The Midwestern vaudevillian

Comedian and actor John Bush never lost the entertaining bug he caught as a child.

Spencer Doar

What: John Bush

When: 8 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Where: Joke Joint Comedy Club, 801 Sibley Memorial Highway, St. Paul

Cost: $10 for the 10:30 p.m. Friday show; $15 for all other shows

Ages: 18+

 

At the end of a performance of “Triple Espresso,” a madcap dash through the lives of three performers vying for stardom, an old man approached comedian John Bush.

He swore that he’d seen a similar shadow puppet act as the one contained in the show in 1924.

It was at that moment that Bush remembered his great-grandfather entertaining him and his sister at family gatherings with shadows.

After a few queries to other family members, Bush had more background on Francis Ferguson Bush, who was part of a vaudevillian duo working the Orpheum circuit in the 1920s.

This unexpected coincidence affirmed Bush’s lifelong love of entertaining.

“I was doing skits in the neighborhood; I was in a band; I was the kid making announcements,” Bush said of growing up.

Even now, Bush jumped at the opportunity to officiate a friend’s wedding so that he could join in the spotlight.

A longtime Minnesota resident who now lays his head in Des Moines, Iowa, Bush appeared on HBO, Comedy Central, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “Law and Order.” It’s the record of a journeyman comic and actor who has skimmed the surface of success.

“[After Minnesota] I was in New York for a while, and my career just skyrocketed and sent me to Des Moines,” Bush said. “Quite frankly, it’s the perfect spot; it’s right in the middle of everything.”

But his Edina, Minn., roots stuck with him over time.

His brother and sister both still live in the Twin Cities — his brother does digital graphic workb and his sister owns a St. Paul vintage clothing store, Lula.

“When I’m back I’ll throw in more Minnesota flavor,” Bush said of his standup. “But when I travel and talk about it, people are fascinated by Minnesota everything.”

Bush recalled when the smoking ban went into effect, and he was at the Bryant Lake Bowl. A couple left, nachos still on the table. Bush and his wife ate the remainder, only to realize a few minutes later that the couple had merely stepped out for a square.

“People may have done things as bad as that, but tonight it’s not them doing it,” Bush said. “I like that aspect of comedy.”

Besides standup and acting, Bush is always working on scripts for pilots and is getting a podcast up and running. He frequently works with fellow comedian Kyle Dunnigan, now the beau of Sarah Silverman.

In many respects, not much has changed since Bush left Edina.

“You know, Edina — Every Day I Need Attention,” Bush said. “But it really is that way for me.”