Comedian-actor George Wallace is always on the go. These days it's usually from Las Vegas, where he just renewed another one-year contract at the Flamingo Hilton, to Los Angeles and back again almost daily. He squeezes as many activities as possible into every 24-hours.
And sometimes that even means giving an interview while test-driving a $500,000 car. Talking on his hands-free cell phone, Wallace interjects his enthusiasm for the charcoal gray Mercedes-Benz Mayback between no-slow-down u-turns and questions.
How does a person learn to be a comedian? Unlike actors who go to acting schools, comedians learn their craft and skills through practice, trial and error as they test timing and material. Wallace "went to school with as many as four to seven shows a night" at various clubs in both Los Angeles and New York -- The Comedy Club, The Comic Strip, Laugh Factory, Improv, Catch a Rising Star, to name a few.
"It's like I went to college in New York," he continues. "Graduate school in Los Angeles and now I'm a doctorate in Las Vegas."
At the University of Akron in Ohio, where Wallace did actually get his diploma, he earned degrees in transportation and marketing. He worked in transit advertising and became a Vice President of the company in just a few years. Then he was a writer for the Redd Foxx Show before breaking out as a stand-up performer. He writes most of his own material that comes from "from you," he says. "It comes from people in all kinds of situations, just talking. I watch the news, stay on top of things."
For aspiring comedians, Wallace insists, "You got to love it, love it, love it, or don't bother. You've got to enjoy everything about it, love it no matter what -- there's often a lot of travel -- sometimes you fly all night to get to do one-hour of material before you turn around and get on another plane to another location."
On average, Wallace usually earns 150,000 to 200,000 frequent flier miles a year. "But with the commitment I have to the Flamingo Hilton, " he says, "I've been flying less. This year it's about 90,000 miles."
His on-the-go schedule might be difficult for some people with family and friends they miss. "I have no family and I have no friend," Wallace jokes.
"I have the best marriage, to my career and it's just wonderful," he continues. "Work with people you love. Your agents and managers and others around you will become like family, like a marriage. You need to trust them, but always, always, write your own checks."
Jerry Seinfeld, he spent his life trying to get known and now he tries to stay away from all people. "For me," says Wallace, "enough people recognize me to satisfy my little ego. They wave at me as I walk down the streets, but I don't have paparazzi waiting for me to come out of my house."
Are hecklers one of the biggest problems of a performance? "No. If you have a heckler in the audience, it's because you're not prepared," says Wallace. "If there's no hole in your material, they can't get in."
When he walks on to the stage Wallace takes a casual, in-your-living room approach. "I learn about the audience, I decide my timing; will it be a faster or slower pace than usual, for example," says the entertainer. "And I'm old-school. I don't do a blue [profane] act. I can perform in Church."
For Wallace, being prepared comes with many years of practice. He also admits, "What you do is who you are as a comedian. My material is a collection of a lifetime of experiences and work. It's my personality. Give an actor a script and he'll follow it more closely than a comedian who just has to make it his own. You bring yourself to the role on screen, and certainly on stage."
Wallace has been featured in many films, most recently, Ladykillers with Tom Hanks. "Big-name actors showed up for the Ladykiller's audition in sheriff's outfits," he remembers. "I thought I might as well leave; I just had a tee-shirt on. But I landed the role, based on my personality."
What does the word "retirement" mean to Wallace? "I never heard of it!" He plans on continuing doing what he loves and does so well. "I love my stand-up work, and I plan to do more films and maybe my own TV show."
Wallace is an unstoppable man on the go. By the way, he bought the car.
Wallace performs "the Best 10PM Show on the Las Vegas Strip" at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel Tuesday through Saturday in the Flamingo Showroom. Tickets are $35 and $45 plus tax and fees. Call the box office at: (702) 733-3333.