Frazer Smith Wants You to Hurt Yourself
Northern Lights • Southern Exposure
David Gillerman and Gary Pearlson
Bay Area Magazine, January 19, 1979, page 58
- Editor’s note: Frazer Smith’s tenure at KROQ was terminated just as we went to press. But his wacky comedy will continue in his stage act, and perhaps on future airwaves.
Los Angeles — “Rock and roll” is more than merely a label for a musical style; it also connotes a certain spirit, a certain attitude which is hard to define but easy to identify. James Dean was rock and roll. Andy Warhol is rock and roll. Some may even argue that Charles Bronson is rock and roll, at least on a Ted Nugent level. And Frazer Smith, although he’s a comedian, also embodies all the vitality and insanity that is rock and roll.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that unlike most comedians who play the traditional comedy venues, Smith has been performing as an opening act for rock groups (including an appearance before 7,000 at a recent Talking Heads concert at UCLA).
“I really enjoy the energy of a rock audience,” says Smith. “It always seems to affect me — playing to a lively crowd just increases my own intensity”
Smith’s recent live performances are not his only connection with rock fans; for almost a year now he has had a very popular weekend show on KROQ, in which he combines high energy music (Sex Pistols, Cheap Trick, The Ramones, etc.) with his own high energy comedy. However, whereas most DJs serve as filler between music sets, Smith uses the music as filler between his comedy routines.
And indeed, the reason that a growing number of listeners tune in regularly is to be entertained by their “main boy with the joy toy,” their “master blaster,” their twisted hero who exhorts them not to “get down and boogie,” but to “scratch glass and turn blue.” Smith’s popularity from his radio show is such that the most loyal of fans even have a Frazer Smith T-shirt which is emblazoned with the inspirational motto, “Hurt Yourself,” and comes with a “get laid guarantee.” (He now has a Hurt Yourself #2 with a double get laid guarantee.)
Several features popularized on Smith’s radio show have also become a part of his live act. The main carry over is Smith’s persona — that of a superstar comedian who commonly cavorts with the likes of Tiegs and Ronstadt, and who casually hangs out with Sinatra and Carson.
“Yeah, Carson was at my Christmas party a couple of years ago,” Smith matter-of-factly tells the audience, “but he embarrassed the hell out of me — he got drunk and threw up all over the sidewalk.”
Other delightfully farfetched incidents are commonplace during the “Frazer Smith Power News,” an hourly item on his radio show and a a favorite at his live shows. While a news format in itself is hardly innovative, Smith deals with the news in a unique way. His news stories are always absurd, often involving bizarre juxtapositions of famous names and current events (such as his report from Kingstown, Guyana, where 900 hostages were reportedly being held by comedian Alan King). He also likes to put himself in the action, appearing here and there as interviewee, such as “A four-alarm fire ravaged LA today, and Fire Chief Frazer Smith reported …” or “Noted recluse Frazer Smith was on the scene and was heard to say …”
Frazer also used his program to promote his campaign for governor, replete with solicitations for contributions. His campaign promises included “a Betamax in every car, a Cadillac in every swimming pool, a rattlesnake in every mailbox,” and that he would lower the age of consent to 12.
Perhaps Smith’s wildest creation is his fictitious sponsors. He began plugging their outrageous products on his radio show, and subsequently included them in his stand-up routine. Among the notable products are Valium Cigarettes (“They’ll make you forget problems you never thought you had”), Transvestite Cigars (“You never know they’re there until you take them home”), and Killer Shrew Late Night Rock and Roll Butter.
Although Smith’s unconventional humor is just beginning to gain widespread recognition in Los Angeles, he had quite a following in Detroit, where his comedy career began. In addition to having a long-running comedy radio show, he was part of a two-man comedy team, “The Professionals,” who at one point toured the Midwest with [Phil] Proctor and [Peter] Bergman (of the Firesign Theatre). His only continued connection with his home town is his avid devotion to the Detroit Tigers, whose games he vowed to broadcast this season. He never did, perhaps only because it would have meant a conflict of interest since he was already coach of the Rams.
When he came to Los Angeles, Smith joined forces with Phil Austin (another ex-Firesigner) and Michael C. Gwynne (an actor/comedian) [IMDB]. Together they comprised The Hollywood Niteshift, an improvisational comedy show which ran for about a year-and-a-half on KROQ. He was offered his own show while still part of the Niteshift; for a while, he did both, but eventually left to devote more time to his own program.
As for his future plans, Smith has high aspirations.
“I’d like to play Caesar’s Palace, host Saturday Night Live, and guest host The Tonight show,” says Smith, not totally tongue-in-cheek. On a more immediate level, he is currently talking with several labels about a record deal, and there is also the possibility of a weekly television show.
In the meantime, awaiting stardom, Smith plans to continue with his radio show and to play as many live gigs as possible.
“It’s only rock and roll,” he laughs, “but I like it.”