“I was Chelsea Clinton’s favorite comedian,” Bobby Collins told me while chatting about his career and how he ended up rubbing elbows with the President and White House staffers. “I was at the White House twice and met the President. The Clintons were really nice. The first time I did a show there, I was standing off to the side and I look over, there’s President Clinton standing right next to me. I pointed out this little bit of sweat on my upper lip and told him I was just a kid from New York City and now I’m standing next to the President of the United States. I thought that was pretty cool. I’ve been lucky.”
Collins, in town to perform at the Bay Street Theatre on Monday, August 26, relayed many stories, all of them hysterical.
“I just did Jimmy Fallon, which went great, they invited me back. Funny thing is, Jimmy opened for me on tour,” Collins said. “It’s great seeing him take over The Tonight Show!”
“There was a guy in the street, just shouting and screaming,” Collins said. “This is where I grew up, to me this is entertainment. I love it here.” Collins, originally from New York, has since relocated west to California, however; he still loves being on the East Coast and tours up and down it as much as possible. He said, “We don’t have this in California. I miss it. I really miss New York. It’s where I feel most comfortable. We have the same sensibilities.”
Collins has had a varied career, with multiple comedy albums, to hosting gigs on TV shows like VH-1’s Stand-Up Spotlight. “Rosie (O’Donnell) and I were old friends, so I thought she was gonna’ pass the show to someone else, next thing I know, she’s on Larry King and he asks about who’s taking over Stand-Up Spotlight to go into acting and she said ‘I’m giving it to Bobby Collins.’ My phone immediately began ringing off the hook, this was the first I heard about it. The head of VH-1 called up and said ‘I guess the cat’s out of the bag!’ Imagine my negotiating power,” Collins said.
“I heard the Bay Street Theatre is a good one, is that true?” Collins asked me. I told him it was, having been fortunate enough to catch a few shows there. “I’m excited. I do about 28 theaters a year, but I’ve never done that one. I make it out to Long Island as much as possible, but I’ve never been there. I do a lot of theaters in the winter, I tour all over, Florida, Myrtle Beach, hitting the Hamptons in the summer is nice, it’s usually hot, but it’s been a pretty cool summer thus far. I was in Vegas at the MGM and it was 114 degrees. It was awful, your underwear melted.”
To say that Collins had me in stitches throughout our chat is an understatement. Having opened for Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, Cher and many other legends, he wanted to branch out on his own and be the headliner. “Opening for Sinatra was the best. We’re backstage, I was asked to fill in for a guy for one night and it turned into more. I arrive off the plane, go backstage and Sinatra’s surrounded by his cronies, the whole Italian wiseguy thing. I’m not Italian, so I don’t know. The phone rings, all these guys are answering and saying ‘hey boss, what should we do about this?’ or ‘hey boss, what should we do about that?’ Finally, he takes the phone himself and I hear on the other end someone ask ‘can we have the sub-star?’ Meaning me, of course,” Collins said. “Sinatra says into the phone ‘He’s a f—ing comedian, just turn the sound on!’”
“It’s been a magic carpet ride,” Collins said. “I love watching comics perform. We’ve all got a different take on the world.”
Collins’ book, “On The Inside: Witisms and Wisdomisms” is available from his website, bobbycollins.com. Catch Bobby Collins at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor on Monday, August 26 at 8 p.m. Get more info at baystreet.org.