Comedy Caravan brings laughs to Cranberry Mall Live shows brighten Mondays CARROLL COUNTY DIVERSIONS

January 15, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Contributing Writer

They came, these denizens of the night, braving freezing rain and the Monday blahs, to Tully's Restaurant and Tavern in the Cranberry Mall, to laugh off the passing of the weekend and to look for a few laughs to get them through to the next one.

They came to enjoy comedians Robert York and Alan Guess -- real, live, stand-up comedians, rare birds in these latitudes.

Mr. York and Mr. Guess are part of the Comedy Caravan, a Louisville, Ky., based touring company that books comedians in restaurants and clubs in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Colorado and Maryland.

Alan Guess is the opening act and for the next 35 minutes he will try to get this crowd . . . laughing.

It doesn't take long.

"Yeah, Guess," he says. "That's my name. Spelled the same way as the jeans and, by the way, I look pretty good all over a woman, too!"

Mr. Guess, 43, abandoned a career as a disc jockey three years ago to hit the road as a comedian. He has appeared at the Comedy Factory in Los Angeles and The Improvisation, big stops on the comedy circuit. Tonight he has arrived for a one-night stand at Tully's.

Now he says, directing his material to a local vein, "I was driving down Route 140 this morning. Hey, pick a number. You folks make up your own speed limits around here."

They love him. They love him. Laughter is rolling throughout the room.

Robert York, the headliner, the guy who will follow Mr. Guess, is sitting over by the bar observing the performance.

"Monday and Tuesday crowds are tough," he says. "The weekend is over, folks are dragging, it's generally a hard-core group as opposed to a weekend audience that is ready to party and have a good time."

Mr. Guess is now moving along toward his finale.

"My sister was the original 24-hour teller," he says, laughing. "She was always telling mama on me, and do you know what? That woman slapped me a new hairstyle."

Anne Skolaski, 24, from Sykesville, is really enjoying the show.

"He's very funny and his stuff is topical. It really hits home," she says. "I think having live comedy here is the best thing."

What may seem like an endless party for the comedians is in reality quite a grind.

"These are one-night stands," says Mr. York.

"Sometimes we'll play several days in one place but we'll be moving onto State College, Johnstown, York and Altoona, Pa., after we finish here in Westminster."

Mr. York, 39, a native of Tulsa ("That's 'a slut' spelled backwards," he says), Okla., has been entertaining folks since he was 16; he did comedy in high school and college.

A close brush with death when he worked as a lineman for a power company in Oklahoma convinced him to turn in his pliers and take to the road.

He figures that he has played 10,000 shows since 1980.

"I've played bars, colleges, nursing homes, maximum-security prisons, Rotary clubs, television, opened before 17,000 people as a warm-up act for a Jackson Browne-Bonnie Raitt concert, Roy Orbison, Southside Johnny, Harry Chapin and for groups with as few as 20 people," he says.

After a few one-liners about being the "finest comedian this side of Route 140," and a couple of Hagerstown knockers, which he considers Dullsville, you get the feeling that tomorrow night the jokes will be about Westminster.

His "good ole boy" attitude is apparent in his dress, topped off with a cowboy hat that is balanced on his nose while he tells a couple of jokes.

When he hauls out his 11-foot bullwhip, the crowd begins to moan.

"Look at that! What's he gonna do with that?"

He gets a member of the audience, Dan Lyons of Westminster, who has happened to sit with his sister and another couple in the "hot seat," the table nearest the stage.

A few jokes later about Dan's stomach and the whip cracks, people back up from tables and the whip comes gently to rest around Dan's midsection, after he has turned pale with anticipation.

Mr. York goes on to do a running commentary while juggling.

"Yeah, my dad was a CPA who juggled figures, mother juggled dishes and my brother juggled 12 girlfriends."

PTC He slides into his repetitive transitional line, "Some of you know what I mean. . . . "

So much for finding out how he actually learned to do this with seven balls in the air at once.

"Hear about the fat girl who goes to the restaurant?" he says. "The waiter gives her an estimate rather than a menu."

Or, "Did you ever wonder why they named that automobile the Infinity? That's how long it will take you to pay it off."

And, "Love is grand but divorce is 20 grand."

Working a room presents a series of unknowns, but these guys are prepared. Both agree that they feel out the audience, who will let them know how far they can go in their routines.

The show's over and both Guess and York are relaxing over a post-show beer and a late-night supper. "This job is like a vacation," says Mr. Guess.

Mr. York likes being a stand-up comedian but adds that he misses his family back home in Denton, Texas.

"I'm on the road roughly 48 weeks a year . . . if I'm lucky," he says. "I spend part of every day working the phones, calling agents and landing bookings."

That's a side of working the road that folks out for an uproarious Monday night fail to see.

And it isn't funny.

Comedians appearing at Tully's next Monday are Diane Jones and Billy Geisen, and on Jan. 25, Tom Cool and Eric Kirkland.

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