Charity Is the Soul of Wit for Comic Michael Colyar, Who Is Sharing His Star Search Prize with the Homeless

updated 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Colyar, 33, the hottest street performer on the Venice boardwalk near L.A., is deep into his "Who's colored?" routine: "White man wakes up in the morning, he's pink," barks Colyar, who has got a high-energy, in-your-face delivery. "When he gets mad, he gets red. When he gets cold, he gets blue.... Me, I'm brown when I get up, brown when I get mad, brown when I'm cold." He goes into the audience and grabs a while man, who seems to blush on cue. "Here's your colored people!" The crowd roars its approval.

Colyar practices what he calls "education-type comedy," whose barbs are aimed at drugs, AIDS and poverty as well as racial stereotypes. But his social conscience is more than schtick deep: He puts his money where his mouthing-off is. Five years ago, when his attempts at street comedy were floundering, a homeless man walked up to him and said, "White people are the ones who are colored." The remark led to his showstopping rap and a rapport with the least fortunate among his Venice Beach audience. As boardwalkers showered his 10 weekend shows with applause and greenbacks, he began distributing cash to the legions of homeless who haunt Venice. His latest largess: half of his $100,000 grand prize as comedy winner on last year's Star Search. Churches and food banks that minister to the homeless in Los Angeles have received $30,000 so far.

"I would have given away more, but my wife would have killed me," says Colyar, the youngest of five sons born to a Chicago dry cleaner father and social worker mother. These days he and his wife of 15 months, Brooks, 42, share a spacious duplex on L.A.'s Miracle Mile. She's a flight attendant, and his career is taking off too. He has appeared on such TV shows as Dragnet and Equal Justice, had a bit part in the movie Hollywood Shuffle and has been playing big comedy clubs as far away as Chicago and Atlanta. This month he is back on the beach, taping a comedy special for HBO, and he is talking with CBS about a late-night talk show. No matter how high he flies, however, Colyar promises not to tone down the abrasiveness—or the charity. "I decided long ago that the only way to really have is to give."

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