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Corps Engineers 'Laffs' : Yarmy's Army, a group of show-business veterans and longtime friends, will perform at Theatre West.

August 26, 1994|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Janice Arkatov writes regularly about theater for The Times

STUDIO CITY — If you like your humor in large doses, Yarmy's Army has just the cure for you. This weekend, the all- star group of comedy performers, writers, directors and producers is presenting "An Evening of Laffs . . . " at Theatre West as a two-night benefit for the theater and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

The corps grew out of an informal series of restaurant get-togethers established by the late comic actor Dick Yarmy after he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

The "Army" includes Don Adams, Shelley Berman, Gino Conforti, Tim Conway, Bill Dana, Pat Harrington, Don Knotts, Harvey Korman (who will emcee the shows), Jim MacGeorge, Chuck McCann, Pat McCormick, Howard Morris, Gary Owens, Tom Poston, Bob Ridgely, Jack Riley, Ronnie Schell, Tom Sharp, Dick Van Patten and Chris Weeks.

All except Knotts are scheduled to appear; only Adams (brother of the late Yarmy) and Van Patten are listed as "maybes."

"Originally, it was Dick getting some pals together--there were just five of us then--saying, 'Let's have some dinners, some laughs,' " Harrington explains. "After (Yarmy) died, we decided to stay together, do some work for charity."

Their first public foray took place in April, a benefit for The Holiday Project at Santa Barbara's Arlington Theatre. This weekend's stint at Theatre West will duplicate that format: In the first half of the show, each performer will have five minutes to do his own sketch or monologue (Harrington will reprise his vintage golf-pro character "Guido Panzini"). In the second half, the performers sit onstage in director's chairs, reminiscing, sharing stories and anecdotes--and fielding questions from the audience.

"It just kind of happened," Sam Denoff says of the group's evolution. "And it's been a very loving, giving situation. The image of comedians is (one of) being very competitive--which they are--but everyone is really pitching in, trying to help each other out."

Denoff, who's sharing producing and directing duties with Howard Storm, notes that the group still gets together the second Tuesday of every month at L'Express in Sherman Oaks. "They've dedicated a separate room to us," he says, "because the screaming, yelling and hysteria gets a little much."

McCormick, whose first-act offering will be a comedy bit with Riley ("I'm from the Information Superhighway; he can ask me anything") likens the feeling among the group to "jazz players riffing--the fun is the camaraderie of people on your wavelength."

This weekend's performances are also being held in memory of McCormick's sister, Mona, who died a few weeks ago at 57 due to complications of diabetes. "She had a good sense of humor," McCormick says, "and she really enjoyed these guys."

"My five minutes is a piece about an actor at an audition who'll do anything-- anything --to get a part," says group member Schell. Schell (who's also the honorary mayor of Encino) believes what distinguishes Yarmy's Army from other groups of comedians "is that we're all working actors, producers, writers and directors--no one's retired. The problem is, since we're all working, getting our schedules together is tough. But this show was a priority. We were determined to get together because Dick was a member of Theatre West--and also for Pat's sister."

WHERE AND WHEN

What: "An Evening of Laffs . . ."

Location: Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Studio City.

Hours: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Price: $100.

Call: (213) 851-7977.

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