Indy lucked out. In 1990, there were two great judges of good comedy: Crackers Comedy Club and The Bob and Tom Show on Q95. Crackers, founded in 1980, now has two locations (the downtown club is moving to 235 S. Meridian and will reopen this summer), and B&T would find themselves inking a national syndication deal before the turn of the millennium.
As the comedy boom went bust, Indianapolis continued to support multiple venues, based on the strength of the acts booked by local club owners. Appearances on Bob and Tom’s morning show didn’t hurt, either.
In the past 25 years, a plethora of soon-to-be-huge acts have gotten their start on the club circuit. From the beginning of NUVO through today, the Crackers/B&T combo platter means stops in Indy are de rigueur on the way up.
Dean Metcalf and Tom Griswold from The Bob and Tom Show sent us a list of comics who appeared on the air and in the club before they got famous. That list includes the likes of Ellen Degeneres, Drew Carey, Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan and many more — some of whom left quite the impression on their radio pals on Fall Creek.
NUVO at 25: They all played Crackers
Crackers loans us a few signed headshots of rising stars who stopped in Indy on the way to the top.
Daniel Tosh, now host of Tosh 2.0 on Comedy Central: “The first time he was in the air studio he removed all of his clothes,” says Tom. “He was the first naked person in the air booth since adult film star Hyapatia Lee.”
George Lopez, star of The George Lopez Show: Tom remembers that Indy was the first town Lopez hit when he moved beyond L.A. “Whenever he came back to town he would come in all week and do the show every morning. He would often stay at [my house or Bob’s]. George once entered the chili cooking contest at Mickey Quinn’s in Broad Ripple. It was his grandmother’s recipe. He didn’t win.”
Brad Garrett, “a regular on the show for years, way before Everybody Loves Raymond:” “We brought him in for a special NBA Draft party at Market Square Arena, says Tom. “It was a family event, but one of the players in the draft was a Slovenian named Gregor Fucka — seriously. Brad was asked to not dwell on that unfortunate name — a request he ignored.”
Tim Allen, voice of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear and the man who transformed from Scott Calvin into a reluctant St. Nick in The Santa Clause: “Tim was a regular on the comedy club circuit, a great stand-up, and very blue. One day, off the air, he described an idea he had for a show about his love of tools — it would become the hit family sitcom Home Improvement. Tim came back to Indy after the TV show was a huge success and played The Deer Creek Music Center. His live stand-up may have been a bit too spicy for some of the kids in the crowd expecting the Tool Time guy.”
Rodney Carrington: “After a great live set at Crackers, Rodney could be found standing on the bar toasting the crowd. He was naked — except for his cowboy boots. This event occurred on a fairly regular basis,” says Tom. (One wonders what inspires those who appear with B&T to drop trou?)
Ron White, the gent who split from the Blue Collar Comedy crew to explore edgier stuff — and became a big solo act: “Ron went with us to the Bahamas on our annual Super Bowl trip. While there, he got married. Shortly thereafter he got very famous, and very single.”