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COMEDY : He's a Host, but He's No Jim Lange

February 07, 1991|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

So how did comic Wayne Cotter land his job as the new host of the Fox network's weekly "Comic Strip Live" show?

Speaking by phone from his "Comic Strip Live" office in Hollywood, Cotter explained: "I came into the personnel department at Fox and said, 'I'm unemployed; I'm looking for work.' They said, 'What kind of work?'

" 'Something in hosting. . . .' "

OK.

Actually, the producers of the Saturday night stand-up comedy show undoubtedly saw what audiences have been seeing in Cotter for a decade.

A Los Angeles Times critic recently described him as "one of the cleanest and most refreshing acts on the circuit . . . a friendly, unassuming comedian with a comforting voice that just wanted to reach out and touch someone, not ravage them."

Not bad qualities indeed for a TV show host.

But just because Cotter began hosting "Comic Strip Live" in January doesn't mean he is abandoning his own stand-up career.

A frequent guest on the "Tonight Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman," Cotter is still plying the comedy club circuit, this week performing at the Brea Improv through Friday and again on Sunday (with time off Saturday night to tape "Comic Strip Live" at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood).

"I think my identity as a comedian is safe," he said. "There's always that fear, when you talk about hosting jobs, of being thought of as Jim Lange (host of 'The Dating Game') or something--not that I'm against Jim Lange."

Actually, "Comic Strip" is a good showcase for Cotter: He gets to do a three-minute monologue at the start of each show.

"It's really a lot of fun," he said, "and the whole excitement of learning the TV side of life is fun for me too."

The Bronx-born comic has been described by one reviewer as a "first-rate observational monologuist," humorously examining what Cotter himself calls "the paradoxes, inconsistencies and peculiarities of life."

Cotter's is the type of humor that causes him to wonder: "Why do cats always decide suddenly--for no reason--they have to be in another room urgently? "

He remembers the time his brother took his pet hamster to the veterinarian when it got sick: "He took it to the vet! That's like bringing a disposable lighter in for repair."

And he talks about eating in restaurants with his grandmother: "She always sends everything back (complaining), 'It's cold. I'm not going to eat this.'

" 'It's ice cream, grandma.' "

Who: Wayne Cotter.

When: Thursday, Feb. 7, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 8, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 10, at 8:30 p.m.

Where: The Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Brea.

Whereabouts: Take the Lambert Road exit off the Orange Freeway and go west. Turn left on State College Boulevard and right on Birch Street. The Improv is in the Brea Marketplace, across from the Brea Mall.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to Call: (714) 529-7878.

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