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"Comedy is The Last Great Expression of Free Speech"

Comedian Auggie Smith is more than happy to share his views on everything

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Scratch a comedian and right under the surface, you'll find someone who just wants to be loved. Thirty-six-year-old funny guy Auggie Smith is no different even though his particular world-view doesn't make him the most lovable. But even though he presents what he calls "a heavy point of view," he does it in such a way that even if you disagree completely, you'll spend the evening laughing and wondering if maybe he isn't right.

Smith has been performing as a stand-up since right out of high school. He said he did try joining the ranks of blue-collar workers and got a job parking cars for a little while. "I was fired," he said, "for stealing." From the cars he parked? "No. From the office. I fancied myself kind of a Robin Hood except I stole from the rich and instead of giving to the poor, I kept the money." So, unlike a lot of soon-to-be-middle-aged comedians who've been fired from construction sites or kicked out of a cubicles and then have some great epiphanic moment, saying to themselves, "I am hilarious, my friends all tell me I am; I should do stand-up," Smith knew early on he had something important to say, had a unique way of saying it and wanted an audience of people to say it to.

If you listen to The Bob and Tom Show (on 96.9 FM from 6-10 a.m.), then you've probably heard of Smith. His machine-gun fire delivery and take on current events and politics have made him a favorite of not only the show's hosts but the millions of people who tune in each day. Smith said that he's always been able to make a living at comedy, but over the last three years, Bob and Tom have clearly been helpful to his career. "I don't have to travel by car as much any more," he said. And, there's the exposure of the Bob and Tom comedy tours. The tours usually consist of four or five comedians, but instead of comedy clubs, the performances are held in larger arenas and attended by people who might not otherwise go out to see a comedy show.

I asked what he thought of the whole Michael Richards debacle.

"Who gives a shit what Michael Richards thinks? He played Kramer on the Seinfeld show! Most of what he was saying didn't make sense any way. 'Forty years ago, they'd have been hanging upside down with forks in their asses?' What the hell does that mean? It's like, Holy Crap! Squiggy doesn't like Puerto Ricans! Who cares?" Smith went on to say that the comedy club's reaction--or lack thereof--was as much of a problem as Richards' crazy rant. "They had the guy [Richards] back the next night! If they [the club owners] were so offended, why didn't they fire him? Because they weren't! It wasn't until after the video hit the news that they got upset over the whole thing." Smith said the worst part of watching the video of Richards was not Richards himself, but the people who got up and walked out. "Where the hell were they going?" he asked. "What ... they had somewhere better to be?" Smith was floored that in the middle of this famous guy's meltdown, people actually walked out. "There's no way I would have missed a minute of it."

I asked if there's anything off limits for him ... anything he wouldn't joke about?

"No, not really," he said. "It's not really what you say, it's how you say it. I have political views that probably 90 percent of people don't agree with, but I do it in such a way that they still find [what I'm saying] funny."

And they do. Smith's popularity is definitely rising, though he's still best known among people who follow the careers of stand-up comedians fairly closely. One major TV or movie appearance might be all it would take for Smith to cross over into the world of celebrity. When asked if he, like a lot of stand-up comics, would consider branching out into the more lucrative business of TV or film, he said, "For me, comedy is not a springboard, but there are comedians who have been on TV or in movies who are still best known for their comedy, like Dane Cook, Chris Rock and even Lewis Black." Smith said he enjoys the interaction with a live audience too much to give that up.

If you go see Smith during his run (and you should), don't expect comedy-lite. Expect a comedian who has something to say and a funny way of saying it.

December 27-31, $12 general, $15 VIP, Wed.-Th: show at 8 p.m.; F-Sa: 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m; Su: 10 p.m. show only, The Funny Bone, 405 S. 8th St., 331-2663.

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