If you watched Jay Leno’s last “Tonight Show” in February, you might have caught Billy Crystal referencing Robert Klein.
He was reminiscing about visiting Leno’s “bomb site” apartment in Boston when they were up-and-coming comics, and Leno had a poster of Klein above his bed.
Robert Klein, the legendary comedian who influenced a generation of comedians — including Leno and Crystal — is coming to the Raue Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. April 5.
Although born and raised in The Bronx, Klein got his start at Second City.
“I reported for work with Fred Willard in March of ’65 on Wells Street in Chicago,” he said.
That led to a career that has included Grammy, Emmy and Tony award nominations, 82 guest appearances on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” plus about 50 appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
In 1975, Klein was the first comedian to appear in a live concert on HBO. He has gone on to do nine one-man shows for HBO and in 2007, released “Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005.” His most recent special, “Robert Klein: Unfair and Unbalanced,” aired in 2010.
He co-starred in the NBC series “Sisters,” and had a recurring role on “Law and Order.” Recently, he’s been on “Royal Pains” and “The Good Wife” — he just finished shooting an episode which will air in a couple of weeks. On April 1, he recorded an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
To this day, he favors standup comedy over acting, dancing or even sitting behind a microphone.
“I do not stand at a mic or sit at a stool. I patrol the stage. I like to give a one-man show. My long-time colleague Bob Stein will be with me. We sound like a law firm — Stein and Klein,” he joked. “We’ve worked together almost 30 years. We write songs together and were nominated for a couple of primetime Emmys for the ‘Colonoscopy Song’ and for a song called ‘A Hymn for America,’ which is a song about Obama. He’s going to play keyboards. We’re going to do some music. I always like a little music in my shows.”
He talks about a lot of things in his shows; topic like getting older — “I no longer kiss the girls, I play their fathers. I played Sandra Bullock’s father in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice.’ I played Kyra Sedgwick’s father in ‘Labor Pains.’”
He tells funny stories about his career, along with some observational and political jokes.
“There will be some music and I guarantee there will be some good laughs,” he said. “It still gives me a kick to make people laugh.”
He will even be in the lobby afterwards to shake hands and sign copies of his book, “The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back.” He was indeed a busboy one summer.
“It’s a memoir. It starts when I’m 9 and ends when I’m 25,” he said. “It’s just a series of stories which connect in my lifespan, including my time in Chicago at Second City. There’s a lot of funny stuff in it, some moving stuff, but mostly it documents the change between the ’50s and the ’60s. That was like going from the 19th to the 20th century, in a way. From Pat Boone to Sly and the Family Stone. From the passive, Eisenhower years into assassinations and pot and hippies.
“I talk about the sexual revolution, which was so much more fun than the Bolshevik or French Revolution and much less dangerous. No one was shooting at you, which was an advantage in any revolution,” he said.
“There’s nothing I say that couldn’t be understood by an intelligent 14-year-old. I don’t work blue; I might use a word occasionally, but I don’t like the constant profanity among today’s stand-ups.”
Klein has appeared in such movies as “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Hooper,” “Primary Colors,” “Radioland Murders,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Reign Over Me” with Adam Sandler.