Bob Zany’s first comedy performance was in 1977 at age 15 on “The Gong Show.” He has been a comedian and performer all his life, with his next stop being Grandma’s Sports Garden 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. He is performing with Jimmie Walker, from the famous 1970s sitcom “Good Times.” The event has been aptly titled “Dyn-O-mite Comedy Night” after Walker’s catchphrase. The Reader spoke to Zany about the art of stand-up and his career. 

He said that when you are on stage, you have to be in the moment. That took him years to become comfortable with. Today when he mentors young comedians, he tells them to connect with the audience in the moment. 

“I like to tell the audience, ‘I’m only as good as my audience so I’m usually great,’ but I really only say it when I mean it,” he said. 

Zany is known, among other things, for smoking a cigar on stage. These days he just holds it. He recalls one time in Chicago when the interviewer asked a lot of questions about the cigar and that day he had forgotten to bring it.

Why have the cigar? “I’ve been doing it a long time,” he said. “It’s a throwback to old-time comedians who smoked a cigar on stage.” 

This isn’t Zany’s first trip to Duluth. He was here years ago when he worked for The Bob and Tom Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. (The namesake of that show is a different Bob, last name Kevoian.) 

Next week, he wants the audience to be able to enjoy the show at a level where they can mentally escape their usually lives.

“It should be escapism,” he said. “Like a movie, you get to escape from life for a little bit.” 

As for Thursdays Dyn-O-Mite performance, he said this is a one-time gig with Walker, but it could lead to more shows together. 

“We could call it ‘Irony Tour.’ The ebony and irony. Obviously I’m the irony,” he said. But this performance came about because they like working together and are in this part of the country at the same time. That’s how a lot of shows come together, he said.

Today Zany is more focused on the podcast he creates with his wife. It’s called “The Zany Report,” in which he interviews other comedians he has gotten to know over the years. It’s available on itunes and Sound Cloud.