Film Spotlight: Schmo Business

An Akron/Canton native currently living in Pittsburgh, Michael "Zombo" Devine is a jack(ass) of all trades. He played in "nutty" bands like King Dapper Combo, the Surfaholics and the Graveyard Rockers. He was also on a nationally touring comedy team in the '80s/'90s and worked as a longtime radio DJ at WAPS. And now, with his new documentary film, Schmo Business, he can add "director" to his resume. The movie chronicles his career as a comic.

"It all started after graduating high school and all I wanted to do was comedy," he says via phone from his Pittsburgh home when asked about how he got his start as a comic. "I had this horrible computer job where I worked midnights. Computers were the size of whole floors. They looked they were from The Flintstones. I got this comedy bug and would go to the Cleveland Comedy Club. I would go there every Sunday and do their amateur night. I would get booed off the stage. I just gave up, so I took improv classes and put some plays together."

In the '80s, comedy clubs started springing up and Devine's plays morphed into Those Generics comedy team. He would take this Second City-like show on the road and had a "nice little career" playing the crappiest clubs in the country. Schmo Bizness is "a journey back to the cultural phenomenon, the Comedy Boom of 1980s when everyone under the age of 30 still living at home or mooching off a girlfriend was a standup comedian." He also describes it as "an odd chronicle of Those Generics Comedy Team," his 15-year national touring comedy team.

"In the film, we see a reunion of a comedy troupe that pared down to a comedy duo that worked in the trenches of grade-B comedy clubs who haven't seen each other in nearly 30 years," he says. "The original four members got together and we started talking, laughing and rehashing wild road stories we had long forgotten. I didn't know who to make a movie but being a film buff, I caught on quickly. I used iPads for multiple camera angles. Changed that new footage to grainy black and white and then interspersed the old over saturated color VHS and Betamax live footage from some of our live shows and linked it all together with a cartoon animation backstory all on iMovie. It took about six months to make."

Devine weaves together live footage and "some aspects that defy description" to make the 70-minute movie something out of the ordinary. It's had two "wild showings" at The Hollywood Theater in Dormont and the Rowhouse Cinema in Pittsburgh and will screen at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 14, at the Nightlight Cinema in Akron. Admission is $10.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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