When comic Robert Klein -- an idol to Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and other big-name standups -- plays Up Comedy Club at Piper's Alley in Old Town this weekend (Friday through Sunday, upcomedyclub.com), he'll be returning to his comedic roots in a way. For those who don't know, UP is owned by Second City. And Second City, circa 1965-66, is where Klein essentially kicked off what would become a hugely fruitful career that includes a record nine HBO specials (his last one in 2010), a Tony nomination and scores of TV and movie roles. During Johnny Carson's decades-long reign at NBC, the Bach-loving septuagenarian (he's 70) appeared (as guest and guest host) roughly 100 times on "The Tonight Show" alone.
Klein's forte, though, has always been solo (and occasionally musical) comedy: just him, the microphone, a live audience and whatever dazzles, puzzles or peeves him at any given moment. And while he recently told the Sun-Times that retiring would be "destructive," he admitted to feeling his mortality a bit more acutely these days. "I'm especially worried as Jews bury so quickly," he said from his 31st floor apartment in superstorm-pummeled New York City. "The older I get, around my relatives I'm afraid to take a nap lest I be mistaken for dead."