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BRIAN MCKIM has performed standup comedy in all 50 states. He earned a B.A. in Magazine Journalism from Temple University. Any resemblance to a living person is purely coincidental.


Brian McKim
Editor In Chief

"I Have Become Art Milner"

Every once in a while, somebody will come up to me after the show and ask me the most frequently asked question: "How did you get started doing comedy?" I give them the short answer: "I got started just like darn near everybody else: By doing open mikes." The medium answer is that an ex co-worker spoke to me at a party in 1981 and said that she was doing the open mike every Wednesday night over at the Comedy Works in Philadelphia. (It seems that everybody has a story about "a friend who told me I should try comedy." Well, she was the one in my case.) She made me promise that I would give it a shot. I eventually worked up the nerve on a Wednesday in October. I did every Wednesday for the next two years.

My fascination started two years earlier, however, when I went to a live comedy show for the first time. It was a cheap date: $2 to get in, see eight comics (eight!), give them another $2 and you could stay in your seat and see eight more! I saw a rapid-fire lineup of eight of the founding fathers of Philadelphia comedy doing 10-minute sets. Clay Heery, Mike Eagan, Rameesh Kajirian, Stuart Roberts, Sam Hollis, Bob and Bob, Ben Kurland and one other comic, whose name escapes me, put on a tremendous show in the intimate confines of the Jailhouse. The building is no longer standing. I was hooked on live comedy after that.

I went to two more live shows in the next 18 months. I saw Eagan again, Adrian Tolsch, Steve Young and Tom Wilson in two separate shows at the Comedy Works.

But what really lit a fire under me, and gave me the idea that I might have actually been funny, was a humor writing course I took at Temple University. It was Spring of 1981 and I was closing in on a degree in journalism. I found out that you could kill a couple of credits by taking a course, taught at night, on the downtown Temple campus, by a guy named Art Milner. Art was an interesting fellow who had carved out a comfortable living by doing all the things that I wanted to do: freelance article writing, hosting a radio show, writing plays, public relations, painting, writing humor and, of course teaching the writing of humor. While he was teaching the course, he was in charge of public relations for the Philadelphia Free Library. He was funny, too. He had a baritone voice and a sense of humor that was part dry, part "I'll do anything for a laugh." (It sounds odd, but it worked.) Art was great to listen to. He was what I like to call a great "Uncle Figure," not a father figure, but the guy you want to hang out with at parties at family gatherings as he spews out golf jokes or embarassing family stories. And he was, for me, a great career role model. I admired his versatility, his longevity, his insistence on doing the things he wanted to do.

An odd assortment of people took the course with me. We all took the course for different reasons. We all had to read our pieces out loud to the group. I was gratified when my essays were well-received. (The other students laughed in all the right places.) I still hear from two of the group on a semi-regular basis. They are both doing well and the humor course was a turning point for at least two of us. I started my comedy career at the aforementioned open mike just a few months later.

I remained in contact with Art Milner, too. He retired from his gig at the library. He wrote a play and he immersed himself in his impressionistic painting. A few years into my comedy odyssey, I was booked into the Comedy Works at a weekend gig and I invited Art and his wife, Norma, to come see me. He was not in the best of health, but he attended and he enjoyed the show immensely. I got a charge out of having my teacher in the audience. When we spoke after the show, he was obviously proud.

I am fuzzy on the exact dates, but Art died not too long after that. Norma sent me one of Art's prize possessions: one of those cardboard tubes you push up and down to inflate balloons with. I put it up on the mantle immediately. Oddly, it fit right in with our decor. And she also packed a copy of Art's obituary. Art Milner, war veteran, PR guy, playwright, radio host, bon vivant, raconteur and connoisseur.

Recently, I was massaging my resume. When I had it where I wanted it, I read it aloud to Traci. When I finished, she remarked "Congratulations, you've become Art Milner." I was momentarily stunned. There was much truth to her statement. I had become Art Milner. I hadn't come anywhere near the length and breadth and quality of his work, but I had become, in spirit, another Art Milner.

When I built our first web site, one of the things I had hoped to post on it was a tribute to Art. A conventional one, with a pic and a list of his accomplishments and a copy of his obit and a few reflections from me and others. I haven't gotten around to it, yet. So, until I do, this will have to do. Thanks, Art. HOME Back to the Top