A Self-Employed Shoemaker


Most comedians have two goals in life. One is to get off the road; the other is to get into the movies or at least television. Craig Shoemaker has parlayed his LoveMaster persona into both.

Last month he premiered his first movie, "The LoveMaster," in Austin, Texas, and expects it to open to a wider audience in April, depending on how distribution talks go. The film seamlessly blends Shoemaker's top-drawer stand-up work (with heavy emphasis on the deep-voiced, sex-on-the-brain LoveMaster) with vignettes featuring other actors who bring bits from Shoemaker's routine to life. The concert segments were taped at the Improv in Tempe, Ariz., in March, and the rest was put together in Los Angeles.

"That was the time of my life," Shoemaker said, discussing the project from his West Hollywood condo last week. "I've seen it three times in large theaters. It was really strange. People were talking to me, and I was sweating. I guess it was strange for them to see this guy on the screen and have the guy sitting next to them."

The film--which won the top honor in the Independent Film Festival presented by the Independent Studio Assn. in Los Angeles this summer--also features George Wendt as therapist to the confused and overwhelmed Shoemaker. Farrah Fawcett, Kurt Rambis and Courtney Thorne-Smith have cameo roles.

"All of the people in the movie are familiar with the LoveMaster," the star explained. "They almost did it as a favor. The whole thing was done for like $400,000. The director is one of my best friends. Rambis is a good buddy."

Shoemaker has another movie coming out in the spring. In "Safe House," he plays a confidant to Patrick Stewart, whose character has Alzheimer's disease.

"I liked playing a dramatic piece, but they cut my big scene, my Oscar scene," Shoemaker said, laughing. "I was in a pool for hours, shivering. My lips were blue. I froze."

In "The LoveMaster," Shoemaker, who plays the Brea Improv from Thursday through Sunday and New Year's Eve, draws on being raised by a mother (who belly danced at his high school graduation party) and two older sisters (who gave him hand-me-down pedal pushers and halter tops). Still, he keeps in touch.

"I just went back to see my family, so now I have new material. Every time I go back, it just verifies why I'm a comedian. I was definitely not born to be an accountant coming from this kind of family. My family makes no sense. It's not the Cleavers. I think the Munsters would look at us and think we're strange."

His upbringing, however, would prove invaluable in his eventual career choice. Before studying radio, TV and film at Temple University (where he started his stand-up career), the comic was a class clown and a "wedgy waiting to happen" at Springfield High School in Philadelphia.

His old high school since has welcomed him home for a motivational talk.

"It was funny to be asked back as an honored guest. I was certainly an honored guest in the principal's office when I was there."

His message is simple. "Live your dreams and don't let your peers sway you, which I did. For that reason I started late in life," said Shoemaker, who's in his late 30s. "I'm 6 foot 3 now but was 5 foot 1 and 92 pounds in high school."

The LoveMaster was born about five years ago in North Carolina and raised at the Brea Improv.

"He's the guy I wish I was or the guy women thought I was. The first time on stage was at a bachelorette party," Shoemaker recalled, adding that the women in the front row eventually asked him to strip. "That's when I said, 'Babe, you better look out. I'll poke your eye out from here.' "

Shoemaker, who has a knack for characters and impressions, has been doing comedy for 18 years, but adding the hugely popular LoveMaster has pulled his act to another level. Which isn't altogether good.

"A lot of people don't even know my name anymore," Shoemaker said, laughing. "I ought to legally change it to the LoveMaster."

Though comedy has been good to Shoemaker, it's not all he does. His latest venture is a Web page he established on the Internet in November.

At www.craigshoe.com, fans can find photos from his movies, biographical information and answers to oft-asked questions. Five years ago, such a move would have been a pipe dream.

"I was on the information super-cul-de-sac," he said. "Now I'm starting to get into the computer thing, and I keep upgrading. I never grow up. I just bought a new one. Ronald Reagan has more memory than my old one."

He has also jumped into the business world.

"I own a couple of shops--Shoe's Cafe and Shoe's Soul and Gift Shop," he said.

The West Hollywood gift shop features books, serenity candles and New Age stuff . . . as well as LoveMaster CDs and T-shirts. Some people have questioned the marketing logic.

"Hey," Shoemaker says simply. "It's my store. I can sell what I want."

* Comedian Craig Shoemaker brings the LoveMaster to the Brea Improv, 945 E. Birch St., on Thursday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., Friday at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 and 10:30 p.m. and New Year's Eve at 7:30 and 10 p.m. $12-$65. (714) 529-7878.

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