Kelly: Opening for Joan Rivers, Nebraska comic's humor hits home -
Published Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:25 am
From the Notebook
Kelly: Opening for Joan Rivers, Nebraska comic's humor hits home

Waiting tables for 15 years in Los Angeles, Nebraska native and comedian Brad Stewart waited for something else — a career break. He got it with Joan Rivers.

He has performed the opening act for her about 40 times.

But tonight in Omaha is special, he says, “my first time opening for Joan in my home state.”

In Los Angeles, he often did stand-up shows for free at small clubs, honing his act in front of gatherings of eight to 20. It's different now.

“Joan is a comedic icon,” said Brad, 38. “Now I might be in front of 1,500 people. And the fact that my family can come and see me means the world to me. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.”

A son of Dean and Jackie Stewart, Brad and his family moved around in Nebraska when his school superintendent father took different jobs. Brad attended high school in Wood River and blocked for future Husker star Scott Frost, but he graduated from Arapahoe High.

Inspired by Steve Martin, Brad studied comedy and organized sketches at pep rallies. His “first real taste of stand-up,” he said, came in becoming the 1993 Class C state speech champion in Entertainment Speaking.

He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before moving to Los Angeles and trying to break in. He is now a full-time comedian and has opened for Jon Lovitz, Rob Schneider and even the Temptations.

Being single and broke in L.A., he joked, was really hard. “It's like asking a woman to come over for a candlelight dinner because my electricity is out, and then saying, 'Could you bring the dinner?'”

Brad moved back to Nebraska last year when his father was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. He died May 20. Returning home to Lincoln was “the best decision I ever made because I got to spend a solid three months with him.”

From Wood River to Joan Rivers, Brad Stewart has come a long way. Tonight at 8, at the Holland Performing Arts Center, he'll be tickled to make folks laugh in his home state.

The Lego exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens has proved a big hit — with gardens attendance up 170 percent over winter of last year.

Visitors to the botanical center see 27 large and intricate sculptures by “professional kid” Sean Kenney.

And real kids get to create smaller designs.

“It's just so exciting,” said Spencer Crews, the gardens' executive director.

“In the natural environment indoors, kids are surrounded by beautiful orchids and flowers while they are building and creating something.”

Through the end of February, attendance was 16,000, compared with 5,000 last year, and March crowds have continued apace.

Maybe, Spencer said, some of the children will be inspired not just by the plastic bricks but also by the plants and other natural wonders there.

On Sunday, competitors 17 and younger can enter their own Lego creations starting at 11 a.m.

The Lego Brick Sculpture Invitational then will be on display at the gardens, First and Bancroft Streets, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

You might not think that finding an unused male mannequin would be hard, but the Douglas County Historical Society is asking for help.

Pat Pixley, curator of the General Crook House Museum, said a mannequin (headless is fine) is needed for a year.

It would be used for a costume worn at the 1927 and '28 Ak-Sar-Ben coronations by Arthur Metz of Metz Brewery.

It would also be used at next Saturday's Glamour and Glitz runway show. If you can help, call 402-455-9990.

On the day of Omaha's St. Patrick's parade downtown, it's good to report the Irish name of an Omahan named Marine of the Week with Regimental Combat Team 7 in Afghanistan: Cpl. Michael Kelly.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska (and no relation to me, though I'd be proud if he were), he was a history major.

A press release this week from Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, said he still draws from Roman traditions to inspire fellow warriors.

He chose to enlist rather than become an officer because of his knowledge of Roman soldiers.

“I wanted to be a part of the men,” said the corporal, 28.

“I knew there would always be opportunities to lead, but I wanted to be a part of the ranks, like Spartans or Romans.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1132,

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

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