Get shot, drive a supply truck from one prison to another, meet a nice lady and, on her advice, become a comic: That’s standard operating procedure for lovable comic vet Rocky LaPorte.
He’s a Chicagoan through and through, excited for the return of the Monsters of the Midway, despite his early youth in New York.
“I was a class clown, always getting into trouble,” LaPorte said.
To straighten himself out, LaPorte dropped out of high school at 16, joining the Army with papers that declared him 18.
“It was 1975. I was in the Army with all these guys who came back from ‘Nam — it taught me a lot of respect,” he said.
The Army figured out his true age before his deployment to Germany. LaPorte was honorably discharged, but not before he learned how to drive a truck, a skill he put to immediate use.
He filled his time driving trucks and working on the Chicago docks before one fateful day on his way back from a run to Milwaukee.
While driving through a bad neck of the woods, he was shot in the leg.
“After that they said, ‘We’ll put you on a better [route],’ which meant the prisons — going to places like Stateville [in] Joliet,” LaPorte said.
It was on those new runs that a woman LaPorte delivered to along his route, frequently witness to his humor, told him to test his mettle on stage.
He did so the next night.
“It was like heroin, man, these people laughing,” he said. “I was hooked.”
He’s an old-school comic, the lovechild of a union steelworker and a less manic Rodney Dangerfield, if Dangerfield had a Chicago accent and was less of a jerk onstage. LaPorte reps the image of a blue-collar village dummy with aplomb, all while weaving an undercurrent of cleverly crafted jokes.
“Some people come after the show and think I can’t add numbers, that I’m some kind of nitwit,” he said.
Now he’s in a comfortable place, frequently performing corporate events. He’s figured out how to handle those odd gatherings, aided by the fact that he doesn’t curse and is family-friendly.
But it hasn’t always been flights to St. Kitts for 30 minutes onstage and paid-for suites. In fact, it still isn’t.
“I was on ‘The Tonight Show’ five years ago, and three days later I had to fly to Pennsylvania to do somebody’s 50th anniversary,” LaPorte said. “I was in this lady’s basement, the wife was washing my clothes and I’m thinking, ‘I was on “The Tonight Show” last week.’”
What: Rocky LaPorte
When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday; 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Friday; 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Saturday; 7 p.m., Sunday
Where: Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, Level 4 East, Mall of America