By MIKE SAKAL
For the Miami Valley Sunday News
WEST MILTON — Bill Shock’s following of fans is growing as he is preparing to retire from stocking groceries for more than a decade and focus on his fairly young passion — stand-up comedy.
And although Bill Shock — aka Holly Shock who he performs as — tells many jokes and what he describes as “off-the-wall innuendos,” little ditties and songs (some about bad neighbors), his following is putting up some serious numbers, appearing in front of hundreds of people as he is making them laugh or simply roll their eyes at what he comes up with.
Shock, 65, a Dayton native and West Milton resident, is retiring from Meijer stores on April 26 — where he has worked for 16 years. In “retirement” Shock plans to perform more stand-up on the local comedy scene and throughout the region.
Shock, who has performed shows as far south as Cincinnati, will appear as one of four comedians at “Ladies Night Comedy ” at Tammy Lynn Inn, 103 N. Main St., DeGraff, at 8 p.m. on April 27. Jessica Veech, Leslie Battle and Ashley Nicole are the other female performers. Cover is $5.
Shock describes himself on his Facebook profile as a stand-up comic who loves music, art and general insaneness. He had heard the clichés from his friends who told him, “Oh, you’re funny,” or, “You should try comedy.”
So he did, and liked it.
“A big part of it is attitude, timing and knowing the right thing to do to make people laugh,” Shock said. “Sticking your paint brush into an electric wall socket does not give you a creative outlet.”
A transgender in real life, Shock first performed at Wiley’s Comedy Club in downtown Dayton’s Oregon District about four years ago. It was something which he thought “would be fun to try” when he took the stage as Holly — an older lady with silver hair (who sometimes dyes it blond), donned in a black leather jacket, a go-to-hell cap, a Blondie T-shirt and black motorcycle boots.
Shock will be missed at Meijer where he is jovial with customers, but no doubt, Holly has made an impression wherever she shows up.
“Bill’s a friend, and a hard worker,” said Curt Bauman, one of Shock’s managers at Meijer for the last 15 years. “He means a lot to me. The first time I saw him as Holly, he came into the store, came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder … I turned around and looked … At first I couldn’t think of what to say. I just laughed and said something that probably couldn’t be printed in the paper.”
Holly Shock is someone who takes a different view of life, but in a matter-of-fact sort of way. As “Holly” says herself, “When it comes to work, dating, and life in general, Holly’s not quite there. “She’s a work in progress.”
“My dating life is so bad,” Holly said, “I bought two iPhones so I could Tinder myself.”
“One thing I love about comedy, is that every person is different,” Shock added. “You can do what you want with it and make it more extroverted. Holly’s thing is being a spaced-out Hippie Chick.”
“Holly isn’t stupid,” Shock assures. “She is just “blissfully unaware.”
Shock also will appear among 75 comedians at Live Laughs, a comedy and bands festival at the Shelby County Fairgrounds, 655 S. Highland Ave., Sidney, the weekend of Aug. 23-25.
Shock has been a regular presence during Wiley’s Sunday Comics at Wiley’s Comedy Club (www.wileycomedy.com) at 101 Pine St., downtown Dayton’s Oregon District, and sometimes has hosted the show under the guidance of local comedian Karen Goldman Jaffe, Shock’s mentor. Wiley’s opened in 1982, and is the oldest comedy club in Ohio. The club also hosts a “clean” family friendly Sunday Comedy Night once a month.
Drawing from his inspiration of comedians who rose to fame in the 1970s such as Steve Martin, George Carlin, Redd Foxx, Judy Tenuta and Pat Paulson, Holly Shock is finding a voice of her own.
“Holly has amazing energy, and is always positive on stage and off,” said Jaffe, who oversees Wiley’s Sunday Comics and is Shock’s mentor. “She is one of the club’s favorite open mic comics, as she is a pleasure to work with and so much fun to watch.
“As comics, we not only speak in front of people (which is difficult for most), but we write our own material and have to work on things like timing and expression,” Jaffe added. “The fact that we can do that is impressive, so Holly should hold her head high.”
Part of Shock’s creative outlet has been trying out his jokes on people around West Milton as he shops.
And more often than not, they’re the ones getting “Shocked.”
One of those people is Staci Davidson West, who formerly worked at Owl’s Drugstore and now the Milton-Union Public Library.
“When he would come into the drugstore, you knew he was there,” West said. “You could hear him. His personality stands out. When he tells jokes, you just have to laugh. If you roll your eyes, he says, ‘Oh, c’mon! You know you liked it!’ He’s a good guy and funny. Every time he came in, you didn’t know what he was going to say next.”
Some of Shock’s repertoire is over-the-top and no holds barred.
Researching the beginnings of comedy, Shock discovered “The Olive Garden of Eden daily dessert special was forbidden apple pie.”
Cecelia Clouse Thompson of West Milton, first befriended Bill – and later Holly when Shock was eating in the Toll House Tavern in Union where Cecelia formerly worked.
“I knew who Bill was, but I didn’t know he wanted to be a comedian,” Thompson said. I realized he could be really funny. He later came in dressed as Holly. I just had to shake my head at some of the things Holly was coming up with. Holly’s a good person and a good human being.”
And sometimes, Holly also can be perceptive.
Holly noticed that once the Time Machine was invented, the television soap opera, “Search for Tomorrow” was quickly canceled.
Going back in time, Bill decided to call himself Holly soon after returning from Detroit in 2002 to what he saw as a much-changed Dayton and Miami Valley after being gone for nearly three decades. Shock went to a Halloween party at the Holiday Inn in Englewood, so people started calling him Holly, derived from Holiday.
The name stuck, and Shock is sticking to it.
Shock said his first stand-up performance before a crowd and being on the stage at Wiley’s four years ago was kind of “old-hat” for him since he used to get on stage to do electric work for various bands and worked in the electric signage business in Detroit for many years before returning to the Miami Valley.
At Wiley’s that night, the house was packed and local star comedian Nate Washington was the headliner.
“Being on the stage in front of crowds never bothers me,” Shock said. “You just have to make sure you don’t go over the six-minute time limit at Wiley’s, or they’ll cut your mic. You really have to work to keep your routine to six minutes.”
But, Shock has no problem performing 25-minute routines.
Although no heckling is allowed at Wiley’s, comedians, including Shock, have ways of deflecting them.
“When someone says, ‘Holly, you got a screw loose!’ I usually say, ‘Phillips or regular? That normally shuts them up,’” Shock said.
And fans of comedy or those looking for some local laughs can be the judge of whether Shock’s screws are loose or how much he is tightening them. Shock is on Twitter (@HollyShok) and on YouTube as Billy Shock).
Shock’s comedy reach even has hit the airwaves. He recently has been a guest of radio host Don Smith’s “The Life,” which airs from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday on Wright State University’s radio station, WWSU (106.9-FM).
As Shock nears retirement, he plans to appear at more open mic nights and to do more short “on-the-street” segments such as “Holly shopping at Meijer,” or “Holly at the Library.”
He hopes to perform some shows with Charlie Hester, a woman known as “A Dirty Little Ray of Sunshine.”
Shock considers the line-up of comedians throughout the Miami Valley as a stellar cast. In addition to Washington, he also holds comedians Don Smith, Michael Wells, and Joe Young in high regard.
“Bar none, I’d put the local Dayton comics up against anyone in the United States,” Shock said. “The local scene is amazing. You can learn so much from others.”
“Where Holly goes from here, I don’t know,” Shock said. “I just plan to go out there, and do my best.”