I have known Howard Feller for over twenty years. What can I say about Howard? Plenty. He is one of the dearest and sweetest people I know. I met him for lunch on this Tuesday, and he spoke in a very direct and open manner about his comedy career.
He calls himself a "movie and comedy freak" who enjoyed listening to Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Robert Klein. He liked "old comedy." In about 1982, Howard took a comedy class with Mark Jacobs that was given on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and soon after he started doing clubs with open mic nights. He says he "looked weird" and on stage he played off that. Silver, the owner of the Improv, passed Howard in an audition during those early 80s. He did stand-up three or four times a week and he kept getting better. He began to get many opportunities and consistent work. He played in diners and places where he began to make money. At that time, comedy was "hot" and he got road work and Jersey gigs in late night spots.
He worked at the Boston Comedy Club and met Barry Katz. He worked in the Comedy Cellar and at Stand-up NY and these spots led to a "Caroline's Comedy Hour" on A & E and as he built credentials he got better spots and this led to an "MTV Half Hour" comedy show. And when the MTV "Jon Stewart Show" was looking for a "weird geeky guy" as a sidekick for Jon, Howard got the job. Jon sat at a bicycle bar and Howard sat in a tractor chair and the show became an off-beat talk show with a small but very devoted fan following. That original "Jon Stewart Show" ran for one year on MTV and it ran for another year in syndication throughout the country. It was a "work in progress," as Howard describes it.
Howard has appeared in several films. Penny Marshall gave Howard a line in "Awakenings" because Howard says he "looked crazy." Howard recently appeared on "30 Rock" as the super in Tina Fey's building and in a "Law and Order" episode he played a homeless guy who brings a dead guy into a check cashing place as part of some scam... which was based on a real NYC incident. Howard will be on Howard (Stern) TV in an episode of "Show in the Hall." And he is also in the upcoming Nia Vardalos film, "I Hate Valentine's Day." In that film, he plays a homeless guy who lives outside her building. He says he is always called to play "the homeless guy" and he has no idea why.
Howard recently filmed an NBC pilot called "off Duty" in which he plays a junkie. I am wondering if he plays a homeless junkie. And he is up for several other parts... in which he plays a homeless guy.
Howard invited me to visit him in his brand new apartment with "a great view of the Manhattan skyline." He told me it was a basement apartment. I am still wondering about that.