Brain Man : Fred Greenlee Isn’t <i> Always</i> Cerebral, but He Does Advise Illiterates to Skip His Show

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

A Los Angeles Times critic once called Fred Greenlee a “highly cerebral monologuist,” a comedian whose whose material reflects sophisticated thinking and a warm regard for the absurd.

While running through a Carlin-esque laundry list of things never to do, Greenlee advised, “never look too long at something you find in a hot dog.” But then he quietly tagged that line with, “Upton Sinclair wrote that joke,” referring to the muckraker whose turn-of-the century expose of the meat-packing industry led to pure food laws.

While conceding he may be “more cerebral than most” comedians, Greenlee said in an interview that he doesn’t feel the “cerebral” label completely defines his act.


“It’s hard for me to judge the entire act because I never do the same act twice in the first place, and, second, I have my cheap stuff as well as anybody does,” he said. “But there are some things you have to think about.”

With a laugh, he added: “I’d prefer, if you don’t read, don’t come see my show.”

The “Tonight Show” veteran, who is headlining at the Irvine Improv through Sunday, offered an example of his “cheap stuff”:

“I talk about traffic and driving and freeways, which is not the cutting edge of material. A freeway joke would be something like: ‘Laws are for other people. If you’ve ever driven down the freeway at 3 o’clock in the morning and you need to be somewhere. . . . So you’re speeding. . . . You’re doing 90. Someone passes you doing 118. And you think to yourself: Now that guy’s going entirely too fast.”

On the other end of the comedy spectrum, he said, “I contemplate the nature of God and Christianity,” which goes something like this:

“I’m not a very good Christian, but I’ve been working at it. I had dinner the other night with three of my friends, who all happened to be born-again Christians, and I thought to myself: If the rapture occurs, I’m going to be stuck with the tab. I’m going to have to pay for dinner and go to hell too. That’s a bad day, if you ask me.”

As a comedian who prefers to stake out less explored areas of stand-up comedy, Greenlee said, “I do material about suicide, I do material about theft in government and theft in the streets. But it’s not all down material, either. I do material about the joys of life--about a little boy going to Disneyland and dogs at the beach. It’s more emotional than a monologue. It’s not just jokes. There are stories and experiences.”

Who: Fred Greenlee.

When: Thursday, Aug. 8, and Sunday, Aug. 11, at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Where: The Improv, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine.

Whereabouts: In the Irvine Marketplace shopping center, across Campus Drive from UC Irvine.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to call: (714) 854-5455.