"If you love New York," Klein said, "you can call yourself a New Yorker in a matter of months."
Klein, however, has had more New York months than most. Born in the Bronx just 25 years after the Bronx was incorporated, the 71-year-old Klein has been representing New York in his comedy for close to half a century. Robert Klein is New York comedy; Klein was nominated for a Tony for his work on Broadway and he hosted the New York staple Saturday Night Live multiple times. But it was Klein's first album, "Child of the Fifties," that cemented him as a voice for the Big Apple.
"New York has produced many comedians in part because of its energy and its history of immigration," Klein said before eventually boiling it down even simpler. "Many Jewish people live in New York... Let's face it. Jews are over-represented in comedy and psychiatry, and extremely under-represented in the priesthood."
Over the course of Child of the Fifties, Klein talked New York politics, the Yankees, late night delis, and his pre-comedy career as a substitute teacher in the suburbs. But his current routine is not trapped in the past - his current routine is, well, current.
"Comedy keeps me young," Klein said. "I have so far avoided those white Velcro walking shoes and the pendant for when you fall down and yell for help."
Klein has acted along stars from Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days to Emma Thompson in Primary Colors to Burt Reynolds in Hooper (Klein's favorite role). He has had over 80 parts in film and TV (plus dozens more in theater), and appeared on screen as himself one hundred times.
He'll be live on stage for two shows at the Queens Theatre (14 United Nations Avenue South in Flushing Meadows Corona Park), one on Saturday, September 28, at 8 p.m., and a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, September 29. And while attendees can expect the same Klein they grew up with, they shouldn't expect him to be stale.
"I keep sharp on the job by performing," Klein remarked. "Though I have been doing this over the course of two centuries, and am a genuine geezer, I am better than ever."
And so is Queens. With a population larger than all but three US cities (New York being one of them), Queens is growing at an incredible rate. New hotels and high rises are being built in the western half of the borough, while huge retail centers are being built in the east. The borough now has a casino and hosted a Major League All-Star game for the first time in 50 years. And as far as comedy goes, Queens has dozens of pop-up shows, two comedy theaters, three comedy festivals, and a full-time club for the first time in two decades.
When asked about the Laughing Devil Comedy Club and the burgeoning comedy scene in Queens, Klein intimated that part of the growth can simply be explained by the borough's innate sense of humor.
"Don't people laugh in Queens?" Klein asked.
They certainly will this weekend.