The emcee at the Improv on Monday night introduced them in unusually gushing terms: “You’re going to love them, you’re all here to see them tonight, let’s give a big warm welcome to the comedy duo of Max and Ross.”

His remarks were followed by the obligatory round of polite applause. But once the audience caught sight of the two performers, brothers Max and Ross Messier, they erupted in a fit of hand-clapping, foot-stomping and deafening laughter and cheers.

You see, Max and Ross are only 10 and 6 years old, respectively. And the sight of two knee-high tykes with dark glasses and slicked-back hair, waltzing their way to the stage while the sound system played the great rhythm-and-blues instrumental “Green Onions,” had the capacity crowd in stitches even before the duo could tell their first joke.


Undaunted by the tumultuous reception, Max grabbed the microphone while younger brother Ross took a seat on a nearby stool. And with a straight face, Max informed the crowd, “In case you’re wondering, I’m a bachelor.”

Ignoring the laughter from the audience, he turned to a young man in the front row and asked, “Excuse me, sir, are you a bachelor?” The man nodded, and Max continued, “Isn’t it hard to score when you bring a girl home and she walks into your bedroom and sees the Smurf sheets and pillowcases on your bed?”

Once again, the crowd burst into laughter. And once again, Max ignored the reaction and proceeded with professional aplomb.

“Don’t you hate it when your parents act like pencil-necks and send you to bed when you’re not even tired?” he asked. “Boy, next thing you know they’ll put a lockbox on the Playboy Channel. I think the Playboy Channel is great. They’ve taken sex education out of the schools, and put it back into the home where it belongs.”

As soon as the laughter subsided, Max turned the microphone over to Ross. “Hey, Max, why did the robber put soil under his pillow?” the 6-year-old said shyly. “I don’t know, Ross, why did the robber put soil under his pillow?” Max responded. Barely concealing a giggle, Ross delivered the punch line: “Because he wanted to have dirty dreams.”

And so it went for the remainder of Max and Ross’ 15-minute set, while the dozen or so older comics who were there for the Improv’s weekly “amateur night” turned green with envy.


After all, it’s awfully hard to compete with two pint-sized Smothers Brothers who had clearly captured the audience’s hearts the moment they first walked on stage.

Sitting at a table in the back, Improv manager Paul Messier smiled with approval as the boys continued their string of one-liners. Max and Ross are his sons, and it was at the comedy club in Bakersfield he once owned that the duo made their professional debut as stand-up comics back in October, 1984.

“They grew up with comedy,” the elder Messier said with fatherly pride. “I ran the club in Bakersfield for three years, and I would always bring the professional comedians home for barbecues, things like that.

“So, naturally, it rubbed off. Max began telling riddles in school, and as soon as Ross could talk, he always had at least one joke he loved to tell to anyone who happened to be around.

“One night, my headliner was Paul Rodriquez. I had brought Max in to see the show, and in the middle of his act, Paul walked out into the audience, spotted Max, and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“Max promptly answered, ‘A comedian.’ And when I heard that, I offered him the chance to go on during one of our amateur nights. Ross, not wanting to be left out, asked to be included, and that’s how their whole act got started.”

The first night Max and Ross performed together, Ross--at the time, only 4--sat silently on a stool while his older brother told jokes, Messier recalled.

“But toward the end of the show, Ross abruptly jumped off the stool, grabbed the mike away from his brother, and told his one joke,” Messier said. “And ever since, the two have been full partners, appearing every few months with a whole new lineup of jokes and riddles they dreamed up themselves, with input from the professionals.”

When Messier closed his Bakersfield club last fall and moved to San Diego to manage the Improv, his sons--who stayed in Bakersfield with their mother--were among his earliest bookings.

And this week, Max and Ross are back, sharing the Improv stage with amateurs and professionals alike through tonight.

“As a parent, it’s really brought on a change,” the elder Messier said. “Most parents are worried about their kids doing drugs or getting into trouble.

“But since Max and Ross began performing, I’ve found my biggest concern is whether or not they’ve practiced their lines, or did they come up with something funny today.”

Local comic Rick Rockwell, who helped the boys polish their act before their return engagement here this week, seemed almost as proud as their father as he watched their Monday night performance.

“They’re both naturals,” Rockwell said. “And I’ve found that I can write a lot of material for them that I can’t perform myself--stuff that just wouldn’t work for me, but would simply destroy the audience if told by a 10-year-old or a 6-year-old.”