When he's not working as a writer at Congressional Quarterly, Bill Thomas is one funny guy.
"I keep thinking if Ronald Reagan were alive today, he would have won," says Thomas. He calls astronomer Carl Sagan "the Barry Manilow of outer space." Thomas says that in these days of confused sexual roles, he's a "monosexual," which means, "I kind of go with myself. Don't knock it, it's a great way to be your own best friend, and you never have to dress for dates. It's sweeping the West Coast."
Thomas, 37, is a fomer college English professor-turned-journalist whose real passion is making people laugh as a stand-up comedian. He regularly plays El Brookman's, the bar in Anacostia that features amateur comics on weekend nights. (A couple of weeks ago Thomas told his mainly white audience how to get there: "Head straight out Pennsylvania Avenue until you really start to feel afraid.")
Thomas' career on the stand-up circuit began last year when he visited El Brookman's to write a story about comedy in Washington. He decided to get in front of the lights himself.
"It's like spring training here -- you miss a few or hit a few, and it doesn't really matter," Thomas says. His wit is usually wry, so when he gets silly, the lines have more impact than they might otherwise. He tells an audience he knows that many comics begin by asking people where they're from, but he'd like to get to know tham on a deeper level.
"O.K.," Thomas says, "hands, please. How many people here have a rash or cut? On medication? Any of you guys ever been with a farm animal? Anyone here ever bought a Neil Diamond album?"
Thomas gets paid $30 or $40 per gig, though he says he'd probably perform for less. "This started out as kind of fun," he says, "but it's become an addiction."
Footnote: Two other comedians to watch for at El Brookman's these days are Ron Zimmerman, who delivers a boffo monologue while seemingly in some kind of stupor, and Jim Tanner. If he doesn't perform them, ask Tanner to do his musical parodies that include Christmas carols by Bob Dylan, George Benson and Jimi Hendrix.