By GENE STOUT
His live set may be dubbed “The Worst Comedy Show EVER,” but comedian Craig Gass can count Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney among his fans.
All three Seattle rock musicians are featured on Gass’s new CD/DVD, “The Worst Comedy Show EVER,” which was released April 16 by Oglio Entertainment Group.
Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, a fan of Gass’s Gene Simmons impression, as well as his edgy, often raunchy comedy routines, is featured in a cameo on the DVD, and Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney lend their personalities to a news spoof on the CD.
The CD/DVD was recorded and filmed at Dave’s of Milton, a beloved, out-of-the-way comedy club in Milton, Wash.
The launch/release party is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Dave’s, 1502 11th Ave. Tickets are $20; you must be at least 21. The party includes a screening of the DVD, followed by a Q&A with Gass. Everyone who attends will receive a signed copy of the CD/DVD. Get details and ticket information here.
Gass, who loves rock ‘n’ roll almost as much as he does standup comedy and professional sports, met McCready, Cantrell and Kinney after moving to Seattle in 1993 at the height of Seattle’s grunge explosion.
Gass met McCready when a manager at The Showbox invited him to a Sonics game; McCready was one of the guests. Gass had no idea who he was until he invited McCready to one of his New York shows, and learned that the guitarist would be in the Big Apple that spring to perform on “Saturday Night Live.”
As for Cantrell and Kinney, “I would see Sean all the time at concerts in Seattle. And Jerry, there was this four-month period when I was living with Eddie Van Halen in L.A., and became friends with (Jerry).”
The three rock musicians are fans of Gass’s edgy, raunchy routines and dead-on impressions of such celebrities Gene Simmons of KISS, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, comedian Sam Kinison and actors Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. The new CD features a hilarious routine titled “Al Pacino vs. His Phone,” in which a would-be Pacino gets into a profanity-filled temper tantrum with his cell phone.
Celebrity voices come naturally to the New York comedian, who got his first big break from radio star Howard Stern.
Growing up in deaf family in the Bronx, Gass learned to speak by mimicking voices on TV.
“It’s not a joke,” he said in a phone interview this week.
“Everyone in my family is completely deaf. My mom, my dad and my sister. My mom was born completely deaf, my dad was born with all of his hearing and then lost over 75 percent of it when he was a kid. He was in an accident that popped out his ear drums. So he had to go to a deaf school, where he met my mom. They fell in love, got married and had my sister first. My sister was born with my mother’s genes and is completely deaf. And I was born with my dad’s genes, with all my hearing.
“I learned to talk by copying all the voices I heard on TV. So I was always able to mimic any kind of voice I heard. And I also never got an accent from the Bronx, where I spent the first 10 years of my life.”
A huge Seattle sports fan, Gass often books shows based on Mariners and Seahawks road schedules. “I do one or two trips a year, so I can see Mariners and Seahawks games.”
Next fall, when the Seahawks play, he’ll come back to Seattle and perform at the Moore Theatre.
But for now, his attention is focused on the launch party at Dave’s in Milton, one of his favorite clubs in the Seattle area (but one he often makes the butt of jokes).
“There’s something magical about that room. I love it,” Gass said.
“Usually when you do shows, people are coming into town to see you. At Dave’s, you’re actually going to the people and doing a show in their neighborhood.”
The room’s limitations, including occasional lighting and microphone problems, often become part of the show.
“Someone at the club will say, ‘We have a problem with the lights, but we’re going to get it fixed.’ And I’ll say, ‘No, leave everything the way it is.’ Because I can use that in my standup. I learned that from Dave’s. Instead of fighting the situation, I ask, ‘How do I turn this into a good show?’ I end up just incorporating all the elements in that room into my standup.”
Gass noted that Seattle has a long history in standup comedy.
“It’s still a great standup comedy town. You can find a place to do standup any night of the week. That’s rare. In a lot of towns, that’s really rare,” he said.
Gass’s resume includes writing for “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” and creating characters for such TV shows as “Sex and the City,” “King of Queens,” “Law and Order,” “Gene Simmon’s Family Jewels,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show.” He has also opened for Alice Chains, Metallica and KISS. And he’ll make his Comedy Central debut on the upcoming season of the animated series “Brickleberry.”
Gass’s comedy show travels far and wide. In March, he performed a number of overseas shows with the USO, including a performance at a base in Madrid, Spain. The show featuring Gass and several other comics was called “The Shock and Awe Comedy Tour.”
Unfortunately because of a holiday, as well as a scheduling glitch, the audience wasn’t a crowd of military personnel, but a gathering of . . . girls.
“When the military contact picked us up at the airport, he said, ‘You guys are going to be clean, right?’ And we said, ‘Oh, sure, if we need to.’ And we gave him some diplomatic answers. And the guy said, ‘OK, cool, because you’re doing a show for the Girl Scouts.’ And we all thought he was kidding. And we just laughed about it,” Gass said.
“The next day as we pulled up, there was a huge bouncy castle outside where we were performing. When we realized we were actually performing for the Girl Scouts, we had not prepared anything and we were frightened. We’ve performed at biker bars, we’ve opened for heavy metal bands, but we had never been as scared as we were performing for these Girl Scouts. . . . It didn’t go so well.”