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Winging it

Cash Levy brings the laughs

Cash Levy

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Sometimes when I write about a comedian and include a sampling of jokes, copied faithfully from online video sources, I feel a little bit guilty.

I wonder if the performer will have to edit the show or, worse yet, fail to edit and have audience members already in on the joke.

However, with Cash Levy - performing Thursday, Feb. 24 in Olympia - I need have no such worries, because Levy likes to make it up as he goes along.

"What do you hunt, sir? ... Bird. What kind of bird? ... Dove? You hunt and kill the bird of peace? I'm not sure I like you, sir. ... What do you shoot them with? ... A shotgun? That's some heavy artillery for a little dove. Did you ever think about just dropping some breadcrumbs and wait until they walk over? ‘Got another one, honey. Strike up the George Foreman dove grill.' "

In fact, Levy's penchant for making things up as he went along is what led him to comedy. Levy was a theater major in college but he had a problem sticking to the script.

"I'd make up my lines or take the character in different directions on different nights," he says. "I wasn't good with the shackles of that art form."

So he began doing stand-up, giving himself 100 shows to find out if he was any good at it.

"To start up in comedy is very difficult," he says. "You know what to say to make your friends laugh, but you really don't know how to make people you've never met laugh."

His solution: Get to know them, at least a little bit. And let them in on the joke.

"I've always gotten most of my clothing at the lost and found. I like to shop there. I just show up at the gym. ... ‘I lost my, uh, shorts.' ‘Really, what do they look like?' ‘Well, they're like long pants except short.' Sometimes I get really cocky and just walk in: ‘ I lost a big box with clothes in it.' "

That set-up, from Comcast's "UnConventional," led into a scene where Levy attempts to score free goodies from a couple of bemused ladies working the information booth at a comics convention.

"I lost - it's like a superhero thing," he says on the clip.

If "UnConventional" isn't the most high-profile credit, Levy (of Los Angeles) has also appeared on Comedy Central, CBS's "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," Fox Sports and more.

Next up: He's shopping a new special, "Crowd Control," to networks. "It's more improv than people have seen on TV before," he says.

A big part of the art of improv is knowing whom to engage, he says.

"You don't want to talk to people who want to be talked to too much, because then they want to be the show," he says. "I don't need to be the straight man.

"But if someone is shy, I'll veer away pretty quickly. Sometimes, even if you don't get a laugh, you are making the show more conversational. It opens things up."

And even when he's talking to someone bold, he's no Don Rickles.

"I'm not an insult comic," he says. "I don't like to get up there and make fun of people. Often, the joke is on me when I talk to the crowd."

"I got the weirdest fortune cookie the other day. It said, ‘A starship ride has been promised to you by the galactic wizard.' I don't want to shock anyone here tonight, but fortune cookies are starting to lose their credibility. I mean, what are the odds that the galactic wizard would let me ride in his starship? Again?"

[The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Cash Levy at Comedy in the Box, Thursday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m., $12.50, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.753.8586]

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