“Why not try doing stand-up comedy?”
That’s what a close friend asked me as we sat around the kitchen table this past weekend. Her husband and my wife nodded approvingly to that suggestion. Technically, I think I tried stand-up comedy already. I’ll get to my point soon.
Thursday was the 15th Annual Toast to Harry Caray who broadcast for the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals (I’m sure you knew that.) I was a fan of Harry’s. I can recall coming home from school as a kid and if my grandfather on my mom’s side was in town he would have the Cubs game on the TV. There was Harry.
When I had a sports department internship in college at WBBM-TV (CBS) in Chicago at the age of 19, part of my responsibilities was to log the highlights of Cubs games. That’s when I heard Harry say, “Piazza spelled backwards is Ah-zip.” Funny stuff.
I met him twice. Once was when my wife (then girlfriend) and I were returning a VHS tape to Blockbuster. We were walking down Division in Chicago and out of Butch McGuire’s bar walked Harry. We stopped to say hello. The other time was when I was an intern at CBS, the Cubs all-stars were announced, and as we the media waited to talk to Randy Myers, Harry popped out of the Harry dugout and I was standing on the warning track.
I said hello, and he responded, “hey, how are ya? Nice to see ya.”
After listening to him call countless games and handle the 7th inning stretch, I had enough Harry-isms to attempt an impersonation. At my minor league stops of Myrtle Beach and Joliet, if the 7th inning stretch guest singers canceled at the last second then I was asked to handle the responsibility from the radio booth and in a Harry impersonation complete with the mic wave to encourage crowd participation.
When MB visited Kinston, North Carolina (Google the location of this city), I would visit Jeff Diamond the PA announcer between innings. He would do a Harry impersonation while I did a Steve Stone impersonation. No kidding. I bet CC Sabathia remembers that or Seattle manager Eric Wedge or Braves coach Brian Snitker. Good times.
Then, there were a couple occasions where I entered the Harry Caray sound alike contest at Harry Caray’s Restaurant in Chicago, pre-2005. Friends and family would come out in the middle of the work day for the solid comedy that was me trying to sound like Harry.
The first time I participated in the contest, I did not make it past the first round. The second time, though, I made it to the second round/finals. I was loaded with material for that first round, but I did not expect to advance. I recall my first joke in a Harry voice bombed to start that second round. Then, the good times flowed as I peered out at the crowd through my Harry-sized black-rimmed prop glasses.
In my best Harry voice, I said, “Boy oh boy. I’m all out of material. I never expected to make it to the second round. Hooooly cow!”
A packed bar rolled with laughter, and I walked off the stage.
Technically, I tried stand-up comedy. Maybe I will try it again. The Cool Factor here is that I actually shared this story. I have a video of the first time I did the contest, but I cannot remember right now where it is. When I find, I will post it.