Stop me if you've heard this one: Three Minnesota comedians come home for the holidays ... and they have to work.
Sucks for them, good news for us. New Year's Eve is a huge night for stand-up comedy, and a trio of Twin Cities favorites are back in town with gigs at three different venues. Louie Anderson, Lizz Winstead and Jeff Cesario all launched their comedy careers in Minnesota in the 1980s. It wasn't long before each moved away for bigger and better things.
"I couldn't ask for a better place to do stand-up," the L.A.-based Cesario said. "That's why you see people like Louie, myself and Lizz coming back. It's because the crowds are great and we have fond memories of working there."
Recently, I asked all three to talk about their Minnesota roots and what it means to come home to a deflated Metrodome, political turmoil and tons of snow.
Hometown: Kenosha, Wis.
Career highlights: Multiple stand-up specials, two Emmys for "Dennis Miller Live," lead writer on NBC's "The Marriage Ref."
Currently: Lives in Los Angeles, working on a book about his daughter and several movie projects.
Q You grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin?
A Just when you mentioned the word, I got a chill up my spine. It's like a 'Nam flashback. It's scary because now magazines say [Kenosha] is one of the 10 best places to raise your child. Are you kidding me? Back then it was all factories, and Lake Michigan was polluted beyond belief. You could literally walk across the harbor on dead fish.
Q What was the first thing you thought when you saw the deflated Metrodome?
A Honestly, I thought, Wow, that's a lot of snow. Then, when I watched [the Vikings] on Monday night, I thought: Even when they play outdoors the roof caves in on them.
Q Have you introduced your 2-year-old to a Minnesota winter yet?
A I had some [shows] here shortly after she was born. We just threw her into the fire, ironically -- or rather, into the snow drift. We bought her a good parka. We might do a little trip to my folks soon. They still live in Kenosha. They're 88, so I'm not sure they still know they're living in Kenosha, but that's where they are.
Q What are your fond memories of Minnesota?
A One of the fondest is when Louie and I lived together in south Minneapolis. Louie had this classic [car] -- I think it was a '73 Mercury. We couldn't afford a plug-in, so in order to keep the engine block warm we would light charcoal and put it on one of those sledding saucers that we just ripped off from some kid. We put it under the car at midnight and then whoever woke up first the next morning would pull the charcoal out and make sure the car hadn't lit on fire.
Career highlights: Co-creator of "The Daily Show" and co-founder of Air America Radio.
Currently: Lives in Brooklyn and is a regular progressive pundit on MSNBC.
Q Growing up in a conservative Minnesota household must have been great.
A My parents were conservative Catholics. But I would step out my door and be confronted by liberal Lutherans everywhere I went. So there was always a reason to question my parents. The one thing my dad said was, "I raised you kids to have opinions and I forgot to tell you they were supposed to be mine."
Q Have you just been dying to get back to Minnesota to lampoon our latest recount?
A Dude, it's like every time I come back here there's a recount. I was dying to get back here. And because of Michele Bachmann, too. She's the gift that keeps on giving.
Q Have you had the pleasure of meeting her?
A I have not had the pleasure. But I want to meet anyone who has that close of a relationship with God. She literally has his cell phone number and every private e-mail. She is a joy for comedians everywhere.
Q How does the Minnesota audience respond to political humor?
A I take everybody on, so it's not like I'm [toeing] the Democratic line. When I look at the Tea Party I understand their anger, but I don't understand their hypocrisy. And I don't understand their misspelled racist signs. I have a lot of anger for Obama and how he's conducted certain things. My mission is always: If you have been given the gift of power and you're stupid with it, you're my target.
Hometown: St. Paul.
Career highlights: The cartoon "Life With Louie," the book "Dear Dad: Letters From an Adult Child " and hosting "Family Feud."
Currently: Lives in Las Vegas, where he performs five nights a week at the Louie Anderson Theater inside the Palace Station casino.
Q Has living in Vegas changed your Midwestern temperament?
A No, I think it's given me more resolve. I have to represent. People always ask me about Minnesota Nice. I always say it's the weather. You can't make somebody mad in the summer; you might need their help in the winter.
Q What's the first thing you do when your plane lands?
A I love to stop at SuperAmerica because they put the donuts in a jewelry case.
Q What do you miss about us when you're away?
A The security and safety of knowing that the person next door to you has any ingredient you need.
Q When will you move back here?
A When Brett Favre retires. I see why he still does it. When I walk out on that stage on New Year's Eve, I am continuing to do the thing that feeds my soul and people still want to see it. And that's hard to give up when you're an egomaniacal performer. (Laughs) You thought something sappy was coming, didn't you?