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COMEDY REVIEW : Schimmel Talks a Blue Streak--but With Intelligence

It’s not exactly front-page news that many of the comics who travel the club circuit have their eye on a Carson or Letterman spot. An appearance or two on these shows won’t break things wide open (although it has happened). But at the very least, they can advance a career.

So it’s interesting to run into comedians who apparently aren’t interested in network-TV nirvana, comedians who use such blue language and/or address such provocative themes that they’ve pretty much disqualified themselves from visiting Johnny or Dave.

Comedians such as Robert Schimmel. Schimmel will be the first to tell you that his act is X-rated, as he did in his performance Wednesday at the Laff Stop in Newport Beach.

Of course, the fact that he’s pretty dirty (and that you definitely won’t read much of his material in a family newspaper) doesn’t automatically make Schimmel noteworthy. There are plenty of filthy comedians around: green comics who work blue because they lack the experience or confidence to do otherwise.

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Even some more experienced funny folks would rather use profanity or make an anatomical reference--knowing they’ll pull big laughs in many road clubs--than write a clever and clean joke. Not to mention those who traffic in misogyny, gay-bashing and other forms of hatred.

But Schimmel doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Schimmel, a veteran, highly skilled comic, talks almost exclusively about sex, but there’s no homophobia or anti-women diatribes (actually, he not only occasionally includes the female point of view but does so in such a way that he--or men in general--becomes the butt of the joke).

Beyond that, he’s a good, sharp writer. His material is pithy and economical. He was recruited to help write Paul Rodriguez’s HBO special and has been asked to write and perform his own HBO special. As a comedian, he has notched other cable-TV credits, including the highly coveted closing spot on “Nothin’ Goes Right,” Rodney Dangerfield’s recent HBO showcase.

Still, you probably shouldn’t take your mom to a Schimmel show.

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Among the subjects he talks about: oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, menstrual periods and products, douches, phone-sex services, condoms and marital aids--generally pulling no punches along the way.

But while he’s discussing areas that some people will find uncomfortable and vulgar, given his intelligence and insight, it’s safe to say that’s part of the point he’s trying to make. He’s not sprinkling his patter with four-letter words, or mentioning certain sex acts merely for shock value.

You get the feeling that Schimmel charges into this territory, at full speed, precisely because so many of us consider it off limits and he’s interested in what that says about us. Moreover, with a lot of these topics, he seems more interested in the ego and emotional workings behind the behavior--not so much the sex, but the sexual politics.

Schimmel can turn out refreshingly absurd pieces with the best of any PG comic; it’s just that when some of those jokes are filtered through his X-rated sensibility, he winds up with something like a bit on animal necrophilia: “I read in the paper that somebody got arrested for animal necrophilia. . . . Even if you had the best lawyer in the world, what could you possibly tell the judge? ‘Gee, your honor, I thought the cat was still alive. . . .’ ”

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Which isn’t to say that everything he does on stage is laced with profanity or deals with sex. Though it’s a very tiny percentage of his act, he does have observational and anecdotal material that could play on mainstream TV. Like this childhood recollection:

“I used to be afraid of monsters when I was growing up. How many people here have ever looked under their bed before they went to sleep? See, I couldn’t do that. My brother did that. Not me. ‘Cause I always figured, ‘What if there was somebody under there? Then he has to kill me because he knows I saw him.’ ”

A moment later, though, Schimmel asked, “Have I missed anything about sex that I should be talking about?”

But then: “I have to tell you that there are things I think can be offensive on stage, and I don’t joke about them: Cancer and AIDS and child abuse and rape and (stuff) like that. If you want to hear about that stuff, all you gotta do is turn on the TV or look in the newspaper--they don’t have an X-rated warning there. That’s for anybody to see. Me, I just like talking about sex. That’s all you really get to do now, is talk about it.”

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Schimmel is one of the smartest, funniest people doing the talking. The bad news: Because of the Super Bowl, the Laff Stop will be closed Sunday, making this the last night of his stand there. The good news: There are three shows tonight.

The Laff Stop is at 2122 S.E. Bristol Street, Newport Beach. Show times tonight: 8, 10 and 11 : 45 p.m. Tickets: $9. Information: (714) 85-8762.


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