Ron Shock will appear at Corridor Comedy, 202 North LBJ Drive, at 8 p.m. Wednesday night.
By HAP MANSFIELD
One of the problems with young comics doing observational comedy is that their observations, while often somewhat amusing, are more than a little immature. They lack the life experience necessary to make the observations deep enough to be more than just a surface guffaw.
This is not a problem with Ron Shock, and you can see this for yourself at Wednesday night’s show at Corridor Comedy, 202 North LBJ Drive at J’s Bistro (8 p.m.). Tickets are $10.
Shock, who has been praised with words like “national treasure” and “one of the hottest comics in show business” by Entertainment Tonight, is a multi-faceted man who has lived several lives in his 65-plus year life span. Now, don’t go thinking that Shock’s comedy is some older guy complaining about these new-fangled horseless carriages. Shock is vital, contemporary and often lives up to his “astonishing” name.
Any story of Shock, a native of Amarillo, has to start out by mentioning that he at one time studied for the priesthood, has been on a chain gang in Louisiana, was once a safe-cracker and jewel thief, was vice president of a Fortune 500 company and holds three patents in electronics. He did all that before he turned 40.
“I was a hotshot in the corporate world,” Shock said. “I worked for a bunch of different corporations, AT&T, Con Ed, McMillan Publishing. They’re liars. They lie for sales, they lie when they’re recruiting. I was the person who taught the sales reps and the corporations how to tell the lies. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I quit working to save my soul. ”
He took some time to sort out his priorities.
“I was getting ready to turn 40,” Shock said. “I read a lot of books I wanted to read and meditated on it,–what I was gonna do next. I took some classes at the University of Houston, and one of the classes I took was Introduction to Theater.”
It was from there than Shock found his voice with unexpected guidance from his Introduction to Theater professor’s celebrated friend.
“His friend, Hayden Rorke, who played Dr. Bellows on ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ came to a class where we had to perform something we wrote,” Shock said of the incident. “I did a skit on how I walk like a duck. Hayden Rorke liked it and he took me to lunch. I was telling him this story about Oral Roberts and how he saw this 900 foot Jesus and he pounded on the table he was laughing so hard. He said “Why don’t you become a comedian?” and he told me about these comedy clubs that have open mics. I went and checked it out. That was on a Tuesday.”
Shock pauses for a moment remembering the event, and also, because he has an impeccable sense of timing. His timing is part of what makes him a great storyteller.
‘So, I went and tried out my act on a the following Sunday and I was a bomb,” he said. “While I was onstage, a fight broke out between some of the comedians and the audience. It was a real brawl. I said, ‘Okay, this is for me.’ And I’ve never looked back.”
While based in Houston, Shock formed the Texas Outlaw Comics with his comedian friends, Riley Barber, Jimmy Pineapple, Andy Huggins, Steve Epstein and the legendary late Bill Hicks.
Shock’s comedy career has been on a steady course ever since. He was the last “new” comedian to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and has been on the show with Jay Leno. He’s had his own comedy special on Showtime and was featured on A&E’s “An Evening at the Improv.” He’s been on a variety of television programs and in movies.
Shock has always got a lot to say, and one of the things he’s proudest of is that he has steered his career his own way.
“I’ve turned down commercials, I’ve turned down television shows and series because I thought they were sh*t,” said the comedian. “I’m not in it for the money. I probably could have made a fortune, but that’s not why I do it.”
Shock is more than an observational comedian. He’s a story teller who’s got a lot of stories worth the telling. He doesn’t tell “jokes.” He muses amusingly about life as he tells a story. Think Will Rogers or Mark Twain rather than Dane Cook. Shock is often labeled “the greatest American Storyteller.”
Said Shock, “When I got into it, they said my way wouldn’t work, that people didn’t have that kind of attention span, that they wouldn’t sit and listen, they’d never do it. But I had to do it my way. It’s been the best 28 years of my life.”
You can see lot of Shock on the Internet with Youtube or at Ronshock.com or with a pet project of his, “The Bill Hicks Chronicles.” In the chronicles, Shock tells some amazingly funny and poignant stories about his friend and comedy compadre, Bill Hicks, who died of pancreatic cancer at the zenith of his career at the age of 32 in 1994. Shock continues to film these stories when he can. If you look up Bill Hicks on Youtube, you’ll also see Hicks telling stories about Shock, who is quick to point out that while they were never best buddies, they were a mutual admiration society.
Shock appeared in performances in his old stomping grounds, Houston, this past weekend and will perform there again this weekend. In between these gigs, he will be here in San Marcos.
Shock gives the listener the cheese and crackers with no mustard, to coin an old phrase, but his phrases are fresh, funny and extremely frank.
Thinking on his comedy career choice Shock says, “I’ve never had any doubts, and I’ve always done it my way.”
If you are lucky enough to catch his act, you will be pleasantly, dare we say, shocked.