It was around 4:30 p.m. on a wet Tuesday, and Angry Bob Carbo was depressed. He gets that way when it rains. While most folks were still kicking around their cubicles, Angry Bob was outside a West Village comedy club tapping his meaty foot, waiting for the doors to open. Moments later, inside the club, Angry Bob handed a ratty $5 bill to the open-mike M.C.-the fee would buy him five minutes of stage time-and hobbled onto the stage.
“I LOVE THE BLACKS!!!” Angry Bob shouted into the mike. The seven or so people who were the audience-mostly other aspiring stand-ups-winced. They’d seen Angry Bob before.
Angry Bob has a reputation for being famously bad-in fact, some claim he’s the most unfunny stand-up comic in New York.
“Horrific,” in the words of a recent audience member.
“Every time he goes up, the audience leaves,” shared a fellow comedian who wished to remain anonymous. Angry Bob’s act consists mainly of shouting, sweating and telling of unsavory jokes about humping and eating and great toilet moments. And Angry Bob never leaves until he gets his $5 worth.
“When I was a kid, I was fat. Now that I’m a big-time comedian, I’m PHAT. P-H!” Angry Bob continued, and then launched into a long-winded story about how, the other day, he watched a woman pull two humping dogs apart.
His face was mostly hidden behind mutton chops and a goatee. He was wearing his standard Angry Bob outfit: black goggle-glasses, black T- shirt and jeans. Brown curly locks puffed out the back of a black Smurf hat, giving him the appearance of a gigantic anarchist lawn gnome. Angry Bob stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs in at 300 or so pounds. He used to be a lot bigger but lost about 200 pounds in the last few years; he attributes some of that to his physically demanding stage show.
Some of Angry Bob’s other material: There’s one about having sex with a loaf of bread, in which he says, “She [the loaf of bread] shows up a week after our little tryst, with an attorney, a palimony suit and three little dinner rolls that look a little bit like me.”
Or this: “I was a communications major in college. Yeah, I got a job in the industry, folks. You can see me on 42nd Street going: ‘Nude show live! Midgets on Thursdays!’ I had to take an elective for that last one.”
Later that night, in the back of a steamed-up taxi, Angry Bob explained his dream. “Five years from now, I’m doing movies, I’m doing television,” he said. “I could be maybe a lead or second banana in a comedic film.” He looked wistfully into the rainy street. “Maybe a steady character role on a sit-com.”
But for now, things are touch-and-go. Not long ago, Angry Bob was actually banned from a club for badness. “There were only two women in the audience,” he explained. “They’re not laughing, they’re not having a good time. So Angry Bob gets up”-Angry Bob often refers to himself in the third person-“I did an Anne Frank joke or something. Then I went into my whole bit about how I got a yeast infection from fucking a loaf of bread. At that point, they sort of looked at each other and walked out. So I’m yelling my act at them as they’re leaving. They left without paying. The manager came up and wanted me to pay their tab.” When Angry Bob refused to pay (they were ready to leave anyway, he argued), the manager banned him, for life.
“A lot of comedy clubs shy away from a person like me,” Angry Bob said. “I’m not Letterman-ready. They’re looking for safe, boring, like, ‘Hey, let me tell you about my girlfriend.’ But in my act, I would say, ‘Hey, let me tell you about my girlfriend’s [expletive deleted]!”
A graduate of Queens College, Angry Bob has lived in Jamaica and Flushing, Queens, his entire life. His father was an immigrant from Italy who married a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn. When he was 6, he took an acting class (normal acting, not special angry acting), but the instructor booted him out for upstaging the other kids. One of his strongest comedic influences has been the concentration-camp-survivor-slash-comedian, “Brother” Theodore Gottlieb.
Angry Bob, who is in his late 30’s, works as a freelance graphic designer, but he’s had lots of jobs: telemarketer, cab driver, movie usher, bus boy (for 25 minutes), Pinkerton security guard and towel boy at the infamous Plato’s Retreat sex club.
But Angry Bob carries the passion for comedy deep in his big belly. He does as many as seven open mikes a week, gigs that he pays for.
“Most comedians who suck stop after a while, but Bob keeps plugging away. God bless his drive,” said another comedian who also wished to remain anonymous.
But is Angry Bob just too angry?
“He’s not really Angry Bob; he’s Hurt Bob,” said Dante Nero, the host of the Boston Comedy Club’s open-mike night. “His real growth as a comedian is not going to happen until he drops this angry thing. That’s what his downfall will be. He’s talking about dogs fucking and everything, but on the inside he’s just a big sweetheart. Can you imagine if he headlines at a club-how are people gonna sit there and be yelled at for an hour?”
Angry Bob wasn’t always Angry Bob. Ten years ago, he first hit the open-mike circuit as a politically incorrect Hindu character named Happy Mr. Patel. Mr. Patel didn’t go over so well, and so he left the business for a while.
“The Patel character, you could just go so far with it, you know,” Angry Bob shrugged. “Angry Bob was invented a little over a year ago. Trust me, it wasn’t a deep thing. It’s like, ‘I wanna do standup again, my name is Bob, hmm … Angry Bob.'”
He said he’s considered changing his character to Happy Bob; he once tried a character called Happy Hal. “Happy Hal would come onstage and talk about things like”-here, Angry Bob kicked into a sort of herniated cartoon voice, like Kermit the Frog in the throes of a painful bowel movement-“‘Hi, you ever take a baby and take all the guts and bones out and make a handbag?’ It actually went over pretty well. You know, I may come back to that character.”
Angry Bob does have staunch supporters. “It looks like he’s really ready to break,” said George Sarris, who runs the New York City Underground Comedy Festival. “He’s got a unique angle; he can really bring it.” An audition tape that Angry Bob recorded was recently played on the Howard Stern radio show. According to Angry Bob, the show is considering him for the staff job recently vacated by Stuttering John. “I still have a shot,” he said.
Later on that same wet Tuesday, Angry Bob showed up at B3, a Lower East Side restaurant that occasionally hosts an open mike. Bob headed down steep stairs, through a thick velour curtain and into a stone basement that was strangely reminiscent of that Silence of the Lambs torture dungeon.
“Show your love, show your love for Angry Bob!” Angry Bob bounced onto the stage amidst a polite smattering of applause from 20 or so people. “I started my own religion!” he growled. “Cholesterol-ianity! Our god is Pop-n-Fresh!”
Then something sort of amazing: a couple of genuine laughs. Angry Bob continued, “Yeah, he was poked in the stomach and giggled for our sins.” More laughs.
“And we’ve got our holy trinity-breakfast, lunch and dinner!”
For a moment, a split-second really, Angry Bob’s voice became a shade less gruff. The crowd was actually laughing.
“We’ve got our own sacred houses of worship: They’re white, and they resemble castles.” Angry Bob lifted both arms high and flicked all 10 thick fingers wide toward the ceiling. He walked off the stage to thunderous applause.