The Insane Genius Of Heywood Banks
The first time I saw Heywood Banks (aka Stuart Mitchell), it was in the late eighties at Wiley’s Comedy Club at it’s original location on Patterson Rd. right next to The Pony Keg. I had no clue who he was…I just had free tickets. I can’t remember anything about the opening act, but when Heywood appeared on the stage, I knew that things were going to be different. Not different as in “life changing” or radically cutting edge. More like the way one might describe that weird cousin that never leaves his room, is continually clothed in dirty sweatpants and a Transformers T-shirt and keeps a collection of flies that he has caught because they’re his “friends.”
Heywood bounded up onstage in a glaringly mismatched outfit that would make a 1970′s used car salesman jealous. His horn rimmed glasses glinted in the spotlight and across his iridescent green and yellow plaid sport coat. He held within his hand a well worn, yet shiny guitar and a moment of mild trepidation filled my soul as I wondered what form of musical yodeling I would have to endure. Remember; this was the time of Weird Al and Dr. Gonzo and everyone that could play four chords and did not possess the sex appeal and/or impenetrable liver needed to become a rock star fancied themselves a comedian instead.
Luckily, my fears quickly melted away as Heywood launched into a blurred performance that was absolutely relentless. The comedic hits rained down so fast that your brain couldn’t keep up. You found yourself laughing at a subtle play on words or a particularly astute cultural reference from two songs back and ended up kicking your brain and ears into overdrive, feverishly attempting to catch up with Heywood’s maniacal pace.
Years later, at Wiley’s new location in the Oregon District, I was standing outside smoking when I noticed a disheveled man extricating himself from behind the wheel of his car, which was loaded floor to ceiling with boxes, junk and a precariously placed toaster that was inexplicably jammed against the back window. The man fumbled about with this box and then that one, his hair a wild, untamed gray banner blowing in the wind. As he stood up and pulled at his goatee, I was struck by the fact that if you slammed a Confederate uniform onto his thin frame, he would make a perfect performer for a Civil War reenactment. I felt a pang of shame as I stood there, entertaining such thoughts about someone who clearly had to be homeless. I looked on with pity as he dove into the car, burrowing towards the back to retrieve, of all things, the toaster!
All things became clear as he wrenched his way out of the car and yelled to Rob Haney, the current owner of Wiley’s Comedy Niteclub, “Do you have two forks?”
A musical genius does require his instrument.
Heywood’s last tenure at Wiley’s Comedy Niteclub was a largely sold out affair, with night after night of wall to wall people crowding Wiley’s walls laughing hysterically at Heywood’s musical musings and quick comedic wit. Offstage, Heywood possesses a very amiable personality and has an interest in a wide variety of subjects, including history and prognostications of future events. Night after night, throngs of fans would line up to get an autograph or just to get their picture taken with the uniquely clothed comedian, taking with them a token of a perfect evening of comedy.
To be able to witness for yourself the frenzied freestyle comedy of Heywood Banks, Wiley’s Comedy Niteclub will be hosting a series of special shows featuring the comedian on Thursday October 28th at 7:30 pm and for two shows on Friday October 29th at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Admission is $15 on Thursday and $20 for Friday’s shows. Since this is a special show, no passes, coupons or offers will be accpted. Heywood is best known for his songs Toast!, Big Butter Jesus as well as a score of other tunes, which you can check out on his website at www.heywoodbanks.com .