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Hear the one about Pee Wee?

(ran S, E editions of CTI)

One in a weekly series on the people around you.

As the clock approaches 9 p.m., G. David Howard knows it's time to change into his work clothes.

Disappearing into another room, he dons a purple suit, white shirt and what every well-dressed man requires _ a tie.

But this tie bears a resemblance to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, with its pink stars, green and blue rhinestones and gold beads glued to an already colorful material.

"We're in a fun business," said Howard, 53. "You might as well have fun with your clothes."

That business is comedy, something Howard has been doing for nearly 20 years in the Clearwater area. For the past few years, Howard has been performing five nights a week at the Holiday Inn Central's Maxie's Lounge on U.S. 19 _ except, of course, when he is on tour.

"I've been one of the few comics that never traveled," said Howard, who has started touring only in the past year. "I wanted to be part of my (four) sons' lives."

As Howard enters the small, dimly lit club where he will perform, he shows no trace of stage fright.

"I never get nervous," Howard said. "The only time I get a little uptight is when I have a small audience."

On this particular Friday night, Howard is predicting that there will be a small crowd. He's got to contend with the NBA playoffs.

Usually, Howard explained, he fills the room on the weekends. But show business can be a fickle profession.

"That game will kick me," Howard says as he nods his head.

The show must go on, even through NBA playoff games. Howard mingles with the few who have arrived early, already telling jokes and laughing.

Mike Ager, who grew up in Clearwater, came from Orlando to see Howard's show. Ager, 23, has been coming to hear Howard's "sick humor" since age 14.

Howard is known for what he calls "off-color humor." His show often revolves around his off-the-cuff teasing of the audience, something Howard said most people seem to enjoy.

But at one show, Howard said, a member of the audience became enraged by the teasing and "turned my foot around backwards."

"I get something like that once a year," he said.

Howard waits a few extra minutes before starting in hopes that more people will arrive. At 9:20, he finally walks on stage.

"I've got more people than this in my bathroom," Howard jokes. "It was fun though."

He pulls out a cigarette and begins targeting Pee Wee Herman. The laughter begins and remains steady for the rest of the evening.

"I tried to book in Pee Wee Herman," he says, an impish grin spreading across his face. "I asked his agent, and he said, "Pee Wee's handling himself.' "

Some of Howard's material comes from current events. During the day, he sits down with newspapers, magazines, a pad and a pen. The rest comes straight from the audience.

At some point, everyone becomes a target in one of Howard's shows.

"It's always amazed me that people get offended by comedy," Howard said. "I'm a comic, I'm just kidding."

As the show continues, the room fills to half its capacity. The tardy people slink into the club and attempt to sit at their tables quietly, unnoticed.

It doesn't work.

"Next person who comes in, turn around and give them the finger," Howard instructs the audience.

Deep down, Howard said, he really does respect his audience. Instead of doing his usual two shows, he treats the audience to extra comedy by staying on stage for nearly three hours.

At 12:30 a.m., Howard finally leaves the stage, only to talk and joke with the audience some more.

"We're supposed to be funny people," he said. "We're supposed to have fun."