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COMEDY REVIEW : Bobby Slayton and the Joy of Vex : At the Irvine Improv, he’s indiscriminately insensitive--and funny. He says he just wants us to think.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The chances of Bobby Slayton ever being keynote speaker for the NAACP are about the same as his addressing a NOW convention.

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It just isn’t going to happen, unless the audience is given free guns and unlimited ammunition.

Tuesday night at the Irvine Improv, the acerbic comedian again underscored his basic right to insult and demean all creeds and colors.

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That’s fine. As long as he isn’t playing favorites, we can forgive him his sins. But Slayton’s act raises an interesting and difficult question: If he is criticized as being racist, sexist, politically incorrect, lacking in sensitivity training and hostile to the crowd, how come he’s been at this 16 years now? And doing quite well?

Somebody must like this shock treatment. Somebody must approve of him. The crowds keep coming back to hear the raspy-voiced entertainer, who played to a nearly full house Tuesday.

But before Slayton comes off sounding like a social ulcer, it must be mentioned that his material is funny and his observations strike a nerve. Consider his disdain for the Statue of Liberty’s beckoning the poor, huddled masses:

“Why not send us the ones who stand erect and have a written language?” he wondered.

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So who came first? Slayton or the audience? Are his fans merely victims of Slayton’s salacious diatribes? Or do they fan his demons, driving him to new depths? Does he plumb stereotypes for cheap laughs, or is he trying to jar his fans into thinking?

Indications are such: Later in the show, he said: “OK. Let’s review everything we’ve learned tonight.”

Slayton is among the busiest comics around. He’s booked solid through 1994, spending 40 to 45 weeks on the road. Not surprisingly, the Los Angeles resident is eager for a TV deal and more time at home, and it bugs him immensely that Jeffrey Dahmer could get an hour on prime-time but he can’t.

“Who do I have to eat to get on TV?” he asked, not necessarily kidding.

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Slayton started the show slamming Mexicans, moved on to blacks, made a stop in Asia and then segued into blondes before adding that Jewish women are the major cause of homosexuality.

He spent the rest of the night leapfrogging around, with much of the material revolving around sex and sex acts.

Slayton, with his machine-gun delivery, hasn’t always been this way. As a 22-year-old rookie, he was doing basic observational material. A fast-food joke here, an airline joke there. Over time, however, his act evolved. Like the earliest life forms sprouting legs when they left the water, Slayton realized he needed legs for his routine. When something worked, he kept it. What seems to have worked for him is the racist, sexist stuff.

But to brand Slayton racist and sexist is a red herring. Slayton insists it’s all in fun and he’s just doing his job. He comes to a club, gets money, makes people laugh. It’s all part of the deal. And if he makes someone think, all the better.

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He’s just giving the customers what they’re paying for.

At one point Tuesday, he admitted as much.

“By laughing at this kind of crap, you’re only encouraging me,” he said.

But under it all, maybe he’s the voice of anger and frustration bursting out against waiters who don’t understand English, sexist males, whining women. He forces issues to the surface. He’s rough, basic and acerbic, but he does have an agenda. By confronting issues, we have to deal with them.

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Slayton rejects comparison to Andrew Dice Clay and the late Sam Kinison, insisting he’s not in that category of ranting and raving. The married father of a 5-year-old daughter says they’re much more vicious while his material is simply funny.

There’s no denying, however, that Slayton’s act has an edge. The audience can almost feel the tension in the room. When is someone going to snap and level this little funny man with the new-grown goatee? But Slayton is confident. He keeps the pace up. He doesn’t slow down.

Does he pander to an audience? Or is he really a sexist pig? Who knows. The mystery sells the message. Who’d go see him if underneath it all he were just a boy from Mr. Rogers’ ‘Hood with a fake edge?

* Bobby Slayton appears through April 17, except Monday, at the Irvine Improv, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine. $8 to $12. Call (714) 854-5455.

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