Top of the Morning, April 10, 2014
On Saturday at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, the funniest guy in C-U will open his Comedy Cafe for the final time.
Then it's on to replace David Letterman.
"I find it interesting though that after we announced our final Comedy Cafe, that Leno left his show and Letterman announced his retirement," Tony Clements said. "Also, the TV shows 'Psych' and 'How I Met Your Mother' decided this would be their final seasons, too.
"If there's one pet peeve I have, it's copycats. Then again maybe Champaign-Urbana is the center of the universe. I hope we didn't cause a panic."
The Clements Comedy Cafe has been a community staple for 25 years. Clements — a former Illini, Campus Rec Hall of Famer and volunteer extraordinaire — was kind enough to check in before delivering his final batch of one-liners.
25 years ago, what were you joking about?
My days at St. Monica's Catholic Grade School, my football playing days, Southern language (I'm originally from North Carolina) and the lessons learned from flying on small commuter planes.
When you need a crowd to laugh, you talk about ...
Things that are real in my life (embellished). The same things that have probably happened to many in my audience. The real stuff creates the most visual picture and is easier to deliver and spontaneously expand upon.
Who makes you laugh?
Bill Cosby; Richard Pryor; Kenan Thompson's skit work; the writers of 'Monk' and 'The Big Bang Theory' and the two Debs.
What's kept you in C-U all these years?
This community has always been very accepting of what I do. There's a lot of creative talent, thinking and opportunities in town and the ease at which you can access each makes this the perfect outlet for my comedy and my ideas.
Will there be a Tony Clements statue next to Ebert's outside the Virginia?
That would be nice but probably not. When it comes to those worthy of a stature at the Virginia, there's a long line that probably doesn't include me. An appreciative and satisfied audience has always been my ultimate reward.
Finally, why stop at No. 25?
You always know that any good idea will eventually come to an end. When I started the cafe with friends — Mike Haile, Bruce Swartz, Lee Feldman and Thom Moore — we never expected it to run for 25 years. We think the show is still relevant and still fun to do and we want it always remembered that way. Since there were no guarantees that we could produce the same quality for another five years, until a 30th anniversary, we thought it would be best to end it this chapter now, with a celebration.