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Comic Gary Owen at the Improv

What brings a “theater” comic like Gary Owen — a screen actor, a regular on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, and the guy Ebony magazine recently proclaimed Black America’s Favorite White Comic — to the Cleveland Improv? “The check,” he tells us by phone, followed by a polite chuckle. “Really, I’ve been on tour so long now (with Shaquille O’Neal’s All-Star Comedy Jam) that I just needed a break. People don’t realize it, but comedy clubs are like gyms for standups: They’re where we can work things out, try out new bits — and that’s pretty exciting!” That explains the “why” of Owen’s six shows at the West Bank comedy club this weekend. As for the “what,” the Cincinnati resident says he’s working out new material that comes straight from his personal life. “I’m a white guy married to a black woman, with kids who look nothing like me. Believe me, that provides plenty of material!” Still, Owen insists his comedy isn’t about race. “It’s more a cultural thing — like a Jewish guy married to a Catholic woman. I guess I just don’t conform to the usual perceptions: I don’t know why racial things are often taboo. I’m just talking about my life, and what I go through as a married man. That’s about 70 percent of my material; the rest is sports and current events.” Owen’s True Story DVD drops on April 8. He also has a new Showtime comedy special premiering in early May. Tonight, he’s at the Improv beginning at 7:30 p.m. Additional shows go down on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets range from $17 to $20, and a dinner & show package will cost you $39. Make reservations by phone, online, or at the Improv box office.

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