How ’bout it?

Moe Better Mann

Photo By Larry Dalton

Lots of us, deep down, secretly want to host a talk show. I know I do. But few of us actually pull it off. For the past eight years, Moe Better Mann has. He’s been doing the “Heeere’s Johnny!” shtick—even if it isn’t on network television—in bars like Old Ironsides and boats like the Delta King, hosting a variety of local performers from stellar to inept and sometimes completely scribbled. At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, he’ll host his eighth anniversary show at Old Sacramento’s Eagle Theatre. Tickets are $10 at The Beat or $12 at the door.

How’s the talk show going?

It’s going fine. We’ve been on hiatus for a while, but we’re coming back to do this anniversary show.

Tell me about it

Well, as you know, the Moe Show is my variety talk show, like Letterman or Leno—only it’s not televised. But it’s just as funny and just as relevant. For this anniversary show, we have the Teds as our musical guests. And, although they haven’t absolutely confirmed yet, I’m looking forward to [Talk 650 morning drive hosts] Armstrong and Getty and the infamous Steve Stizzo, along with the regular Moe Show players doing their skits—that sort of thing.

What’s the ugliest thing that’s ever happened on the Moe show?

One time a man actually tried to pick up my desk and turn it over. This was at [Old] Ironsides—we were doing a bit where you go through Moe’s drawers. At that time, I actually had drawers on the desk, and you’d pick the drawer and you’d get a prize. So this guy was going to be funnier than the host, which is always a no-no. He decided that, instead of picking one drawer, he’d pick up the whole desk. And he was a little drunk, so he tried to pick it up, but it turned over. And I thought, Aww, you just made a mess in the middle of the show. That’s a show-stopper, my friend.

What’s the funniest?

There’s so many good ones to choose from, but one of the funniest things was our favorite comedian, Johnny Steele; we were doing our sixth anniversary show, and Magnolia Thunderfinger was playing, and we had a young lady who got into the mood and kind of did a little striptease. It was pandemonium; they just went nuts, and we had scheduled Johnny to come up afterwards. So he comes up and he’s like, “I can’t even do any jokes.” Y’know, he starts joking about “How do you follow a rock band and a stripper?” We said “Sorry, Johnny. We didn’t know it was gonna be that wild.” But knowing the Thunderfinger, I shoulda been pre-warned.

How do you deal with serious weirdness when it happens?

I just try to roll with it, y’know? I don’t try to be Nightline, like Ted Koppel, and hammer people down to hard issues. When something weird happens, we try to just go with it, because you never can tell when that may lead to something really, really funny. Especially unexpected, you know—when you’re out there, working without a net, you can never tell what’s gonna happen. And you could get some comedy gold. That’s when some of the best moments happen.

Speaking of weirdness, you opened for James Brown once. What was that like?

It was at the Circle Star Theatre [in San Carlos]. It was really strange, because I’m a big fan of James Brown. But whenever you open for a big name like that, people come to see them; they don’t come to see any comedy warm-up. So I was doing my bit; it was working, uh, OK—until they started rotating the stage. So you’re looking at one side, you’re doing your setup for them; by the time the stage moves around, you’re doing the punch line for someone else who didn’t get the setup. It was like, “Whaaat!? Why is that funny? Huh?!'.” Comedy on a rotating stage does not work.

Have you ever completely died in front of an audience?

Yes, I have. All comics have to do that dying thing as part of paying your dues, although it’s very painful. But you know what they say: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Who’s the funniest comic you’ve seen coming up, locally?

Hmmm. That’s hard to say. There’s been a resurgence of young comics here in Sacramento. Up and coming … Well, there’s a guy, Kevin Young is pretty funny. A guy named Cain Lopez. This other kid, Phillip Stermer, is also funny. And there’s a woman named Autumn, one name—she’s pretty funny also. They’re all young comics, working hard, trying to get ahead. And Jason Restler—he’s a very funny guy, and he just came back from Long Beach, where he was involved in a competition. He didn’t win, but he did pretty well. So one day he’ll make Sacramento proud.

What does the future hold for Moe Better Man?

Well, after this anniversary show, I’m going to marshal my forces and produce my own TV thing. You know, you can wait in line in Hollywood for somebody to pick you, or you can go ahead and do the Robert Townsend thing and produce your own show and sell it out there and see if anyone wants to buy. So I think that’s what I want to do, and I’m tired of waiting for Hollywood to knock on my door; I’m gonna go knock on their door.

Any more television gigs coming up?

Right now, as a member of [the Screen Actors Guild], you know, we’re on strike against commercials. So I haven’t been doing any commercials lately. And I think I’m putting my eggs in this Moe Show basket.

What format will your own show have?

It’ll be a talk-show format. It’ll be a little bit different; it’ll be in a half-hour format, and it’ll concentrate on local celebrities and artists here in Sacramento. Like, you know, we have plenty of writers here. And plenty of artists—[they] do the Second Saturday. And musicians. A lot of people are getting recognized here in Sacramento, and what I want to do is just highlight those people I find interesting. And chit-chat with them, do a couple of skits. Kind of like a Sacramento version of In Living Color.