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Inside Politics

Bomb threats at GOP laugh fest

But conservative comedians don't back off liberal bashing

By Susan Pettit

"The Right Stuff," a GOP comedy show at New York's The Laugh Factory, went on Wednesday despite two bomb threats.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Leave it to a group of comedians to find humor in a bomb scare.

At a time of heightened security in the nation, increased tension in Manhattan over the Republican convention and violence in the Middle East and Russia, a band of politically conservative comedians sought comic relief from the anxiety provoked by bomb threats to their venue here.

Comedian "Big Daddy" Jeff Wayne of the pro-GOP, John Kerry-bashing comedy show "The Right Stuff" said that when he heard there was a bomb at The Laugh Factory near Times Square Wednesday, he immediately thought, "Oh no, Al Franken is here."

"Franken used to be funny until he got angry," Wayne said of the liberal satirist.

It was the second bomb threat of the day at The Laugh Factory.

Club owner Jamie Masada said the first came from a caller who threatened to blow up Jews.

Masada, a native Israeli who has been a U.S. citizen for 20 years, said, "It's all about the GOP comedy."

The four policemen who arrived on the scene told him it was most likely a crank caller, he said.

Later, just minutes before the 7 p.m. performance of "The Right Stuff, " police closed the street in front of the club to investigate a report of a suspicious package nearby.

The show was delayed 40 minutes pending possible evacuation of the club. Masada appeared anxious, wringing his hands and pacing the floor. But no one opted to leave.

After Masada assured the mostly conservative audience of about 50 that the show would go on, Wayne called for a round of applause.

"Let's hear it for Jamie Masada, the greatest club owner since Jack Ruby," he said.

The show took off from there, poking fun at the hard left, political correctness, liberal "conventional wisdom," established media, Democrats and bomb threats against comedy clubs.

Wayne, a self-proclaimed "white trash" comedian, went off on gun control, capital punishment, Bill Clinton ("the greatest white trash person of all") and controversial filmmaker Michael Moore.

"If you believe Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' President Bush has done everything but kill Laci Petersen," Wayne said.

Wayne said, "There's not a lot of bashing in the show. There's a difference between seeing humor in something and a cheap joke.

The rules for joining "The Right Stuff" are simple and clear, he said: "One, you must be a Republican; a conservative; a Reagan Democrat; or a right-leaning Libertarian. Because if you're inauthentic, the audience will know. And two, you must be funny."

The Right Stuff played to a receptive audience, which registered its approval with laughter and applause.

Most audience members acknowledged being Republican or conservative. Only one claimed to be a Libertarian -- code word for "pot smoker," Wayne teased.

The troupe's arrival in New York was timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention and was listed in the convention's master calendar of party-sanctioned events.

Other comics who took the stage Wednesday included Julia Gorin, a Fox News and Wall Street Journal contributor from New York City. She's Jewish, a Russian immigrant, lives in Manhattan and votes Republican, a combination that makes her "less of a minority than an extraterrestrial," she said.

Much of her humor centered on U.S. policies toward the Middle East.

"If the cost of the war in Iraq bothers the Democrats, they shouldn't think of it as war," she said. "They should think of it as an expensive social program."

The third comic was Chris Warren of ultra-liberal Eugene, Oregon, "a town that tried to make Christmas illegal a few years ago," he noted.

Warren recently returned from entertaining American troops in the Middle East. "If there's any doubt about what U.S. technology can do, check out Cher," he said.

Warren's routine ran the gamut from the war in Iraq and the Middle East in general to environmentalists, Hollywood, Barbra Streisand and America's obsession with warning labels.

The comedy troupe and tour are the brainchild of Eric Peterkofsky, a Los Angeles-based television writer/producer with conservative leanings.

Conservative comedy isn't new, but it is under-represented, he said. The general political view in stand-up comedy is that Republicans are stupid or crazy, he said. "But clearly, half the people in this country disagree with that."

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