Weds. May 27, 2004
Perry Pleasing...

By Elizabeth Stieber
Times Staff Writer


At a Perry Kurtz comedy routine, the audience can expect some or all of the following in his stand-up routine: sound effects, video, improvisation, audience participation, musical performance and even a little strip-tease parody.
In other words, expect the unexpected.
“Sometimes, they laugh and I don’t know why they’re laughing,” Kurtz said last week in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, his current residence.
But he always remembers which jokes made the audience crack up to perfect his eclectic routines.
Kurtz, a Northeast Philadelphia native and popular Los Angeles comedian, will return home to headline the Comedy Cabaret June 11 and 12.
“The show’s very diversified,” he explained. “I try to give (the audience) what they’re looking for. I’m just trying to find humor in real life.”
Kurtz, 53, wasn’t always a comedian, although he always was asked, “What are you, a comedian?” He originally studied art.
The Oxford Circle native graduated from Northeast High School in 1968 and the Hussian School of Art in 1972.
He freelanced for national label companies, where he created finished art for many mainstream companies, including Pepsi, Gerber and Polaroid, then became the art director of Neibauer Press, a religious publishing house in Warminster, Bucks County.
In 1978, following a nervous breakdown due to job stress, Kurtz decided to pursue comedy at a friend’s suggestion.
After performing for a while locally and taking a comedy course, he packed his belongings and moved to San Francisco.
For a while, he performed in clubs across the country and worked in radio as a voice-over artist and as an emcee and male stripper at the Off Broadway Male Burlesque Club on Broadway in North Beach, which helped develop his diverse stand-up routine.
Always a music fan, Kurtz sings improvisational blues tunes to the audience about them. It’s a routine he started as a novice comedian performing song parodies using an electric guitar, then a keyboard.
He’s sung the improvisational blues bit with the Greg Allman Band, Mick Fleetwood, Sammy Hagar and members of the Chris Isaak Band and Huey Lewis and the News.
The lyrics just come to him, and they rhyme, too, he said.
“I’m only singing about things that are happening while I’m singing,” Kurtz said.
By 1991, Kurtz was a regular at the Comedy Store Improv Players at the Comedy Store in Hollywood and Dangerfield’s in New York City.
He’s also been featured on HBO and Comedy Central.
Today, he mainly sticks to performing along the West Coast so that he can spend time with his wife and children, with the occasional trip home to Philadelphia for a performance.
Kurtz said his comedic routine is unlike any other, although he said he’s been compared at times to Robin Williams. That makes sense, because the two have performed many improvisational routines together over the years.
“I learned so much working with him,” he said, particularly perfecting his improvisational skills.
In fact, Kurtz doesn’t keep to a strict routine; instead, he bases his routines on the audience’s reactions. There have been times, he said, when he’s performed a two and a half hour show using just 15 minutes of material.
Aside from stand-up comedy, Kurtz also is a stand-up comedy teacher, comedy consultant, motivational speaker and humor instructor who teaches corporate employees the art of using humor in the workplace.
Particularly, he shows business people how to sell the use of humor and how comedy can evoke personalized attention with others.
“I teach how to develop personality,” Kurtz said, adding that he always tells the people he’s training, “People don’t remember the jokes, they remember the personality.”
Essentially, that advice applies to Kurtz’s extensive routine, too. ••
Perry Kurtz will perform at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 11, and Saturday, June 12, at the Comedy Cabaret at the Best Western Hotel, 11580 Roosevelt Blvd. Saturdays are now smoke-free at the club.
Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 215-676-JOKE or visit www.comedycabaret.com
For more information about the comedian, visit his Web site, www.perrykurtz.com
Reporter Elizabeth Stieber can be reached at 215-354-3036 or
estieber@phillynews.com