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The Thin Man : Bob Zany's Newest Persona Relies More Heavily on Himself

November 22, 1990|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

Bob Zany, before he started dieting earlier this year, weighed in at a hefty 350 pounds.

Bob Zany, after he finished dieting recently, weighed in at a lean 175.

That's great news for Bob Zany, the man. But what about Bob Zany, the comic, who once had a good 10 minutes of fat jokes in his act? Lines like: "I went to a fat farm. . . . They made it a ranch."

The Los Angeles-based comedian, who is at the Laff Stop in Newport Beach through Sunday, says TV producers have even been asking: "Is Bob Zany funny thin?"

"It's like I have to re-prove myself," said Zany, who recently did his first TV spot, "MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour," in his new, thin persona.

Gone are the long, unruly hair and the loud Hawaiian shirts--shirts so loud "people would ask me to turn it down sometimes." In their places are shorter, styled hair and a trendy black sport coat over a white T-shirt.

"Now my style is pretty much I have to rely more on me as opposed to being just this goofy-looking fat guy," said Zany, who says his act is still as "zany" as ever. And, yes, he still pulls out props from a suitcase he calls his Orson Welles lunch pail.

Actually, Zany is used to doing his act as a mere shadow of his former self.

As he shed the pounds--due to daily exercise and a 900-calories-a-day diet--he continued to perform in comedy clubs.

So what finally motivated him to lose the weight?

"A mirror," he said.

But that's the quick, joke answer.

"I was unhappy and I just wanted to make a change and I did it," he explained, adding that he limited his diet to chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables. He also progressed from slow walking to running and cycling. "My next step's the gym," he said.

What was the comic eating before he started his diet?

"Ding Dongs," he said, "and a lot of Volkswagens."

But seriously folks. . . .

"I ate a lot of meat and stuff like that," Zany said. "I'm a big fan of cakes and cookies--and Ding Dongs, actually. So there's some truth in that joke. But (eating) got out of hand."

Zany said he had become extremely overweight about five years ago, "and before that I had been up and down my whole life, really. I flirted with being thin for a while."

The West Covina native made his comedy debut on "The Gong Show" in 1977 when he was 15. He said he was first introduced on the show as Bob (Zany) Tetreault, but after a few appearances the show's host dropped his last name and "I just went with Bob Zany."

Zany, who has been making his living in comedy since 1983, was discovered at the Ice House in Pasadena by L.A. radio deejay Frazer Smith, who asked him to do humorous call-ins to Smith's popular KLOS-FM morning show. Zany soon had his own weekend radio show. He also founded and operates a string of Bob Zany's Comedy Outlets throughout California and wrote and co-produced a comedy album, "Hi Home, I'm Honey."

Does the term zany best sum up his comedy style?

"I think it sums up a lot," he said. "I think basically emotional scars."

As for describing his comedy, Zany said: "It's really weird. I've settled with this: I think my style is there is no style. I pretty much do a little bit of everything. I'll be the brash guy and I'll be the timid guy. I mix a lot of it together."

Does he think his 350-pound persona lent itself more to being "zany"?

"Not really," he said. "I've had the name for so long and I've had four different personas in my career. I'm a mixture of all them.

"When I started I was, like, the surfer comic. I was this young, blond guy with OP shirts. Then I became the stupid guy on the Frazer Smith shows. And then I became the fat, goofy guy. And now I'm . . . hang on one second."

He put the phone down and could be heard talking to his business partner in the background: "Michelle, what would you say I am now? What's my persona now?"

Silence.

"We'll get back to you with that," he said.

Who: Bob Zany.

When: Friday, Nov. 23, at 8, 10 and 11:45 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 24, at 8, 10 and 11:45 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 25, at 8:30 p.m. With Vince Harper.

Where: The Laff Stop, 2122 S.E. Bristol St., Newport Beach.

Whereabouts: From the Corona del Mar Freeway, take the Irvine Boulevard/Campus Drive exit and go south one block to Bristol Street.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to call: (714) 852-8762.

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