RED BANK – He may live in California now, but Bobby Collins will always be an East Coast guy at heart.
The stand-up comedian understands Jersey humor, which is why audiences keep returning to see him whenever he appears in Red Bank.
Collins is bringing that Jersey humor back to the Count Basie Theatre on Friday, Feb. 28, and he plans to riff on everything from Super Storm Sandy to Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal.
“Performing in Jersey is like performing in my living room,” said Collins, who was raised in Queens, N.Y. “Jersey people are down- to-earth. They’re good people to hang out with.”
Some of his jokes are about the types of people he encounters living in Santa Monica.
“I love living there,” he said. “I do a lot of TV work, and the weather is really good. But the people there are not that high up on Brain Mountain. If they couldn’t memorize lines, they wouldn’t have jobs.”
Comedy has been in his genes since birth, it seems. His parents, who were big fans of Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton and other comedians of that era, named him after Bob Hope.
“We were very poor,” Collins said. “My father worked for an insurance company and my mother was a waitress. The only thing I noticed they ever enjoyed was when they were sitting on the couch laughing at comedians on TV.”
While he was studying history at the University at Buffalo, Collins asked his father what he should do for a living. “People like you,” his father told him, “you should go into show business.”
The path wasn’t quite so direct. Collins taught high school history for a year, but he said, “I realized I needed a bigger audience.”
He went to work in the garment business, where he became vice president at Calvin Klein, but wasn’t happy there either, so he left to pursue a career in comedy.
He believes audiences relate to him because he tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to talk about serious subjects such as the government or same-sex marriage. “Why would I care if a boy is with a boy or a girl is with a girl?” he said. “You should worry if they come home with a goat.”
Collins, who has opened for entertainers such as Cher, Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton, keeps his observational humor pretty clean. He doesn’t have much use for comedians who rely on foul language and raunchy jokes to get their laughs.
“I don’t sell out all these theaters by being a dirty comic,” he said. “Parents bring their kids to my shows.”
Speaking of kids, Collins and his wife have three of their own. One is a special-needs child, and part of the proceeds from his recently published first book will go to his child’s camp, Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Vt. The book is filled with life advice, Bobby Collins-style. Always take your own car, don’t marry the same person twice, and don’t get out of the shower to pee. “It will make you laugh and it will make you cry,” he said. “I talk about life and tell the truth. People like the truth.”
Bobby Collins, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank. Tickets are $39.50, $29.50 and $19.50 at www.countbasietheatre.org or 732-842-9000.