Dennis Blair Interview

He’s been called the most talented and versatile comedian in show business.

He’s appeared on the Tonight Show, HBO, co-hosted a radio show with Elayne Boosler and entertained audiences everywhere from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

He’s a regular performer in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe, Reno and Laughlin with celebrities like Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Tom Jones, The Beach Boys, Gloria Estefan, and Jackie Mason.

We are talking about Dennis Blair who was kind enough to share some of his story with us in the face of a grueling touring schedule.

Q – You have a title after your name-----“The Best Comedian in New York”. How many comedians were you up against to win that award?
A – Well, let’s see, is this the Charlie Award?

Q – I don’t know. I got the information from your bio.
A – Yeah. It’s an old bio. This is like in 1981. I remember it was a tie between me and Joe Bolster at the time. I don’t remember much about it. It was just like one of these contests they held at the time. It’s almost ancient history. That’s why I’ve changed my bio. several times. (Laughs). I got the new bio. on the website now.

Q – How did you get into comedy?
A – I was a musician since I was 12. I would write songs. I would play a lot. I was in bands growing up. That was my thing. That was my goal. I wanted to do something musically. I started playing these nightclubs. They were called wine and cheese clubs, in the late 70’s. You’d be up there singing and nobody would pay attention to you. You were just kind of background music. It gets frustrating ‘cause no ones listening to you. Out of frustration, at this one club, one night, I came up with this parody for the Bee Gees, ‘Stayin’ Alive’; it’s called ‘Singing Too High’. I did that and people actually started listening, ‘cause it was kind of funny. I said this is good and I started doing more of them. Then I put a whole bunch of them together. Then I sort of started having a comedy act. Then I went to Dangerfield’s in Manhattan, in New York City, auditioned on their audition night. I had a 30 minute comedy act then and they made me the House Opening Act there. Then Rodney saw me. He liked me a lot and started taking me on the road with him and that’s how I got into it.

Q – So, Rodney Dangerfield took you as an opening act on his cross country tours of the U.S?
A – Yeah. When I first started at Dangerfield’s he had just finished doing ‘Caddy shack’. He was famous, but, he wasn’t huge like he became in the 80’s. About 2 months after I started working with him ‘Caddy shack’ made him a huge star. Then he would take me cross country and theatres, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and all those places.

Q – Of all the people you’ve opened for, I would guess that opening for a rock group like The Beach Boys or Three Dog Night, would be the hardest?
A – Actually, it wasn’t that hard. It depended. If you got billing on the marquee or the posters and it said, ‘With Special Guest Dennis Blair’, or at least if people knew there was an opening act. At least people expected it. A lot of times there wouldn’t be any billing. The curtain would go up, and they’re expecting The Beach Boys and there’s me. (Laughs). It was a little bit tough. I would just go ahead and plow ahead and make sure I did my show and eventually they’d come around. It was really hard with Rodney sometimes ‘cause they didn’t want to see an opening act. But luckily for me I had the kind of act where I did a lot of music. It was a good attention getter so I won them over. Usually it went well, but sometimes those first couple of minutes were a little hard ‘cause they didn’t expect to see me.

Q – If you’re a musician and you hit a flat note, chances are not everyone will pick up on it. The same can be said about a singer who hits a bum note. But, if you’re a comic and an audience doesn’t laugh at your jokes, that has to really be uncomfortable.
A – Well, that’s why it’s really good to develop an act that’s sure-fire. (Laughs). You don’t want to get that happening too much. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of success with the stuff I do. There have been some audiences. I was wrong for. I remember in the 80’s, being sent up to the Catskills. At that time they really didn’t understand my humor at all and that was a little bit tough. (Laughs). That would be under the heading of a bad booking. Ninety-eight percent of the time it goes pretty well.

Q – You appeared on “The Tonight Show”. Was that with Johnny Carson or Jay Leno?
A – It was with Joan Rivers because I worked with Joan Rivers for 2 years in the 80’s. She was the guest host at that time, and she’s the one who put me on ‘The Tonight Show’. I never appeared with Johnny, unfortunately, Joan was fired from ‘The Tonight Show’ because she was doing her own show and there was some bad blood between her and Johnny. So, I was considered one of Joan’s acts and I guess that’s why I was kind of not allowed on with Johnny there.

Q – Did it help your career any when you appeared on “The Tonight Show”?
A – For me, doing ‘The Tonight Show’ was a great accomplishment, just to get there. I don’t know how much it affected my career because by that time cable t.v. was starting to come in, and there were so many other channels for people to watch. If it had happened in the 60’s when you only had 10 channels, it probably would’ve had a much larger affect. It helped a little bit to be able to say I did ‘The Tonight Show’ and I was able to get better work. But, at that time I was working so much anyway; I was working with Joan Rivers. Then I worked with Tom Jones. Then I hooked up with George Carlin. So, I couldn’t work much more at that time than I was anyway. But, it was a great thing to be able to say you had done ‘The Tonight Show’.

Q – When you’re not on the road, what do you do with yourself at home?
A – Wonder why I’m not on the road. (Laughs).

Q – You’re addicted.
A – Yeah. I’m definitely addicted. I have a family and we spend quality family time.

Q – Being a comic is what you’d like to continue doing?
A – Well, it’s something that I really enjoy doing. I hope I can continue doing this. You never know what’s gonna happen in the future. My goals right now are to take care of my family and to make a living. Hopefully I’ll always be able to do that. It would be great to be able to do that, doing this.

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