Albums I Want To Be Buried With: The Best of Ollie Joe Prater, “Triple Trouble”

Maybe it was a month or so ago; I was on my way home on the New York State Thruway, and I chose to stop at a truck stop near Fonda.  The plan was simple – fill Cardachrome up with unleaded, get a couple of diet colas and some snacks at the convenience store, and break up the long driving with a bit of a rest.

While I was in the convenience store, I perused the rack of old CD’s and DVD’s, and it was there – among the dusty Louis L’Amour “books on CD” volumes, that I saw it.

The Best of Ollie Joe Prater: Triple Trouble.

Hokey smokes.

I never thought I’d run into this material ever again.  I gotta get this.

I looked on the back of the CD for the price tag.  Dirt cheap.  A few minutes later, I was back on the New York State Thruway, with Ollie Joe Prater’s truckstop standup comedy blasting trough my car stereo and me laughing away like I hadn’t laughed in a long, long time.

Understand something – there’s no way the Times Union’s going to let me link to Ollie Joe Prater’s filthy comedy routines, either on YouTube or elsewhere – just because his comedy would make Howard Stern blush.

The Triple Trouble CD comprises a full-length Ollie Joe Prater performance in Huntsville, Alabama – as he talks about his weight (at one time he was 500 pounds, and at 5’2″, he was taller horizontally than vertically), his drug addictions (he described how cocaine felt as the equivalent of drinking a strong pot of coffee, packing his nose with baking soda, scraping his nostrils with sandpaper, and throwing his money in a fire), and his relationship with his family (one time, when asking his father to help purchase a car, his father said that Ollie Joe had to get a haircut; Ollie Joe replied that Jesus had long hair, so it was okay for Ollie Joe to have long hair; his father said that Jesus also walked everywhere and didn’t need a car).

Ollie Joe Prater’s recordings, along with those of comedians John Foxx and Jay Hickman, were the staple of Laughing Hyena Records, whose owner, Arnie Hoffman, made a ton of money by selling cassette tapes and CD’s at truckstops throughout the United States.  I interviewed Hoffman for an article I wrote for Goldmine magazine, and at the time he recalled working with and recording Ollie Joe Prater.

“Ollie Joe Prater was the second comedian I ever recorded,” said Hoffman, “and we did real good with his tapes. He didn’t take care of himself, he got up to 500, 600 pounds, to the point where he couldn’t stand any more, it was like putting a 400-pound barbell on your back. He would sit on a stool and wave his arms around, then he’d walk a long walk to the end of the stage and sit in a customized chair, he later went home in a van with a hydraulic lift.”

Ollie Joe was also known to be a comedian off the stage as well. “When we were recording Ollie Joe, he was only 450 pounds then – he hadn’t gotten REALLY large – and one night, during the recording session at the hotel, somebody pushed the elevator button and it opened up, and Ollie Joe was naked in the laundry cart with a half-empty bottle of Jim Beam. Comedy doesn’t stop when they leave the stage.”

Ollie Joe Prater made several appearances on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, and was a regular at the Comedy Store in Hollywood – at one time, he was on the same performing bill as Richard Pryor.

Ollie Joe Prater – or Gilbert Hartzog, as he was known to his family – died in November 1991.  He was only 44 years old.

But his ribald and off-color humor still makes me laugh every single time I hear it.  And if you type in “Ollie Joe Prater” on YouTube, you’ll find several of his comedy routines.  And they’re still as funny as the day when he recorded them.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to add this little CD to the rest of the material I’m taking with me when God calls my name.

That is … if God’s too busy laughing his tush off, because he’s also hooked on Ollie Joe Prater’s comedy material.