For the past few years, old friends and veterans of the Twin Cities comedy scene Chris Bliss and Josh Weinstein have returned to Minneapolis to do a rather unique show. They both take the stage, but take turns doing material. They also comment on the other’s act and jokes as each performs.
Bliss began as juggler before turning to standup (he juggled to close his comedy shows). About the time Josh Weinstein started doing comedy, he was hired to write on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The two were thrown together on a tour of one-nighters through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and quickly became friends.
City Pages conferenced called Bliss and Weinstein to discuss their forthcoming appearance at the Acme Comedy Co.
Why don’t you guys do this type of show in other cities?
Josh Weinstein: Pretty much the only club standup I do is in Minneapolis these days. I do sets in L.A, but the only time I go out and do a full set in a club, with rare exception, is at Acme. I’ve found the most fun way to do it is this show with Chris.
Chris Bliss: Same for me, especially the fun part.
What’s been keeping you busy these days Josh?
JW: I’ve been making feature documentaries the past few years. So, I’m currently editing a documentary that involves the Acme and Louis Lee, the club’s owner, who took three Acme favorites on a tour of Asia. It’s about that tour and subsequently the sort of burgeoning comedy scenes around Asia.
What happened with your one about Michael Des Barres?
JW: I haven’t found distribution for it yet, but I’m in the process of doing that in earnest. We’re still working on it, and I’m optimistic.
Chris, you’ve been busy with the Bill of Rights Monument Project [a non-profit that aims to put a monument to the Bill of Rights in civic spaces around the country] and had the big Let Freedom Laugh concert in Washington back in February. How’s the project going?
CB: It’s been great. That concert is still airing on Access TV, and will be through the end of April periodically. And I’m working on the next set of events and the next dates for our project. I’ve been working with the Dick Gregory foundation on a new comedy tribute to Dick Gregory which we’re planning to do in Birmingham, Alabama, to help fund a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Alabama state capital in Montgomery. I am now working on a bi-partisan basis with legislators and the Alabama historical commission down there.
JW: So basically audiences at the Acme can expect a fucking TED talk. [laughs]
CB: A TED talk about the Bill of Rights and documentary filmmaking is incredibly entraining stuff.
Hey, why not a documentary on the Bill of Rights Project?
JW: Chris will point out to me there’s not a lot of buyers out there.
CB: When has that ever stopped you, Weinstein? Josh and I have been working on a variety of projects for so long. In particular, the work I’m proudest of is an autobiographical piece that Josh co-wrote with me that was just a great experience. We go back a long way, but I’ll tell you what, it’s more like cage death match when we get onstage together than it is like a TED Talk.
JW: Yeah, we put the affection aside.
How did you guys first end up working together?
JW: We had a couple of mutual friends, but I literally met Chris in my car. I was the middle act on a tour of one-nighters. I recall it was Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, Lake Geneva, Iron Mountain, Michigan, and Maplewood for the weekend.
CB: And it was known as the Cheese Curd tour at the time, I believe.
JW: I was an 18-year-old standup and Chris wouldn’t believe I was 18. He actually carded me in my car to prove I was that young. But we became close friends in the span of four days and that has pretty much continued ever since.
CB: I’m no longer twice as old as you as a result.
Those memories are still vivid?
JW: Yeah, the funniest thing on that trip was that we played in Lake Geneva, and it’s all coming back to me.
CB: In the middle of a cornfield, literally.
JW: In the middle of a cornfield, and it was owned by this old couple, really nice people, and they put us up in the apartment above the club in the cornfield and they offered me a drink on our first night there. I said, “Well, to be honest I’m only 18, so I’m not allowed.” They said to me, “Your staying here so that makes us your guardians.” So, they just started pouring liquor down my throat. I was a pretty good drinker for my age. They didn’t card me, only Chris did.
CB: I only carded you because of the damned reference base. How does an 18 year old know this stuff?
JW: I’d already been on Mystery Science by that point, so my reference chops were pretty solid.
How were they so strong? Hanging out with [MST3K writer/actor] Frank Coniff?
JW: I had the TV on my whole entire life growing up and I soaked it up completely. Once I started hanging out with older people it was very important to me to fill any gap I saw exposed. So, if I didn’t know something that came up in conversation, I made sure I knew it next time.
Did Josh strike you as an old soul?
CB: He struck me as, and remains today, one of the best joke writers that I’ve ever run into. I mean he’s got four punchlines before I even finish the premise.
JW: I feel like I’m dead here! Chris is a very nice guy too. I really like and admire him a lot, but I can’t gush in that kind of detail.
IF YOU GO:
Chris Bliss and Josh Weinstein
Acme Comedy Co.
708 North First St., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more info, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com.