Most of today’s top comedians, it seems, are baby boomers. Well, at least until recently, when they started retiring. But there’s one guy who’s still running hard, and before he debuted his show in Vallejo, California, Times-Herald Reporter Rich Freedman had a sit-down with him. We’re talking about Will Durst.
Time has not changed Will Durst.
“I’m still cranky,” said San Francisco’s noted political humorist, a few weeks removed from turning 62.
It’s an age the Milwaukee native willingly accepts. No hair dye. No wrinkle cream. No fantasy about running up the steps in Philadelphia just like Rocky. Not without doubling over in oxygen-deprived agony, anyway.
“I tell you how old I am,” Durst said. “I get offered senior citizen discounts without having to ask for them. Take ‘em? Damn straight. If I cansave a buck and a half.”
For a stand-up comic who never left the friendly and foggy confines of The City of San Francisco seeking yellow brick fool’s gold in Hollywood, Durst has donewell.
Iconic status among younger comics? That’s debatable, he said.
“I have no idea,” Durst said. “I do get comments like, ‘You were my mom’s favorite comic when she was little.’”
Though Durst has seemingly endless fodder when it comes to ribbing political figures, he’s venturing outside the Barbara Boxer these days with a one-man show, “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG.”
It’s basically about being a Baby Boomer, said Durst, commenting more about the vagaries of life in this production with a dash of his political insight.
It’s about attracting the right demographics, he said, “where I can do the same show over and over and it seems fresh to them.”
The bottom line remains the same it’s been in Durst’s 39 years of stand-up: “Make it so people can laugh and forget everything. Give them hope when it seems life is fraught with doom and gloom. Make it less ominous.”
Whether he’s on stage with his standard acerbic political wit or doing the one-man show, Durst believes he’s only just reaching his stride.
“My approval rating is near historical highs,” he said. “I have a higher approval rating than puppies. And Shar Pei puppies, the cutest kind.”
Retirement? Stop joking. The man lives to be on stage. As he pointed out, Marty Allen is still performing at 92.
It all started Nov. 4, 1974 when Durst did this for coin.
“I had been on stage many times before but didn’t quite know what I was doing,” he said.
Five years to the day after his debut, Durst moved to San Francisco. “The day the hostages (in Iran) were taken,” he said.
He temporarily moved to Cincinnati to do a play, returning to San Francisco onJan. 21, 1981; “The day the hostages were released.”
After decades doing his thing, “I can see myself growing. Comics are like blues artists. We get better with age.”
The one-man show does offer Durst a chance to fly solo.
“I don’t have to worry about the comic in front of me doing fluid jokes,” he said. “Or some guy on a unicycle juggling flaming cats.”
Keeping Durst in line is Debi Durst, his wife of 33 years and, oddly, the third “Deb” in a row that Durst dated after Marcy, Mary and Marni. Seriously.
While the marriage has been deemed solid, the career is always in question, Durstsaid.
“There’s always frustration,” he said. “You always think that you’re better than people think and that you deserve more recognition. But that’s true ofevery artist, not just comedians. I do think I’d be further along in terms of national exposure. I don’t know what happened.”
Unlike many comics, Durst said he had no illusion about being a movie star. Not with “a face like an overripe tomato.”
Durst described his one-man show as “when acid flashbacks meet dementia,” adding that the 85-minute program includes an overhead projector.
“I try to discourage young people from attending,” Durst said. “I find the use of this archaic technology dissuades them.”
Texting during Durst’s show? You may as well heckle with a bullhorn.
“No texting. It will be dealt with severely,” he said.