Friday, June 18, 2004 | 8:18 a.m.
Comedian Bob Golub learned a lot from his dad, but not the sort of conventional wisdom one might expect.
The elder Golub was the alcoholic father of eight children who pulled no punches -- but was known to throw a few -- while raising his kids and struggling to make ends meet in the working-class suburb of Sharon, Pa. The language he used was tough; and his liquor-induced antics were legendary.
"My dad got a DWI going to McDonald's," recalls Bob Golub, who headlines through Sunday at The Improv at Harrah's. He explains how his father was arrested at the restaurant by an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a Ronald McDonald clown: "It's kind of sad when you think about it, but it's kind of funny. He feel asleep in line as he ordered his food."
Golub included such anecdotes -- as well as other tales about his large, dysfunctional Polish family -- in his one-man show, "Dodo," so titled after the nickname of his father, who died in 1997. Four years later the dark comedy was performed in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, as well as in Golub's hometown, and garnered good reviews. A couple of years ago, it was briefly staged at Palace Station's Laugh Trax.
In the show, Golub portrays each of his parents, brothers and sisters. "This is, 'Hey, my dad was an alcoholic; he beat us; no apologies, OK?' That's why I think people responded to it," he explained of the show's plot during a recent call from his home in West Hollywood, Calif.
"Dodo" wasn't Golub's first foray into acting: He has enjoyed bit parts in "GoodFellas" and, more recently, on an episode of the NBC series "American Dreams," among others. He will begin work later this summer on the film "Art School Confidential," in which he'll play a "henchman"-type character opposite stars Steve Buscemi and John Malkovich.
There was talk, Golub says, of turning "Dodo" into a television series, and plans were to debut the show on Broadway this year. Instead, he's taken it back to the drawing board to retool some scenes. "It's a very edgy story, so what we're working on is giving it a little bit more structure and making adjustments."
That process, however, has proved "really hard," he says. "The effects are still there when you go back and relive it." He claims to make a "connection" with his late father during performances. Following several shows back home in Sharon, "People were coming up to me going, 'Oh my god, I thought that was Dodo' " onstage.
Rewriting the show has also forced Golub to see the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. "I realized I'm a lot like him. My dad was very honest and direct."
That's exactly how Golub has approached his stand-up career since it began in 1979. The material in his comedy act (which he will perform during this weekend's Improv shows) has included bits about racism.
"I deal with, for example, why is it a black comic can go up and do Polish jokes, or a Jewish comic go up and do Polish jokes, but if I go up and do a black joke or a Jewish joke, it's considered racist?" he says. "It always seems other people are more offended than the people or the situation that you're talking about, and as long as you come from the truth, then I run from nothing."
He also discusses current events, pointing to the war in Iraq: "It's hard to tell parents whose kids died it wasn't worth it for them to be there" fighting. "Look, if Bush would have just told the truth and said, 'Saddam tried to kill my dad ... I'm gonna take him out,' I would have understood that."
Golub's past is an eclectic one: In the '80s, after having served less than two years in jail for selling marijuana, he began peddling a comedic invention he called Bob's Lucky Potatoes -- raw taters sprinkled with "lucky" water -- on the streets near New York's financial district. The spuds made such a splash, he says, the local media showered him with attention, and he later presented one to President Reagan.
The experience will be chronicled in a book 46-year-old Golub is penning, titled "The Big House to The White House."
Inspired by the plight of his two hearing-impaired sisters, Golub also takes credit for developing more than two decades ago what he contends is the first stand-up comedy that caters to deaf and hearing-impaired people. He joined forces with the League for the Hard of Hearing in New York, and has for years produced and performed at annual fund-raisers for the organization, during which interpreters join such comedians as Norm Macdonald, Bill Maher and Robert Klein onstage. Infrared listening systems and other devices are also used to communicate jokes to audiences.
Of all his accomplishments, Golub seems most proud of fathering his 3- and 6-year-old sons. He has, however, taken a decidedly different approach to parenting than the one employed by Dodo.
"I wouldn't teach them the way I grew up because I think it's kind of held me back," particularly in terms of being a painfully straight-shooter, he says. "You don't want to deal with somebody that you know you're gonna get the truth from; that's not gonna suck up to you. I've never learned how to do it, and to be honest with you, I wish I did a little bit."
He also makes it a point to remind his boys he loves them because, "When I grew up, you didn't tell your father that" -- a fact reflected in earlier versions of "Dodo." That will change once the rewritten play is staged. "I don't care who you are, you're gonna cry, because I tell him when I finally accept that he's gonna die," Golub explains. "He goes, 'Yeah, I know, and I always loved you.' "
Out for laughs
Look for Pittsburgh native Joe Lowers to unzip his bowling bag brimming with props when he performs tonight as part of the lineup of "Comedy at the Beach" at The Beach nightclub, 365 Convention Center Drive. Also on the bill: Troy Underwood, Ryan Daniel and Gary Couette. The free show, which runs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., is hosted by local comic Shelly McCarty.
"Extreme Dodgeball" premiered Tuesday on GSN (Cox cable channel 68), with co-host and comedian Bil Dwyer pitching play-by-play of all the action. Look for Dwyer -- who is set to headline Aug. 17 through Aug. 21 at Palace Station's Laugh Trax -- on upcoming installments of VH1's "I Love the '90s," debuting July 12 through July 16, before the pop-culture series begins airing ad nauseam in reruns on the cable network.
Margaret Cho -- who has previously played The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel -- is scheduled to guest tonight on "The Late Show with David Letterman," airing at 11:35 p.m. on KLAS Channel 8.