Comedy Karaoke makes funny business fail-safe with prefab jokes and a laugh track

By Bob Cannon
January 15, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Like any closet comedian, I’ve got a stand-up itch that needs repeated scratching. So when I hear that Video A Go-Go Inc. has come up with a device called Comedy Karaoke, available to any club, I feel sure that show business’ toughest gig has finally been made safe even for hacks like me. Off I rush to Caroline’s comedy club in Manhattan, where until recently Comedy Karaoke was provided during Wednesday happy hours.

As it turns out, Comedy Karaoke, a spin-off of singing karaoke, is ridiculously easy. You simply select material from one of 100 categories, from mother-in-law zingers and doctor jokes to a bit called ”My Lousy Childhood.” Then the routine is flashed on a TelePrompTer and spiced with canned laughter, and — voilà, ladies and germs! — an instant laff riot starring you. If the club has the super-deluxe version, ”Stand Up To Go,” as Caroline’s did, you even get a video of your triumph for about $20.

But even though indulgent friends have applauded my impromptu bits on Catholic-school education and ”wild man” weekends, I pray for a good room. For added safety, I stick to a classic: ”The Best of Henny Youngman.” Awaiting my big chance, I pull out my trusty mandolin as a prop — alas, I don’t play violin — and ask, What could go wrong? Fear, for starters. My nerves have checked in and won’t check out. My palms feel like Handi Wipes and my heart is blasting ”We Will Rock You” in my chest.

And suddenly I’m on. Jokes start scrolling on the screen; shaking, I hit the first groaner.

”Did you hear about the marijuana-flavored toothpaste? You still get cavities. But you don’t care!”

Wild guffaws — from the laugh track. Hey, this is clearly a win-win situation, so I throw in a dog of my own.

”They’ve got a restaurant on the moon now,” I say. ”Great food, no atmosphere.” Even the live crowd of 30-odd revelers goes for that one. But, not to press it, I go back to the script.

”What do you get for the man who has everything? Penicillin!”

Pandemonium. Hoo boy, I’m killin’ ’em, and it goes on like that until the end: ba-da-bing! ba-da-boom! Finishing my spot to a thunderous ovation, I wonder why I haven’t been discovered yet.

Tape in hand, I race home to check the results. As I watch, I want to paraphrase Youngman: ”Take my career, please.” The cassette, a reminder of my big moment, now resides on my video shelf, entitled Keep Your Day Job.