Comedian Craig Gass may have been born and raised in the Bronx, but you can't accuse him of pandering as he whips fans of the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks fans into a frenzy on Jan. 18 at the Pantages Theater.
“I got my start up there in the Pacific Northwest,” recalled the New York-based comic, who is best known for his spot-on impressions of Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and other celebs. “It's funny because about 10 years ago – when I started having the freedom to go anywhere I want, any time I want – it dawned on me that I could actually just start scheduling all my comedy shows around the Seahawks and Mariners road schedule, which is ridiculous.
“I'm the only person on the planet that's actually spent so much time and effort going to Mariner and Seahawk games around the country. But it was a lot easier for me to be able to watch the Mariners play in Minneapolis and Kansas City and Tampa Bay than it was for me to keep flying up to Seattle.”
Over the years, he's incorporated his love of 'Hawks football into his act. “Initially, I'll get booed in cities like Pittsburgh, Boston and San Francisco. But I've been very proud of the fact that I've been able to then be cheered in those cities with teams that we've had such bad experiences with.”
Among the acts supporting Gass at the Pantages will be local favorites Ralph Porter, John Stewart and Xung Lam. That last guy was featured on Gass's most recent DVD, “The Worst Comedy Show Ever,” which was recorded at Dave's in Milton.
But of special interest to Seattle football fanatics will be the official comedic debut of former Seahawks lineman John Moffitt.
Moffitt became a fan favorite in part because of his quirky cameos on “The Real Rob Report,” a series of behind-the-scenes YouTube videos filmed by 'Hawks fullback Michael Robinson. But Moffitt was traded to the Denver Broncos during the last off season. Then he made headlines in November when he decided to walk away from the National Football League.
“He had a million dollars guaranteed for next year,” Gass said, “and he was playing for a team that, arguably, might wind up playing in the Super Bowl. He said, 'I'd rather be healthy and happy and have a long life. I've made enough money. I don't need to make any more.' And that was really controversial.”
Mutual friends in the Seahawks organization had long suggested that Gass and Moffitt get together. But it took BJ Shea – the host of “The BJ Shea Morning Experience” on Seattle's KISW-FM (99.9) – to facilitate their friendship. Moffitt was a guest on Shea's show last November when Gass decided to call in from the road.
Gass mentioned that he was planning a big show in Tacoma to coincide with the playoffs, and he wondered if Moffitt might be interested in showing up.
“Before I even finished he said, 'Yes! (Hell) yes! Let's do it!'” Gass said. “I've been working with him on creating material about his life as a big, giant football dude, and he's into it. He's actually willing to say some really personal stuff that's gonna be really funny. I think there's gonna be a lot of support for him there in the room.”
So Seahawks mania will be in full swing on Jan. 18. But Gass said the Tacoma show would also be special because of how he spent his formative years honing his craft in this area.
“I started 20 years ago getting any kind of stage night I could, five nights a week for the five years, from 1993 to 1998,” he said. “I didn’t make any money. I never wanted to make any money, I just loved doing standup comedy.”
During the first year, he snuck into the Temple Theatre to see one of his comedic idols, an experience that sticks with him to this day.
“I actually had an exchange with George Carlin that went so well that he asked to get in touch with me,” he said. “George and I stayed in touch. ... I would call him up and ask him questions about life, because I was looking for a father figure. But to be able to come back and do a big show in a theater in Tacoma is gonna be special for me, and I’m really excited about doing that.”
Gass had lots of other great stories, too: about badgering Paul McCartney and other musical guests on “The Howard Stern Show” and freaking out “The Family Guy” and “American Dad” creator Seth McFarlane. But you've got to hear his hilarious impressions of Tracy Morgan and Gene Simmons to truly appreciate those.
This week, we'll have audio outtakes from the interview on our Daily Mashup blog (http://www.tacomaweekly.com/dailymashup). They're well worth checking out, if nothing else to learn how Gass got in trouble a couple of months ago on the KISS Kruise.
Craig Gass in concert