There are only a few hard and fast rules in standup comedy. Never tell a joke you didn't write. Never tell jokes standing on the same level as the audience. Don't do comedy outside. Don't do comedy in broad daylight.
Twin Cities favorite Dwight York is going to break those last two rules this week when he becomes one of the few comedians to grace the stage at Sturgis, the motorcycle mega-rally in South Dakota. York will be performing multiple sets every day throughout the next week, including two appearances on the main stage and one during the notorious Miss Buffalo Chip pageant (you know, the one John McCain generously offered to enter his wife Cindy into last year).
"I'm doing comedy at one of the biggest outdoor parties in the world. It's an experiment whose success is very much in doubt," York says. "I'm doing comedy for an audience whose attention needs to be captured. I'm just gonna do my thing. It's not time to reinvent the wheel. I'm distilling my best biker-friendly jokes into a 10 or 15 minute set. The act I've written is uniquely suited for doing this."
That it is. York describes himself as "the Larry the Cable guy of the blue-collar druggie set," which is accurate, but not entirely fair. He's a one-liner comic whose absurdist, sometimes trippy approach to the non-sequitur packs a broad range of material and some bizarre concepts into an accessible format. (Some random York lines -- what other kind is there? -- include "Had to take a drug test the other day. It came back negative, which means my dealer's got some explaining to do," and "I chase storms. I'm no weather geek, just a really ambitious looter.") He tells his joke with a distinctive rhythm that carries one into the next without the aid of literal segues, and when he gets a crowd rolling, the laughs come in evenly spaced waves.
York's distinctive show is nicely captured on his new CD, aptly titled Quickies, from Minneapolis's own Stand Up! Records. It's as densely packed with jokes as a disc can get, and graced with an excellent caricature of York by Mad magazine great Mort Drucker. York credits Stand Up! impresario Dan Schlissel with not only going to the extra mile, but giving his outlook a much-needed boost. "Having a guy Schlissel believe in me is crucial, and having a CD that I'm happy with, a great product to sell, really boosts my confidence."
That's essential, says York, a self-professed neurotic offstage, adding, "I think I'm going through a mid-life crisis. I say think because I'm not sure how long I'll live. I've never been this broke, or this excited."
But he's also hopeful. "At Sturgis, I'm staying in an area reserved for entertainers, which means musicians, which means groupies. Maybe I can be someone's consolation prize."