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Stand up and laugh with dear old dad.

Byline: Paul Denison The Register-Guard

It was 3 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, and stand-up comedian Milt Abel was on the road to an important gig: a family vacation deep in the heart of Texas.

He and his 9-year-old son, Noah, were driving from Dallas to San Antonio to meet his wife, Janie, and their two daughters, 11-year-old Kelsey and 6-year-old Ellery, who had taken the train down from Portland. The Abels live in Canby.

For a hustling breadwinner who's away from home more than 30 weeks a year, a get-together with his wife's side of the family should be all pleasure, right? But it's a safe bet that his vacation also will provide comedy material for Abel to use as one of Four Stand-Up Dads, who will perform in Eugene on Saturday, the day before Father's Day.

Asked if he and his wife would take the kids to see the Alamo, he indicated that was highly unlikely.

"We generally go from household to household," he said. "But if we had family living at the Alamo, we'd visit them there."

The other f-word: family

Abel wasn't always a family man. When he was learning his trade in San Francisco comedy clubs back in the 1980s, he was out late "seven nights a week year after year," he says. "I would hang out with other comics, and that was my social life."

But he says he has always been a clean comic. "Even when a club owner would give me the green light to use the f-word, I rarely did."

Abel says he has always been an admirer of the clean comics. "If you tell a joke that you don't respect, and you get no response, you're left standing there and the wind will pass right through you."

About a year and a half ago, Abel got a call from his friend Dan St. Paul, "a very good clean comic," who had been asked to put together a stand-up comedy show at Villa Montalva, a performing and visual arts center in Saratoga, Calif., near San Jose.

"It was a wine-and-cheese kind of place, and they needed something that would fit in with wine and cheese," Abel said.

St. Paul also recruited Tim Bedore, another friend from their San Francisco days, and Kelly McDonald, whom Abel had met on a cruise ship eight or nine years ago. As the Four Stand-Up Dads, they have done about a dozen shows together, Abel says, while maintaining "healthy individual careers."

The dads promote themselves as providers of "comedy for parents ... and those who have them," warning that their "material may not be suitable for those tattooed or pierced."

In a brief promotional video, the four men joke about:

Snacking on Costco samples (`dim sum for white trash'), gaining weight (`I'm not fat, but I'm a cylinder now').

The dining-out art of "yelling at the top of your lungs without the people at the next table hearing you."

Voracious vacuum cleaners that lunge for the drapes and eat rugs.

A baby with a bean in her butt.

Mother-child communication that sounds like an episode of "Flipper" to a puzzled dad.

And a wife giving birth by Caesarean section with dad at her side: `She's saying this is the most wonderful experience of my life, and I'm saying `How the hell are you still alive?' '

St. Paul and McDonald have one kid apiece, Bedore has two and Abel has three, so they're never at a loss for domestic material.

And they have the experience to make the most of it. Ranging in age from mid-40s to 51, they've spent a few years learning how to make people laugh.

The genesis of clean comedy

St. Paul was born and raised in San Francisco, the black sheep in a family of waiters, cooks and chef. He was half of the duo of Murphy-St.Paul, then went solo and made the finals of the San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition.

He's been on "An Evening at the Improv," has opened for Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling, appeared in the movie "Flubber" with Robin Williams and has created his own one-man play, "Outer Mission, Middle Class - The Diary of an Immigrant's Son." He lives in Redwood City, Calif.

Bedore started out in radio, and he still keeps his hand in the medium with his "Vague but True" commentary feature on Minnesota Public Radio's Peabody Award-winning "Marketplace" program. He's been seen, or hopes he has, on Comedy Central, NBC, Fox, Showtime and A&E. He lives in Los Angeles.

McDonald hails from Genesee, N.Y., but started his comedy career in Las Vegas, where he now resides. He's appeared on the Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows and has opened for Steve Allen and Seinfeld.

His bio modestly notes that "due to the extraordinarily non-offensive nature of his show," he's a favorite among convention planners.

Abel was born in Washington, D.C., but his family was smart enough to trek west "in a covered station wagon" when he was 1 year old. As a student at San Jose State, he would sit in calculus class thinking up jokes. Then he took an acting class and "didn't think about calculus for even a minute."

Hooked on the two-day high he would get from performing at open mikes, Abel decided to become a comedian.

"I really wanted to go to Paris and become a mime," he said, "but Paris was $5,000 away and San Francisco was $50 away." So off he went.

Years later, Abel's wife made a train stop in Eugene on her way from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C., and decided that Oregon would be a beautiful place to live.

They have a "beautiful old house" in Canby. Of course, he's not there that much, but he says "I'm home 24 hours a day when I'm off work. And my wife gets to come with me on cruises and so forth, and sometimes we have a night out in Eugene.

`There are trade-offs."

Paul Denison can be reached at 338-2323 or pdenison@ guardnet.com.

COMEDY PREVIEW

Four Stand-Up Dads

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: McDonald Theatre, 1010 Willamette St.

How much: $25 at the McDonald and TicketsWest outlets

CAPTION(S):

The Dads - (from left) Kelly McDonald, Dan St. Paul, Tim Bedore and Milt Abel - strive to be as clean as a new sweater.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Fatherhood is funny to four wise guys who do comedy for parents
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 18, 2004
Words:1066
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
Next Article:Pre, A to Z.


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