate gigs and cruise ships and things like that. On some of those corporate gigs you can make in one night, what you’d make in two weeks on the road.
Q: You’ve been in comedy competitions before. How is it being on “Last Comic Standing”?
A: I’m in the Top 8, which is great. Now every week, they’re going to eliminate somebody, until we get down to one. It’s kind of crazy. It’s so weird. I hate competitions, but it’s the nature of the beast. You’ve got to be in them to get anywhere to get any face time out there in the world.
Q: Can I assume the pressure is pretty intense?
A: Yes, it’s a lot of pressure, and they kind of make it that way — it makes for better TV. It makes for long days, and some of the stuff they put you through can be rough. But as they tell us, it IS called ‘Last Comic Standing,’ so it’s important to see who can take the pressure, and see who cracks.
Q: Is it fair to say that you can take something very simple — as simple as reading the warnings on a bottle of prescription medicine — and make it into a joke?
A: To me, that’s the way to do comedy. I remember, some of the simplest things are pretty hilarious. Like you go to the doctor. You fill out the form in the office and they ask, ‘Who should we notify, in case of an emergency.’ I go, ‘How about the doctor? That would be a good place. I think he would help me the most!’
Or when they put up a sign on the highway — ‘Road Under Construction.’ I want to put a sign next to that says: “Fix it!”
Q: Besides “Last Comic Standing,” when can people next get to see you perform live in our area?
A: Next month, I’ll be at the Improv Chicago in Schaumburg on Aug. 30 and 31. Come out and see me!