June 20--Bob Zany jokes about people's reactions to when a heckler interrupts his show.
"People always think they're plants, like I have the money," he says by telephone from Las Vegas. "Yeah, I hire a team to follow me around the country and heckle me."
About a year ago, however, Zany did start to bring his own heckler with him: Zan Aufderheide.
As they'll do Friday and Saturday at Laugh Comedy Club in Mishawaka, Zany introduces Aufderheide as the show's opener, she performs her act and then introduces Zany, who then performs his act.
But sometime in the middle of Zany's performance, Aufderheide reappears on stage and the two of them switch to "Zan vs. Zany," their 21st-century take on classic comedy teams.
"He'll do a callback to a joke of mine, and then I'll come out and bust him for what he said and try to make fun of him," Aufderheide says by telephone from Las Vegas. "He's kind of like the big brother and I'm the little sister and I'm trying to undermine him. He'll do his 'Zany Report' and I'll try to mess him up. If he punks on me, I'll punk on him. It's up to the audience to decide who they like better in this big brother- little sister bit."
Born Robert Earl Tetreault and raised near Los Angeles, Zany made his debut as a contestant on "The Gong Show" in 1976 at the age of 15 (he was removed from the stage with a net over his head) and has been a professional comedian since 1981.
"It's the next genesis of what I'm doing," he says about working with a partner. "I've had the spotlight for 35 years, and she's so funny and talented, she makes me better by standing on that stage. I think if you're done learning as a performer, then you're done as a performer, and I'm always learning something new."
Zany and Aufderheide also produce a podcast, "The Bob Zany Show," for the Sideshow Network in which the two of them interview other comedians.
Both comedians also appear each week on several radio programs, with Zany best known for his weekly "Zany Report" comic take on current events for "The Bob and Tom Show."
"Radio, you're playing to just the room, the people in the room with the microphones," Zany says. "Live audiences, you've got the whole room. In live performance, you have a better chance of making people laugh because you have more people."
"Live audience performance, they can see the excitement and passion in my face, and I can make eye contact with them," Aufderheide says. "With radio, it has to be fast. Here's the setup, done. Setup, done. It's always drive time. I just try to write faster, sillier jokes. They're lighthearted. I try not to stay on a topic for too long because it's short-attention-span-theater."
The two comedians met when Aufderheide was the house emcee at Crackers Comedy Club in her native Indianapolis. About 10 months later, they met again, and Zany invited her to open for him on the road. That led to discussions about creating a comedy team act -- a rarity today but once standard in the world of comedy.
"We had a title before we had an idea of what we were going to do," Zany says.
"It's not just regular stand-up," Aufderheide says. "It's entertainment. It's really working with the crowd. Sometimes, they really get on board and they know we're in this together."
Aufderheide has a master's of fine arts in theater degree -- "I'm well-trained in Shakespeare and I tell scatological jokes in front of a poorly masoned wall" -- and says working in a team setting is return to her theater roots.
"It's fun to do that again, to be in theater," she says, "to wait backstage for my cue versus you do your bit and then hang out in the green room."
But traveling together also alleviates one of the main downsides comedians face in their careers.
"Being a stand-up comic is like solitary confinement with truck stops," Aufderheide says. "It's very common for a headliner to take another comic out on the road so that they have someone to have dinner with."
Both mention Burns and Allen as a reference point for "Zan vs. Zany."
"The older people find it a charming throwback to their golden days, and the young people have never seen this," Aufderheide says. "It's a safe arena for everybody to laugh. We're not mean comics. We're sharp and quick, but we're not mean. We're like the George and Gracie for the new millennium."
Bob Zany and Zan Aufderheide perform at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Laugh Comedy Club, 100 N. Center St., Mishawaka. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 574-299-9999 or visit the website laughcomedyclub.com.
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