Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson
Randy Credico and “Professor” Irwin Corey, 95, “The World’s Foremost Authority,” after a Credico Senate campaign fundraiser last weekend.
Do laugh, he’s challenging Schumer
By Lincoln Anderson
Randy Credico, a comedian turned drug activist, wants to give Senator Chuck Schumer a primary election challenge — something Schumer notably didn’t face in his 2004 re-election.
Credico, in his “mid-50s,” well, “early-mid-50s,” as he hedged, made his name in Las Vegas with his political impersonations in the 1980s, and appeared on the “Tonight Show” in 1984.
“I imitated Johnny Carson — and was blackballed for calling Jeane Kirkpatrick a Nazi,” he recalled of his first and last gig on the show.
A California native, he moved to New York in 1981. Starting about a dozen years ago, he transformed himself into an activist fighting for reform of the punitive Rockefeller Drug Laws. He had earlier met radical attorney William Kunstler when he was seeking legal help for his then-girlfriend, actress and singer Joey Heatherton.
Becoming friends with Kunstler, Credico went on to head the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice after the civil rights lawyer’s death. For the past 20 years, he has lived off and on at Kunstler’s Gay St. building — where the Kunstler Fund is located. He recently relocated to Chelsea, though, where he both lives and has his campaign office in a building owned by Richard Corey, son of legendary comic “Professor” Irwin Corey.
Not giving up his shtick, Credico for the past five years has been a once-a-week regular on New York Post political reporter Fred Dicker’s radio show as its “official comedian.” And he recently appeared in the state Senate dressed up as Diogenes, holding a lamp aloft, “looking for an honest man.”
“They finally kicked me out of there — they used some state law on masks,” Credico recounted of his Diogenes routine, during a recent interview.
Humor infuses his campaign — he toted a sign with the catchy slogan, “Let’s ‘Chuck’ Schumer.” During one point in the interview, Credico did a montage of some of his impressions, effortlessly and hilariously shifting between Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. He’s been doing impressions since he was 16.
But Credico is serious in his criticism of the two-term New York senator, whom he calls a “blue dog Democrat.”
Credico said he opposes the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Schumer supports them. He accused the incumbent of not being supportive of gay marriage early enough. But, above all, he said Schumer has been too friendly to the banking industry.
“I call him Dr. Bankenstein — he bailed out the banks,” Credico said. “He’s owned by Big Pharma and Wall St. guys. Why wasn’t he there for St. Vincent’s? Why didn’t he come up with an emergency package? … You know who’s too big to fail? — St. Vincent’s Hospital, not Goldman Sachs.”
Credico also accused Schumer of not speaking out on “racial profiling” and stop-and-frisks of blacks and Latinos by New York City police, and said, if elected, he would introduce an anti-racial-profiling bill.
A Schumer spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Credico supports legalizing marijuana.
“It’s the number one cash crop in the country — but they don’t tax it,” he noted. “I don’t consider it a drug,” he added. “God put it on the planet.”
A campaign slogan of Credico’s is: “Who would you rather smoke a joint with — me or Chuck Schumer?”
In fact, he thinks all drugs should be legal.
Credico supports amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“ICE should be abolished,” he said of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
On at least one issue, though, guns, Schumer has the more liberal position:
“I’m against gun control, he’s for it,” Credico stated, “because I don’t like tinkering with the Constitution. The Second Amendment is there. ... Plaxico Burress shouldn’t be in jail — he hurt himself,” he added of the former Giants player who accidentally shot himself in a New York disco.
Credico said he has been invited to speak at the New York Libertarian Party’s upcoming convention.
“I’m a Libertarian,” he stated. “They have been flirting a lot with me. I’m considered a lefty Libertarian.”
Asked why he isn’t running against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is considered more vulnerable than Schumer, Credico said it’s because his friend Jonathan Tasini is challenging her — and also, Credico quipped, because if he ran against Gillibrand and beat her, then he’d “have to be in the Senate for six years with Chuck Schumer.”
Credico said he’s eager to debate Schumer, but suspects the senator will duck his offer. So he’s working on his Chuck Schumer impersonation — and, if necessary, will debate himself.
Credico says he has raised $20,000 in campaign funds, which obviously pales compared to the millions in Schumer’s war chest. However, Credico’s more immediate challenge is getting his name on the Democratic primary ballot in September. He needs to collect 15,000 petition signatures statewide. But he’s confident he’ll do it.
At times, he self-deprecatingly says he has no chance to win. Rather, he says, he’s running because he needs Schumer’s help to fill in the gaps in the autobiography he’s writing: Credico said that because of his “hard time with drugs and alcohol,” there are “blackouts” about which he has no memory, and that because he knows Schumer will dredge up his substance abuse during the campaign, he’ll finally find out what happened during those times.
“Go to bed with Mary, wake up with Mark...,” he joked.
Credico said drugs are just a fact of life in the club scene where stand-up comedians perform.
“I did drugs — cocaine, of course,” he said. “It was in the clubs.” He said he’s since kicked cocaine.
Doing a quick montage of impressions of various comedians when they were on drugs, Credico said, “Rodney [Dangerfield] did everything, trust me. Redd Foxx used to have a little vial.” Jackie Mason is about the only one who didn’t do drugs, he said.
As for who has endorsed him so far, Credico says Larry David and Roseanne Barr are backing him.
“I suspect all comics will be supporting me,” he said.
He also claims the support of Malachy McCourt, former Green Party candidate for governor.
Credico said he was also hoping for state Senator Tom Duane’s endorsement.
“[State Senator] Eric Adams, Tom Duane — they’re all considering it,” he said. “They’re fearful of Chuck Schumer — he’s got $20 million, I don’t know why.”
Asked if Duane would be backing Credico against Schumer, spokesperson Eric Sumberg said, “Senator Duane has always thought highly of Randy Credico’s comedic talent and advocacy around the Rockefeller Drug Laws.”
Dicker said of Credico, “He’s got the comedian’s dark side of loving the limelight. But he’s a genuine talent — my audience loves him. I bill him as an activist/comedian.”
Although noting there’s an anti-incumbent sentiment this year, Dicker said because there’s no public financing for state elections, Schumer wouldn’t be required to debate Credico. Dicker said getting on the Democratic ballot would be Credico’s biggest challenge.
Tasini said of Credico’s Senate bid: “The record of the senior senator of New York needs to be challenged, particularly his central role in deregulating the financial services industry, which led directly to our financial crisis. I wish Randy lots of luck in challenging Senator Schumer, and I am particularly a very strong advocate of primaries as a good thing for democracy.”
Credico said he would have run against Christine Quinn last year, but deferred to Yetta Kurland, who mounted a surprisingly strong race against the City Council speaker.
“I’m going to be like Kurland,” Credico predicted. “I’ll probably lose. I’m going to be on the ballot in November — as a Libertarian, Green or [Personal] Freedom Party,” he said, referring to the party name of gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis, the Manhattan madam who supplied Eliot Spitzer with hookers.
Last Saturday, stand-up comics performed at what was billed as a Credico “FUNdraiser” at Desmond’s Tavern, on E. 29th St. At the end of his routine, “Professor” Corey, 95, a staunch Credico supporter, fielded questions from the audience.
“I only have two hours,” he deadpanned.
“What about Red China?” someone called out.
“Yes...,” Corey said, pausing for a moment. “Red China goes very well on a yellow tablecloth.”
“I want to thank everyone who made it here tonight,” Corey said, adding, “I want to thank those who are making it somewhere else.”
Credico then did his impressions with John McDonagh, host of WBAI radio’s “Radio Free Eireann,” on which Credico appears once a month.
Credico ended with a flurry of rapid-fire imitations: Pat Robertson, George W. Bush, George H. Bush — “he’s easier,” he noted, mimicking the senior Bush’s high nasal voice — James Mason, Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Reagan. Saying Reagan had been up for Bogart’s role in “Casablanca,” he did a folksy, halting, Reaganesque delivery of Bogart’s famous “hill of beans” speech. Thank God he didn’t get the part, everyone in the audience must have been thinking.
“I’m going to go through with this,” Credico vowed of his campaign. “Tonight we raised $20. I’ve got a $75 bar tab.”