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Zany returns to Strand

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Bob Zany, center, has appeared inover 1,000 national television shows including “The Tonight Show” and “The Jerry Lewis Telethon.” On Saturday, he brings his stand-up comedy show back to the Strand Theatre in Shelbyville.
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Comedian Bob Zany prepares to film a scene for the pilot episode of “Casino Boss” where he plays a former stand-up comedian turned casino dealer. Zany brings his comedy show to the Strand Theatre, 215 S. Harrison St. in downtown Shelbyville, Saturday night.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

Bob Zany appeared on “The Gong Show” in 1977 as a 15-year-old stand-up comedian. That performance lasted less than 30 seconds when a man dressed as a nun walked on stage, dropped an oversized butterfly net over his head and yanked him off stage.

Zany probably could not write a more odd opening credit to his vaunted comedy career.

Now in his fifth decade of entertaining people, Zany makes a return appearance to the Strand Theatre in downtown Shelbyville at 8 p.m. Saturday night. 

Zany has appeared in over 1,000 national television shows including “The Tonight Show” and “The Jerry Lewis Telethon.” He can currently be seen on Showtime in Billy Gardell’s “Road Dogs.” He also can be heard on radio shows across the country. His “Zany Report” is a recurring segment on the “Bob & Tom Show” in Indianapolis.

The California native has toured the world but still enjoys performing in intimate theatres like the Strand, which is over a century old.

“I love playing theatres like that,” said Zany is a phone interview from Reno, Nevada. “I love the history of all those places. I love the history of show business.”

Zany promises a fun night centered around a talk show environment.

“I feel like I’m hosting a talk show when I do it,” he said of his routine. “There is a beginning and an end but I let the audience take me in the middle of the show. I like to work the crowd, gather info and write jokes off it in the moment. I’m kind of Don Rickles 2.0. They have described my act as old school meets new school with a back-to-school chaser.”

Seven years after that less-than-impressive performance on Chuck Barris’ goofy talent show, Zany started making a living as a comedian. 

“I just wanted to be a comedian. I was so young, naive and stupid that I pursued it,” he said.

Zany’s latest project is “Casino Boss,” which is being filmed at the Carson Nugget Casino in Carson City, Nevada, and stars “Saturday Night Live” alum Joe Piscopo.

“I’m playing Bobby Fitzpatrick Jr. III,” he said of his casino dealer character who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after “an incident” occurred from a standup routine gone wrong at a Las Vegas casino. 

Filming of the pilot has wrapped, according to Zany.

“Who knows where it will go,” he said of the project. 

The same could have been said after that fateful television appearance in 1977. But Zany’s career eventually took off and led him to the footsteps of many top comedians, including Jerry Lewis.

“I first started performing in the early ’90s for Jerry Lewis and Ed McMahon,” said Zany of one of his career highlights. “I don’t know where half of the funny stuff I said came from but I had Jerry Lewis laughing on the floor.”

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s show in downtown Shelbyville. For more information, contact a Strand Theatre representative at 317-421-2787.