There was a fictional radio character on stage Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Tower Theater in Fresno.
For a person who remembers Donnie Baker’s first call-in appearance on “The Bob and Tom Show”, seeing him in the flesh a decade and more later, unabashedly pulling his parachute pants out of his butt crack between invocations of “state law” and “I swear to god!” was more than just funny.
There was a sort of slipping sense of unreality about it, as if there were noticeable differences in the pull of gravity in the place depending on where one sat.
It was like seeing actual Spongebob—the cartoon Spongebob—down at the hardware store. Impossible, yet there he was, and knowing Donnie Baker doesn’t really exist only served to make him all the more real. I think he was doing that to us on purpose.
Veteran standup comedian Bob Zany’s opening act was a hilarious clinic on heckler management. The longtime “Bob and Tom Show” regular did an uncensored version of “The Zany Report,” his signature contribution to that show.
He added to his masterful comparison of a couple of hecklers to the trailer park meth lab people who seem to grow up out of the ground here in Fresno. The stage was set perfectly for the godfather of trailer park chemistry, Donnie.
And Donnie isn’t even real. He is just the brightest facet on the comedy diamond that is Ron Sexton, for whom Donnie is not even a full-time endeavor on “Bob and Tom.” He is also the voice behind such favorites as Kenny Tarmac and Floyd the Trucker, and if that weren’t enough, he also voices Morgan Freeman, Tony Soprano and a host of other hilarities.
But it is the obliviously omniscient Donnie Baker, with his automatic ‘apostrophe s’ added to any proper name—“Wal-Mart’s”, “Home Depot’s”—and his sagacious advice on any subject that put Sexton on the comedy map to stay.
Whether it is with his band “The Pork Pistols,” as a member of the “Bob and Tom” comedy tours or headlining a straight standup gig, Sexton as Donnie has been bridging the gap between radio fiction and in-person reality for over 12 years now.
It’s hard to believe he’s had a boat for sale this whole time.
Everything about him all seems rather unlikely. He’s a guy with a mullet and a boat for sale who calls in to a nationally syndicated radio show in Indianapolis. His appeal is instant and universal.
Within a year he is the most popular person on the show. So popular that he quits his job working for “Randy” and hits the road with the premier comedy acts in the country and becomes a YouTube and Facebook sensation, a single-wide trailer park rags-to-riches story. Could it really happen?
Well, yes and no. Though one thing is sure: With Donnie Baker, it can be hard to be sure what you’re seeing.