BY J.S. SITZES
Comedians Mike Armstrong & Keith McGill
1250 Bardstown Road
Comedian Mike Armstrong is an ex-cop who didn’t do policing very well; and comic Keith McGill, according to his politically correct friends, doesn’t do “being black” very well. Armstrong and McGill were part of a class of comedians who began their careers performing at Comedy Caravan in 1988 (along with Spike Davis, who now hosts “Chocolate Sundays,” and Dawne Gee, an anchor for WAVE-TV). Armstrong and McGill live in Louisville but travel on a weekly basis living their dream.
“I left Vegas last night, and I do a show for the Amish in Indiana tonight. Then back to Vegas,” Armstrong tells LEO. With shows in front of thousands, including television and film appearances (He’s appeared several times on Comedy Central, plus HBO spots), big-city lure hasn’t taken away their love for this region and for Louisville.
Armstrong admires the talent currently in Louisville and those who have taken their act elsewhere from the city, including Lance Burton and Mac King, both of whom have successful runs in Las Vegas. Royal Caribbean has McGill on board when he’s not on the road or working on a film/theater project. “It’s awful,” he says. “When the passengers board, I say, ‘Hi!’ Later in the week, I do about an hour of standup. Otherwise, it’s like being in a fabulous hotel they push to Mexico. Just awful.”
When Richard Pryor slipped into the character of Mudbone, or when Etta May slips into, well, Etta May, it is with the intent of pulling audiences into their story. Keith’s love of theater spills onto the comedy stage, where, he recognizes, all good comics “perform.” Armstrong says of McGill, “I have the luxury of choosing who I work with, and I’m glad when I can choose Keith.”
The road to success wasn’t easy for either comic. Armstrong started by traveling the country, sometimes squeezing 10 minutes of comedy between stripper acts. McGill would do a few minutes at Chi-Chi’s restaurants as long as music wasn’t playing. And neither takes a minute for granted. Armstrong toured with the “Bob & Tom Show” for years and is considered part of the close-knit “family” on the nationally syndicated radio program. But he admits that without Bob and Tom, he’d have given up years ago. “You have to be a road warrior,” he says. And, as in any line of work, get some good breaks.
In a work environment where no comic is considered “shocking” on today’s standup circuit, both of them are labeled clean. “It was a problem for me that I was clean,” Armstrong says, “until Bob and Tom called me a genius. Then it didn’t matter.”
Neither comic tackles too many political or social issues in his routine. They want to make you laugh, not end your night feeling angry or challenged. Comedy, to these men, is a night of laughter about life and circumstance, whatever your social status.
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