Midas' Laughs Come Straight From Chicago

Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who covers comedy regularly for O.C. Live!

If there is such a thing as a Chicago style of comedy, former Windy City-based comedian John Midas has it.

"Comics from Chicago are mostly very strong performers and have a very straightforward kind of no-B.S. approach because it's pretty much of a no-B.S. town," says the 10-year comedy veteran. "You just go up there and tell it like it is."

Midas, who has opened for everyone from Jay Leno to Ray Charles, Henry Mancini and Rick James, is telling it like it is at the Laff Stop in Newport Beach tonight through Sunday.

Take the time he was jailed--and strip-searched, no less--after being pulled over for speeding on the Ohio Turnpike.

"The most absurd thing," he said in a phone interview while on the road in Illinois last week, "was here you had this state trooper who already had three prisoners in the car so he didn't have room for me. . . . It's not bad enough I had to go to jail, I had to drive myself to jail."

And the strip search?

"The amazing thing was first of all they tell you to bend over and touch your toes, which you're not dealing with Cathy Rigby in the first place. I look over to the guard. He's putting on a pair of rubber gloves, and I'm guessing he's not doing the dishes."

Added Midas: "Once you're put through a ringer that way, your view is going to be a little bit different."

Midas' 20-minute routine on his Ohio jail ordeal has become his signature piece and provides a good illustration of his comedy style.

"It's kind of like a twisted Norman Rockwell painting, kind of a perverse Americana," he said. "I point out the absurdities of life through things that are real--real examples that I've seen firsthand.

"There's not many people who can hold an audience's attention on one subject for 25 minutes, but (my stories are) true and that's what makes it good. You can't write things as bizarre as real life."

Stylistically, Midas prefers to do longer routines. In an hour, he'll talk about only four or five subjects. His storytelling style of comedy is also visual. In the speeding ticket routine, for instance, he acts out the parts of the cop and prisoners.

"I accentuate everything with some kind of physical backup," he said. "The stories I'm telling are true, so there's a definite passion with them."

Because he's single, Midas also does a routine in which he offers advice for other bachelors. Such as:

"When you're first living by yourself never cook bacon while you're naked. A lot of people don't believe that. But one drop of grease on that unauthorized landing strip, you're break-dancing in that kitchen."

Then there was the time he was in Nashville to do an early-morning radio show.

"I was kicked off the air in three minutes flat," he said. "Apparently there's some law against doing jokes about Elvis after he was dead.

"That's true. This is the joke I told them: I was walking through the airport and saw a brand new video game that takes place on the layout of Graceland manor. It's called "Hide the Drugs From Elvis," and it's really hard because he knows all the hiding spots."

Who: John Midas.

When: Thursday, April 25, and Sunday, April 28, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, April 26, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 27, at 8, 10 and 11:45 p.m.

Where: The Laff Stop, 2122 S.E. Bristol St., Newport Beach.

Whereabouts: From the Corona del Mar Freeway, take the Irvine Avenue/Campus Drive exit onto Bristol Street and go south one block.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to Call: (714) 852-8762.

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