You knew if “People Are Strange” started playing in a darkened showroom, Strange would soon walk to the stage. Unassuming in his presence, he would make his way to the mic stand, and only after the clapping died into the clinking of glasses and the music faded to the fearful silence only existent between comedy club walls, Strange would speak. “Let’s slow this shit down, shall we?”
Dallas comedian Craig Coleman remembers Strange as both a colleague and a friend. It’s an easy thing for comedians to bond while under the same roof, primed to take on a waiting audience, but the two men grew closer over the 12 years they knew each other, becoming extended family.
“One year I wasn't able to go home for Thanksgiving, and Bob and Glenda said I couldn't spend the holiday alone so they invited me for dinner,” Craig says. “They welcomed me like family, and it was just a great gesture of their caring. That's just how gracious they both are. My heart breaks for Glenda because she was at every show he did. That is commitment.”
Any stand-up comic will tell you that 90% of being a comedian is sitting in a room waiting to go onstage. Time is passed by exchanging jokes that would make an audience shudder in horror but are perfectly designed for numb joke-tellers. Acts are examined, torn apart and reconstructed before being presented the exact same way they always were. Strange was quick to jump in with assistance on both.
“If we were in the same room together, we were sitting together talking, usually with (comedian) Vince Quick as a third party,” Coleman says. “At the Ross Avenue Backdoor, the comics sat behind black curtains at the back of the showroom where we could watch the show. And invariably Bob and I would get each other laughing so hard Linda (Stogner) would make us go into the other room.”
Bob Strange was one of the rare, purely good, consistent things in Dallas comedy, and maybe it wasn’t always appreciated.
There’s more than a few comedians who got their first taste of being onstage in Dallas at an open mic hosted by Strange. Even if he hated your act, he would be too polite to tell you, opting to instead offer a few kind words of guidance that mostly fell on the deaf ears of the all-knowing young.
Sean Traynor, general manager of the Addison Improv, met Strange in October 2000 when he was still working as a server for the club. Traynor would go on to work with Strange for the better part of two decades — booking him on shows, watching him handle tough rooms and always ready with a waiting handshake as Strange stepped offstage.
"I worked with StrangeBob SquarePants for almost 20 years and never once was disappointed,” Traynor says. “I loved that man.”
There aren’t many constants in comedy. It’s an ever-changing dynamic where someone can be the greatest comedian of all time for 60 straight minutes, and then the audience for the next show can agree the person onstage, who two hours ago was shaking tables with laughter, is the worst they’ve ever seen. It’s a profession that can be filled with petty fighting and jealousy, a sacrifice made over two drink tickets that serve as your payment for driving an hour to do 10 minutes onstage. It can be a rough, mean, lonely business at times. But it doesn’t have to be. And Strange knew that.
Strange was a constant example of professionalism. He came in on time to every show, he did his job well with crowds that sometimes were literally worse than if you bused in convicts as a reward for good behavior, and he never complained one single time. He lacked the cruelty that a younger comedic mind can have about their peers, and he didn’t shut other people down to make himself feel bigger. He was one of the rare, purely good, consistent things in Dallas comedy, and maybe it wasn’t always appreciated.
So maybe just one more time, we can play that Doors song, raise a glass and remember Strange the way he would want to be remembered — him telling a joke about shoving weed in a dog’s ass.