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Q and A with Barry Kolin

by: L.E. BASKOW, Harvey’s Comedy Club’s Barry Kolin puts comedians up in a condo and tells them when they can swear, but he’s not a comedian himself.

Every Friday, the Portland Tribune puts questions to a prominent - or not so prominent - local person.

Barry Kolin has learned that when you're dealing with comics, you've got to set rules.

Rule No. 1?

'The opening act can't say the 'F' word,' reports Kolin, who has run Harvey's Comedy Club in Old Town for 15 years.

Rule No. 2?

'The feature act can only use it in the premise of a joke that's been cleared by management.'

Well, standards are important.

Portland Tribune: So are comics fun to work with?

Barry Kolin: Some of them, you walk down the street and they're the most normal-looking people in the world. Others are just totally out on the edge all the time.

The voice of Roger Rabbit was a guy named Charles Fleischer. I thought he was on drugs he was so wired all the time. He couldn't turn it off. The act that was staying with him in the condo (which Kolin supplies to out-of-town comics) said, 'He doesn't do drugs - that's how he is from the time he walks out for his morning coffee until he goes to bed.'

David Brenner made me run all around town to find him a music stand. He had to have this stand so his newspapers could sit on it. And then he never even used the thing.

Paulie Shore had a fellow that came with him to interview potential dates to go out with him.

Tribune: How did that work?

Kolin: He'd walk around the room and spot all the pretty girls and say, 'Would you like to meet Paulie?' And later on, in the lounge, he'd bring them in one at a time. And they'd go out to dinner with him.

Tribune: What was the greatest audience laugh you've seen?

Kolin: A cell phone went off in the front row and the comic grabbed the phone. (These customers) were waiting for friends to join them and the comic was directing (the friends) how to find the club. And all of a sudden coming in through the front door of a packed house was a lady with stacked blond hair and this guy with a big cowboy hat, and the comedian ad-libbed the whole thing - 'It's about time you got here,' and 'Right up here' - and the audience went crazy. They thought it was staged and it was all improv, like something out of central casting.

Tribune: Best heckler?

Kolin: Women that have been drinking. They're the hardest for comedians to deal with from stage. One comedian said to this girl, 'So what, I don't bother you when you're doing your job. Probably you take your clothes off for a living.' And the woman started to take off her top. And it stopped him in his tracks. It was the first time I ever saw him at a loss for words. He was blushing on stage.

Tribune: A favorite night?

Kolin: The first 20 minutes of John Fox's act is so funny you're just dying. He told me he had to tone it down because he was afraid people were going to have heart attacks. The audience was falling out of their chairs doubled over.

We've had to call emergency services because people were having heart problems from laughing so hard.

Tribune: Any others?

Kolin: A comedian was asking if there were any special occasions and a woman said, 'This year we're getting married.' And her fiancé got upset with her drawing attention to him.

They ended up getting into a fight and he grabbed her, and the problem was there were four Portland police officers sitting right behind them. And the next minute they were hauling this guy out of the club.

Tribune: What did the woman do?

Kolin: She was upset - 'Don't hurt my man.'

Tribune: But did she stay for the rest of the show?

Kolin: No, she left.

- Peter Korn