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COMEDY REVIEW : Why Ware Wears Thin: Stuck in a Rut of Dusty Topical Takes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don Ware’s strong points were in ample display Monday at the Laff Stop: a confident, assured delivery and a winning way with observational bits.

But there were also signs that the veteran comic and longtime Orange County resident is stuck in something of a rut. His best routine remains the one about dentists, one he has been peddling for years, while his attempts at topical humor--not his strongest material to begin with--are getting dustier by the day. Gary Hart and Michael S. Dukakis? Egad.

More troubling for a comic of Ware’s skill and experience are his racial and anti-gay remarks, generic and undemanding tripe about Asian drivers and Latino lottery winners and even one hoary old line--"God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve"--that takes on an especially sinister tone in light of its popularity among Orange County’s gay-bashing politicos and clergy.

To his credit, Ware added a revealing zinger to his disingenuous rationalization about how laughing at our differences brings us closer together: “Too many white people in here to pick on them.”

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Ware was at his best when he stuck to some of his time-tested routines about the kind of universal experiences that provide such rich territory for many comics. Ware’s dental bit begins with his wish for an honest dentist--one who admits, “We’re gonna rip that out, and it’s gonna hurt like hell"--and segues to shiver-inducing imitation of a drill boring into a tooth.

He got laughs with a routine on amusement parks that built to Ware’s terror of one particular ride (called by various names, such as Freefall at Magic Mountain) in which passengers are strapped into a metal cage, hoisted to the top of a 10-story tower--and dropped.

Ware mimed trying to free himself from the contraption and mimicked the deadpan response of the pubescent ride operator: “Sir, don’t do that. That there bar’s for your protection, in case it falls over . . . again.”

There was another funny routine about trying to get a girlfriend interested in fishing. She, of course, is bored in 15 minutes. “Listen, sweetheart, we’ve got $400 worth of worms here!” Ware bellowed. “Unless you’ve got a hell of a recipe for worms, we ain’t moving!”

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But that segued into an extended and unsatisfying routine that centered on his claim that “men go through more pain in life.” Ware displayed a mischievous side as he purposely tweaked the women in the audience, setting up an amusing verbal tug-of-war. But the payoff was minimal: graceless bits on zippers, flatulence and feminine hygiene.

If you’re going make a claim like that--even in jest--better have the goods to back it up.


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