YOUNG PUNSTERS TRY AGAIN : PINT-SIZE PUNSTERS TAKE THEIR KNOCKS, TRY AGAIN
These days, Max and Ross Messier are riding high on the comeback trail.
In August, the duo appeared in a two-page spread in People magazine. A week later, they made their national television debut on “Good Morning America.”
In October, the two brothers were on Sally Jessy Rafael’s nationally syndicated radio talk show. They have since been asked to audition for several movie roles.
They are negotiating with Universal Studios to star in their own TV sitcom and talking with a Chicago ad agency that wants them to appear in Oscar Mayer TV commercials.
On Dec. 6, Max and Ross will be off for four weeks in Australia, where they’re going to help veteran stand-up comic Rita Rudner kick off a splashy new amphitheater outside Brisbane.
Not bad for a pair of comedians attempting a comeback, particularly since Max and Ross are only 10 and 6 years old.
“This time, Max and Ross are even more determined to make it big than the first time they tried,” said their father, Paul Messier, who manages the Improv comedy nightclub in Pacific Beach.
“They’re working harder on their act than ever before, and I think the big reason for that is that they now know how hard it is to not only reach the top, but to stay there.”
It takes most comedians a lifetime to learn about the ups and downs of show business, the senior Messier said. But his two young charges have learned the same lesson over the past seven months.
Max and Ross are growing up with comedy: Before moving to San Diego in September, 1985, their father had owned a comedy club in Bakersfield, and he frequently brought visiting comics such as Billy Crystal and Howie Mandel home for dinner.
The comedy bug proved infectious, Messier recalled. Before long, Max and Ross were performing their own stand-up routines on amateur nights.
In March, Messier brought the boys to the Pacific Beach Improv for a couple of one-night stands, and they were featured in The Times. Their act went over so well, he said, “that we all thought national stardom was just around the corner.”
During the next two months, Max and Ross were invited to appear on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show. A reporter from People magazine popped up at the club one night and interviewed the boys.
In the meantime, the pint-size punsters continued to endear themselves to Improv audiences with one-liners like: “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?”
But in June came a series of crushing blows. First, the San Diego Police Department’s vice squad put an end to Max and Ross’ Improv shows, claiming that the nightclub’s cabaret license prohibits anyone under 18 from performing there.
The brothers were subsequently bumped from Carson, and the People magazine spread was postponed indefinitely.
Three months after their rise to the top had begun, Max and Ross were has-beens.
“I just had to sit back and accept things,” their father said. “The kids’ little success story had happened very fast, and now their fall was happening even faster.
“The kids took it pretty hard, though. They had told all their friends and teachers at school that they were going to be on Carson and in People, and all of a sudden the rug was pulled from beneath them.
“And they were too young to deal with so much disappointment, all at once.”
For nearly two months, Messier said, he kept Max and Ross out of the spotlight. All the while, though, they were polishing up their act back home in Bakersfield, learning new jokes, gags, and one-liners written especially for them by popular San Diego comedian Rick Rockwell.
A sample routine:
Max: “Out of all the celebrities we’ve done shows for, Michael Jackson is the greatest.”
Ross: “Max, aren’t you forgetting that benefit we did for Chuck E. Cheese?
Max: “What are you talking about--you thought Chuck E. Cheese was the governor of Wisconsin!”
Ross: “So? You thought the governor of Idaho was Mr. Potato Head!”
By August, Messier said, Max and Ross were performing once again--this time at the Improv in Hollywood, where police licensing regulations aren’t as strict as in San Diego.
Before long, they had regained their momentum. The fact that Max and Ross were regularly appearing at one of the West Coast’s premier comedy nightclubs prompted People to give them a second chance, their father said, and on Aug. 18 the long-delayed profile appeared.
“Once that story hit, everything began to happen again,” Messier said. “And through it all, I’ve found that performing stand-up is something the kids really want to do.
“You know how some parents who can’t get their kids to mind them say, ‘You’re not going to watch TV?’ What I say is, ‘If you don’t clean up your room, I’m not going to let you perform.’
“And that always works just fine.”
Ten-year-old Max doesn’t mind telling anyone the real reason why he’s working so hard to make it as a stand-up comedian.
“Money,” he deadpans. “That’s all.”
Ross giggles, then adds: “Yeah--money. And girls.”
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