FAIRBANKS — Tonight, legions of people — very hairy people — will flock to the big tent at Pioneer Park for the annual Grizzly Alaskan Contest, a highlight of Fairbanks’ Golden Days celebration.
The event kicks off with music from Earl Hughes, followed by a parade of hirsute contestants showing off hairy chests, bushy beards, crazy mustaches and some really ugly feet.
Headlining the evening will be comedian Bob Zany, who is, well, less hairy than most of his companions under the tent.
“Maybe I could win the award for most receding hairline,” he mused on Tuesday. “I could be Miss Congeniality.”
That would be an odd fit for the wry, sarcastic comedian known to many as the “insult comic,” but Zany has gone through so many strange twists and turns in his 30-year career that odds are he could pull it off, trademark cigar in hand. It’s just showbiz, bay-bee.
Wielding a merciless wit, Zany wings it on stage, preferring to play off the audience rather than a set joke list. It’s a skill he’s honed since his first less-than-successful appearance on national television.
In 1976, a 15-year-old Zany was featured on “The Gong Show.” He read his jokes from a piece of paper and only made it halfway through his routine when he was netted by a man dressed as a nun and pulled offstage. Since then, he has appeared on more than 100 national TV shows and is a regular guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Zany has a featured spot in Jordan Brady’s Slamdance smash, “I Am Comic,” airing on Showtime.
In Fairbanks, his “Zany Report” is featured weekly on the “The X-Rock Morning Show with Glenner.”
Zany spends most of the year on the road, doing standup, hosting roasts and nurturing new comedic talent such as Kevin Jordan and Nia Peeples.
He can also be seen on the big screen, where he has had co-starring roles in the movies “The Informant” and “Joe Dirt.” His most recent film is “23 Minutes to Sunrise,” in which he stars with Peeples and Eric Roberts. The movie was shown last week at the St. Louis Film Festival, with Zany’s performance getting strong reviews.
He also recently filmed his 25th television pilot, playing a character named Big Bubba Baume.
Zany has worked with just about everyone and done just about everything during his three decades in show business, except become a household name. His ride on the joke-telling roller coaster is chronicled in the documentary, “Close But No Cigar: Bob Zany,” by Jay Kanzler, which has gotten rave reviews. Zany said it will be released this fall.
Zany also will perform Saturday night in Delta Junction. It’s his third trip to Interior Alaska in as many years, and he’s eager to spend time basking under the midnight sun.
“I’m looking forward to being part of that scene,” he said.
If you go
What: Grizzly Alaskan Contest, featuring comedian Bob Zany
When: Friday, July 20, 6:30 p.m. Earl Hughes; 7:30 Grizzly Alaskan Contest; 8:30 Jerry and Glenner; 9 p.m. Bob Zany tonight
Where: Pioneer Park
Tickets: $12 in advance; $15 at the door; 21 and older
Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.