By Lisa Morgan
Most people read CV Weekly from front to back. Not the Weiss family. They start at the back page because that’s where Richard Weiss’ syndicated cartoon is published weekly. The beautifully penned cartoons inspired from Weiss’ stand up routine, are collected in his newly published book, “Weiss Cracks”, a hilarious and very punny collection of laughs. Weiss will be doing a book signing in downtown Palm Springs Thursday, June 12th from 6 pm to 8. Weiss has toured the country doing stand up comedy for eight years at venues including the Laugh Factory, Fantasy Springs Casino, Galaxy Theater, Caroline’s (New York), Comedy Store, Fox Theater, Copa, and the Indian Wells Theatre. When he’s not in southern California, he’s touring the country in sold out shows as part of the “Stand Up to Addiction” tour. Most recently, Weiss’ bookings have tested his flexibility as he has performed for the criminally insane, where he shares, “They like my bipolar jokes for some reason. Once you get past the fact that if they stab you, you can’t sue them, it’s a good feeling to make them laugh in spite of the Thorazine.” Two weeks later he was booked at a completely different show – a private party for a group of Mormon girls. It was not easily discerned which show made him more nervous.
Richard Weiss will help kick off the 11th Annual Leo Party at the Copa in Palm Springs with a special comedy show benefiting C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocates for at risk kids in the foster care system) The show, Comedy For a Cause, featuring Weiss, Lahna Turner, Gayla Johnson and Antonio Lopez III will be held Thursday, June 19th at the COPA located at 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs. Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are as low as $10. You can also find Weiss on the bill for the Coachella Valley Improv/Comedy Festival at the IPAC (Indio Performing Arts Center) July 11-13. Weiss will be featured, Sunday, July 13th at 5:15pm
Things haven’t always been laughable for Weiss. Some dark life-threatening times preceded his recent successes, including a fall from a five story building that he somehow survived. “Drinking led to blackouts for me which I call ‘The 90s’,” he’ll share to a room full of laughter. “My family got together and gave me a little present… they got me tickets, luggage, and a going away party called an ‘intervention’.” This popular comedian, author, comic strip publisher and Coachella Valley resident, shares openly in person, in his comedic performances and on his website about his pilgrimage from shame and pain, to joy, love and laughter. He is living proof that what doesn’t kill you can make you laugh…eventually.
Born and raised in New York, the child of alcoholic parents, Richard had learned to isolate himself from chaos in his room, where his active imagination kept him company. But once integrated with other kids his age on a baseball team, he quickly discovered his ability to cut up and make his peers laugh. This continued on through his career in construction with the larger variety of peer. All his life, it seemed, he had aspired to perform on stage as a comedian. “It was a dream I had for many years, but could not seem to find the right path, as I couldn’t stay clean and sober long enough to work it out. I knew I could tell jokes where people laughed to the point I felt I succeeded.” He recalls with some clarity, his days prior to recovery. “My druggie friend and I were huge Richard Pryor fans. We identified with his cocaine bits, so much so that when I went to Radio City Music Hall to see him in concert, my friend Gus and I shared an 8-ball in a weird attempt to honor him. Sharing a large bottle of vodka before we went in, I didn’t remember much of the show – only that standing next to me was a young Eddie Murphy wearing sun glasses. Time passed and it became clearer that my dream of getting up on stage and making people laugh was just that – a dream. My passion to perform stand-up had died, like every other dream I had. Drugs and alcohol have a way of taking it all away in a matter that would make the IRS jealous.”
“I prayed often for a solution,” he shares. “I somewhere accepted that I’d die an addict. I wrote suicide notes to my son in case I ever overdosed, telling him I loved him, but couldn’t stop using. To avoid the gut wrenching pain of a comedown, I once drank rubbing alcohol. All I can say, is I’m lucky I didn’t do serious damage. One morning, I even tried a TV faith healer in an effort for him to magically give me sobriety. As I put my hand to his on the screen and repeated what he beckoned me to say, it was obvious I was desperate to be free from my addictions. The TV faith healer had worked so well at curing me, that I picked up 2 grams of cocaine an hour later… just saying ‘no to drugs’ didn’t come easy for me, it took me 25 years of using to get 1 year clean and sober.”
With some sobriety under his belt, Richard took the advice of others and lived in a sober living home for a few years. “It was no longer ‘Rich’s way’; I had to surrender and be willing. As many around me relapsed, I had gratitude, prayed each morning, got a sponsor and went to meetings daily. One day at a time, I did not drink or drug, as God did for me what I could not do for myself.” As a result, Richard Weiss’ dream was reborn. He took his comedy writing to the stage in 2006 making his debut at the Hollywood Improv. He has since gone on to perform stand-up in just about every major club in and around Los Angeles, has written for many comedians (some of whom have gone on to appear on national television), published a book and has a comic strip seen in many publications including this one.
When Richard’s not in Southern California, he’s traveling across the states performing at sold out shows as part of the Stand Up To Addiction Tour. Truly a “Stand-up Guy”, as he’s been called, Richard has also produced shows for many charitable organizations, treatment centers, rehabs, hospitals, homeless shelters and for CASA (An organization helping Foster Children). “The divine irony of it all,” he shares, “is that my comedy act is based on my life in recovery and 12 step programs.”
Not only has his dream of performing come to fruition, but so has his love life. He met the love of his life and his wife performing at a corporate event. Upon moving to Palm Springs in the summer of 2012, in support of his wife’s career, Richard hooked up with the talents of wacky artist Bart E Slyp. The two immediately hit it off, and soon after, launched their hilarious comic strip, “Weiss Cracks” as seen here in CV Weekly and many other publications. “It was Bart’s idea to include me in many of the strips,” said Richard. “It was something I had not initially thought of, but it turned out to be brilliant. I can now take my stage act, incorporated with real life situations, and depict them to the masses without even getting out of bed! ‘Bartabulous’ and I are like Elton John and Bernie Taupin; the sum is greater than its parts.” Weiss and Slyp now have a book published and printed and ready for sale called “Weiss Cracks”. As you gaze through the pages of their first comic release, you’ll enter a world where anything and everything goes.
“I regularly go back to the rehab I was sent to by my intervention: an intervention I ran from until I had nowhere else to run or call home. On June 6th, 2014, I gratefully celebrated 9 years clean and sober.” In the throes of his addiction, Richard had lost his mother to a painful and devastating illness. But gratefully, he has had the opportunity to rebuild his relationship with his father. “While on the ‘Stand Up To Addiction Tour’, I performed at the Helium Club in Philly with my father in the front row. Over the years I had put him through hell; still he stood by me through it all. So it was heartwarming to see my Dad laughing at my jokes. I introduced him to the crowd at the end of my set, and they gave him a great round of applause. Now my dad is calling me for jokes so he can ‘perform’ them at the VFW! Another example of the gifts that the people of AA promised me 9 years ago; gifts that now are coming true…beyond my wildest dreams.”
Follow Richard Weiss on his website standupguycomedy.com or on Twitter at RichardWeissGuy. Make sure to get on his email mailing list at StandUpGuyComedy@gmail.com to be notified of his performances.