Cleveland native Bob Nickman has been living in Los Angeles five years now, and he's "already had a series . . . series of disappointments . Tough town, man. Really competitive. It'll really mess you up. I wound up having to join AA. I don't even drink. Just needed the stage time."
Never heard of Bob Nickman? Let the diminutive, balding, bespectacled comic fill you in:
"People just don't even realize how cool I really am," he says on stage. "Hey, I'm the coolest guy here tonight. I might even be the coolest chick here, for that matter. Yeah, that's what I am; I'm a cool man-woman. No one else can say that. I'm saying it because I'm hot! Hot-cool, man-woman. I'm all things to all people. . . .
"I am Mother Teresa and Donald Trump. I'm the Preamble to the Constitution--and an ad in the back of Hustler. . . . I have hair--yet I'm bald. . . . I don't even know what I'm saying anymore--yet it makes sense to me. . . . That's what I love about it--yet it bums me out at the same time. . . . All right, this bit's over now--y et, I must go on. Into the future. Because I'm a visionary--yet I can't see."
This seeming bundle of contradictions is actually a former harmonica player who got into comedy 10 years ago after his blues band broke up in Ohio. He taps his blues background in his act, pulling out his harmonica and playing what he calls "The Irony Blues":
Last night I dreamt I had insomnia . . . . Woke up completely exhausted--yet too well rested to go back to sleep. . . .
Recently got into an accident speeding to my stress management class. . . .
My cousin's a psychotic with low self-esteem. He only wants to assassinate the vice president.
My plans to be spontaneous fell through at the last second.
I got the old irony blues. . . . Up is down and in is out. . . .
Nickman says he reminds himself of someone he almost met at a party he never went to. His act simply affirms "who I am, and that's not conventional." He says he draws most of his material from personal experience.
The low-key 5-foot-5 comic makes good use of his unassuming demeanor on stage--joking, for example, that he "went to the beach today. I could feel the women just dressing me with their eyes."
Then there's the woman he met through a personal ad: "Every time I picked up the newspaper, she thought I was going to cheat on her."
He has, he says, "an anti-macho approach to a lot of things. I'm certainly not the conventional American male. I don't watch sports, and I'm not a businessman." Indeed, as he concedes in his act, it's not easy being a man who doesn't care for sports. It can cast doubt on one's manhood, "unless you can account for your time with other activities that are equally masculine."
So when a buddy invited him to a Rams game, he countered with: "The Rams? No, I can't. I've got to go put a transmission in a stripper's car."