By Ryan Meehan
Don Barris has a unique brand of comedy unlike most other comedians, and that’s what makes him the perfect closer at The Comedy Store every single night. Barris is the co-creator and star of the cult-classic film “Windy City Heat”, which was developed in the legendary Belly Room at the Store. The show is now called The Ding Dong Show and it continues every Monday Night as it has since 1992, making it the longest running show in the club’s history. Don can also be seen nightly as the audience warm-up for ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. Don’s eyes are blue, his relationship status is complicated, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: Who was the first comedian that you ever saw live, and what was it about his or her performance that really drew you to the medium?
DB: I witnessed Steve Martin at the peak of his stand-up popularity in the late 70’s. He was the first comic I saw who went outside of the box and didn’t have the typical monologue like other comics were doing at the time. I saw him perform when he came to Michigan. He came out in the audience and he climbed up on the back of the chair right in front of me. He did a part of his act from there and at one point, he slipped and I caught him before he fell off the chair. No one has ever thanked me.
RM: When did you start referring to yourself as “Simply Don”, and why do you believe that title suits you so well?
DB: It was kind of a rip-off of Steve Martin’s style. He never called himself “Simply Steve,” but I imagined that it was something that he might do!
RM: For those who have never been to The Comedy Store, how would you best describe that environment? Other than the history that is associated with that building, what is it about that particular venue that makes it so special?
DB: I think The Comedy Store has to be the best comedy environment out of any comedy club there is. The owner, Mitzi Shore made it a place for comics and gave a freedom that was unlike anywhere else. It gave so many comics who were different a place to create and nurture their craft.
RM: How would you best describe the personal relationship that you share with Mitzi Shore; and why has her presence in the comedy community continued to be so important after all these years?
DB: In the first year that I was in Los Angeles, she told me that she saw me perform the night before. Mitzi told me that I had something special and that motivated me for years. There was no one you wanted to hear laughing during your set more than Mitzi Shore.
RM: Who has better personal hygiene – Steve Simeone or Rick Ingraham? Why do you think that is?
DB: I think that they both have fine hygiene. Why would you ask that??? Oh, now that I think about it you were joking, right?
RM: How close was the final cut of the movie “Windy City Heat” to the creative vision shared by yourself and the rest of the guys who wrote and produced that film?
DB: Exactly like we thought! We knew Perry so well that we essentially knew how he’d respond to all the various scenarios and things that were thrown his way. I knew that we had something special when I saw the first cut of the movie, it was 12 hours long. Everyone involved asked the same question, “What can we possibly cut out of this thing?”
RM: What are the best and worst elements of being the warm-up act for a late night talk show? Is Kimmel as laid back off the set as he appears on the air?
DB: I fell into a real lucky break. I work four days a week, two hours a day, so it gives me the money to keep a roof over my head and affords me to work on my other crazy projects and perform my insane comedy act every night. Jimmy is the best and he really is that laid back. Being around him always gives you the feeling that he really loves his life.
RM: Who are some of the other people involved with “The Ding Dong Show”; and what do we need to know about their role in that nightly production?
DB: First and foremost is Mary Jane Green who helps me produce the show as well as being a beautiful cast member. Schizo Surfer is the rock star of the cast. Tina Soal made history in becoming the first female alpha-male of a major podcast. Wild Joe lends not only her wild attitude to the show, but also an angelic voice. Rucka Rucka Ali is a rapper from Detroit who never had a chance. Amanda Green is a member of Schizo’s surfer’s band, The Comfort Zone. Armenian Comedian is having a heart operation, but will be back causing trouble for everyone in no time. Everyone is excited about the return of Byran Cosme is the making his return to The Ding Show in early February. We also have Vince Freeman (Tennessee Ernie Tuxedo II), sound man, photographer and a member of The Comfort Zone. And finally, there’s Tennessee Ernie Tuxedo. He’s an actor, singer and comedian who can also control the weather.
RM: What is the most common mistake you see younger comedians make when they first start out doing stand-up; and what advice would you give them to avoid that pitfall in the future?
DB: There’s an over-exaggerated confidence in a lot of newer comics. But instead of projecting confidence, they’re really just showing their insecurities and it turns people off. When the inevitable fall back to reality comes, it comes even harder for comics like that.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
DB: This is called, “Seven Questions With Don Barris,” yet this is the 10th question, interesting. I’ve been working on the “pilot” for our Big 3 Project, it’s been filmed and we’re editing it now as we speak. I’m hoping that we can turn it into a TV show or web series. Then I can put the Big 3 to bed and move on with my life. So let’s hope everything works out and we can get this made. We’re going to re-launch our podcast page (http://simplydonthepodcastnetwork.com) and put not only our Big 3 Podcast and Simply Don – The Podcast up there, but we’ll also be adding around 50 episodes of The Ding-Dong Show.
Don on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/don.barris
Don on Twitter: https://twitter.com/simplydon1
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