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Magic Sidekick Mystery Tour

One performer who's going to have a helluva time sorting out his W-2 forms at the end of the year is Craig Shoemaker. In addition to a steady stream of standup jobs and movie roles, not to mention his duties as host of the addictive VH-1 game show My Generation, Shoemaker's just picked up this little gig as Magic Johnson's sidekick on the new talk show The Magic Hour. "I was already friends with [Magic]; it was really a smooth transition," says Craig. "And our opening chat, which I write, is really the [equivalent] of Letterman or Leno's monologue. But [Johnson] has a kind of charisma that they could never find." The biggest change for the frequently touring comedian is having to show up at the same place every day. "I need a lunch pail and a time card," he says.

Shoemaker, who was voted Best Male Standup Comic at the 1996 American Comedy Awards, also continues to groom his lady-killing alter ego -- the LoveMaster -- for a national breakout. Shoemaker recently starred in an independent movie about the character (titled, of course, The LoveMaster), and he hopes it will be out on video soon. But the comic says he's being careful not to let the character dominate his entire act, a peformance pit from which escape is futile -- ask Andrew Dice Clay or that "You Can Call Me Ray" guy. "[There's] a dark side; people know me because of that, but no one knows my name," he says. "I'm gonna get stopped in airports by men and asked, 'Hey! Aren't you the LoveMaster?' I'll have to turn around and say, 'It's not what you think!' I mean, when we were casting the movie, people thought it was a porno [film]."

People may also know Shoemaker for his dead-on Don Knotts impersonation, so eerily accurate that when the two were recently collaborating on a movie and Knotts was off the set playing golf, Shoemaker was asked to loop in one of the actor's lines. The result even fooled the director. "We also appeared together on Comic Relief, and spent a lot of time talking. [Knotts] said, 'You do me better than I do!' "

Shoemaker says he's looking forward to performing in Houston, a city he appreciates for the audiences if not the climate. "I've been there in the summer before. Nice weather if you're a weed," he deadpans. He's also intimately familiar with the Laff Stop, the strip-shopping-center comedy emporium where he's been performing for more than 15 years. "It looks exactly the same," he says. "I wonder when they're going to finally move up to a mall?"

-- Bob Ruggiero

Craig Shoemaker performs at 7:15, 9:15 and 11:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20. The Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333. $17.50.

 
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