Dan Piraro loves getting hate mail, and given that his occasionally left-leaning strip, "Bizarro," appears in 250 papers (including The Times), he's received a lot of it during his 21-year career.
"Whenever I do an anti-NRA cartoon, I get a wave of great mail," says the syndicated comic strip artist, 47, from Brooklyn. "If I do something on gay rights, I get a really great wave of illiterate mail. And if I do something on intelligent design, that really brings the nut bags out of the woodworks."
In a bit of turnabout, Piraro reads and comments on the best of his hate mail as part of his one-man multimedia comedy stage show "The Bizarro Baloney Show," which kicks off a 13-city tour tonight at Los Angeles' I.O. West.
"The hate mail segment is always the funniest part of the show -- people are hilarious, especially when they're angry," says David Silverman, Piraro's longtime friend and current supervising director for the "Simpsons" TV show. "And if people think Dan's strip is bizarre and crazy, the show is even more so."
The show, which focuses primarily on Piraro's life as a cartoonist, incorporates an eclectic mix of animation, stand-up comedy, original songs, animal puppetry and improv drawing. It also hits on topics such as Bush bashing and animals rights (Piraro is donating the shows' profit to animal sanctuaries) and features a section on Piraro's adult cartoons, including some done for Playboy magazine.
"Since there's no censorship involved, I get to use real live grown-up language as opposed to the kindergarten language you're required to use in the newspaper," Piraro says. "I can talk about politics, religion and sex -- all the great stuff life is made of."
In addition to flexing his creative wings, Piraro says the best part about doing the show is the opportunity for face time with the audience. "When I do a cartoon, it appears in the newspaper five or six weeks later, and someone 800 miles away sees it and giggles," he says. "With the stage show, the reaction is immediate, and that's something that's really gratifying."
-- Alex Chun
"The Bizarro Baloney Show," I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. 9 p.m. today. $20. (323) 962-7560, www.iowest.com.