I haven’t blogged in a while, to be honest, it’s a couple things. The pandemic, the lack of shows and the politicization of everything have worn me out. No, I don’t need sympathy, but another factor was finding out some news a few weeks ago. The comic I did more road trips than anyone since I started almost 14 years ago was Bob Cook. I found out that he passed away in January and I had no idea. It was, to use Bob’s comedy bio line, a punch to the gut. And sadly, I wasn’t surprised.
When I first started, I kept hearing his name as a great comic in the area, but I never saw him for months. It was worth the wait. Bob was, even to this day with the touring professionals I’ve worked with, the best “bar comic” I’ve ever seen. People that don’t do comedy have no idea, but about 90% of your shows are in bars. A comedy club gig is great, the patrons are there to laugh, pay to get in so they are invested in the show and can be tossed if they are bothersome. A bar show is a gladiator pit and Bob was at home like a pig in its own shit. He was vulgar, crass and animated. The crowd saw him as the funniest guy at the bar finally grabbing the bull by the horns and doing something with his big mouth. They loved him.
Bob and I finally ran into each other and we had a lot in common. We were both from Southeastern Ohio, both really blue comics with a fondness for alcohol and shock jokes that weren’t too far off from reality, if not completely rooted in the truth. He had me drive him to Petoskey, Michigan and then Findlay, Ohio for what was then my longest road trip. I got single handedly zero dollars for the trip and actually took a hit at the blackjack table, but I got to do my first casino show and had single handedly the funniest crowd interaction story of my comedy “career” as it is.
I opened the show and the stage was almost ten feet directly above the six people at the bar under my feet, then a huge dance floor chasm for 40 feet sat just past them, with table in the back. It may have been the worst comedy set up outside of being handed a mic in a bathtub. I couldn’t physically look straight down, so I played the back of the room, always a tough move. Some guy under my feet kept screaming and yelling at me. I finally looked at my toes and went to unleash my wrath, but discovered the gentleman in question was clearly special needs and just yelling with excitement. I immediately knew I had to suck it up and take the distraction like a man takes a last cigarette before the firing squad. As I left the stage, mostly defeated, Bob strolled up the long ramp, shook my hand in passing and said, “Don’t worry, I got your back.” I only had time to twist back and whisper scream, “Don’t do it!” Bob grabbed the mic stand, with gusto, and with his back turned said, “Sir, have you been unlucky at the casino tonight, because it looks like (he spun and aggressively pointed at the young man) you’ve been unlucky in life!” There was a three second pause and then I heard Bob say, “Oh Goddammit.” He realized his white knight moment had ruined him and his set. In the probably one hundred shows I did with Bob, this was the only one I saw him sweat and struggle. I guffawed from the back, immediately absolved of my bomb onstage and also knowing there was literally no worse thing that could have emerged from his mouth. That said, as soon as he left the stage, Bob classically destroyed himself and learned from his error and moved on.
I did shows with Bob in probably two dozen small towns in parts of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana I had never heard of and will never visit again. I got to learn about his family and how brutal his childhood was. I saw a comic that should have been at the very least, a professionally touring feature act, but always managed to drink too much or piss off the wrong person.. We talked comedy strategy, compared notes and often planned shows I kind of knew would never happen. Bob was a thinker and planner and a fantastic comic that just couldn’t quite get from the one nighter to full time comedy. He was endlessly frustrating and supremely talented and I considered him a real friend, which I can’t say is common with comics. Even when he started having serious issues with his drinking and personal life, I saw comics repost private messages where he was funny as all hell, despite being on the streets. He always had a joke in his pocket.
Bob and I had epic road trips through ice storms and blizzards all for a bar show with 45 people in the crowd on a good night. I can still see his one eyebrow raised as he talked out of the corner of his mouth while cramming a cigarette into his lips between one liners and stories. I also saw the destructive juggernaut that is a terrible childhood and the Siren’s call of addiction destroy a powerful voice that brought laughter, not to hundreds, but tens of thousands of people. We lost contact for years as he was switching phones and Facebook accounts regularly, when I found out he passed, I was friends with five of his accounts. For my stupid part, he was a big part of my comedy experience, a good friend, an endless source of frustration but also laughter and I miss his stupid ass and also want to punch him in the neck. And I know he would shrug reading this and tell me he gets it.
I think there is no better tribute than sharing some of his material, so here goes. Yes, I will butcher some of these, it’s been years. “You ever black out and wake up and your friends are all laughing because they drew a penis on your face? I was like big deal, people do that all the time, but my buddy was like, yeah, but that’s mine, I traced it.”
“Bob Cook is a really basic name unless you take an “O” from my last name and put it in my first name, then my name is Boob Cok and everyone’s happy.”
“No one’s ever like building me up, like check out my friend Bob, they’re always like, don’t make eye contact with Bob, he’ll tacklefuck ya in the alley.”
“Guys are pigs, they’re always making a justification that women are sexy. My buddy was like, “Check out that bartender with the glasses, she’s got kind of a hot librarian thing going on.” Guys are like, “She’s got kind of hot pirate thing going on, what with her missing limb and eye patch.”
“Now that I ponder it a smidge.” I can’t even remember his joke for that but I love that line.
“I could never be ghost because I never did anything important enough in life. Ghosts always have unfinished business. No one is going to be like “On a cold windless night…when the moon is full….you might catch a glimpse of ol’ Bob Cook’s restless spirit…jacking off and playing Xbox.”
“My wife and I made a porno. It’s called Girls Gone Tired.”
I can’t even start the “who’s got the bigger penis” story he told from Michigan City, maybe I blog about that one some time later. There’s so many more, but it’s not worth butchering more of his jokes off the top of my head. Well Bob, you jackass, I will miss you and you stink. I’d say more, but you’d make of fun of me while your Xbox is loading. Rest in peace, dummy.