Mark & Bob: friends for laughs

Bob Batch and Mark Klein have been best friends since President Jimmy Carter was in office and they’ve been working together as comedians for nearly as long. “Every comic has someone they call when they need to laugh,” Klein said. “Bob is the guy I call when I need to laugh. He is one of the most naturally funny people I have ever met. Through all the ups and downs of life he never fails to put a smile on my face.”

Their friendship goes all the way back to a dark age before there were comedy clubs in Louisville. Young upstart comics like Batch and Klein often found it difficult to find stage time to hone their craft. “You would get on stage any place you could, that would include strip joints [and] bowling alley bars. There was no place you wouldn’t go to get on stage.”

Tired of not having a consistent stage to perform on, the two men set up the first regular comedy show Louisville had known, in a bar in Hike’s Point called The Troubadour. It was the early 1980s, and the stand-up comedy industry was about to explode, which Batch and Klein found when their Tuesday nights at The Troubadour quickly became the hottest show in town. “The bouncer set it up because Tuesdays were always so dead, and the owner was never there on Tuesdays,” Batch said. “So he would charge at the door to pay us. The show blew up there, but we were doing it for six months before the owner found out.” And once he found out about it and saw all the money coming in, he made Klein and Batch promise not to take the show to any other bar in town.

Over the next few years, Klein, an avid horseman, remained based out of Louisville as he hit the road full-time, playing clubs all over the country. Batch relocated to Boston and was quickly absorbed into the local comedy scene there, which at that time featured Denis Leary, Steven Wright and Lenny Clarke — an era that was recently captured in the documentary, “When Stand Up Stood Out.” Batch left Boston for New York and eventually left New York for Los Angeles.

And while miles separated the two men, they always remained close friends. Eventually, Batch realized his work was mostly centered in the Midwest, and he had little interest in being a Hollywood star, so he joined his old friend Klein back in Louisville. As the years passed, both got married, their families grew and they were still in one another’s lives. Their careers transitioned from every weekend grinding it out on the road to getting consistent work doing one-nighters, corporate gigs and entertaining some of the finest cruise ships in the world — all opportunities that allowed them to spend more time at home with their families.

Klein and Batch are still vibrant, working comedians and two of the most-beloved performers in the industry. This weekend the two men will once again join forces on-stage at their home club, The Laughing Derby, for a very special run of