Mike Targus’ one-man comedy show “The Search For Ron Mims”
The Park Bar is one of those places that remind you of the hidden nature of many of Detroit’s watering holes.
It sits atop Bucharest Grill, a stable of Downtown food, and one of the busiest eateries in the area. I walked into the Grill as I have tens of times, and yet, this time, on a cool Detroit night, I traversed up the stairs past a velvet rope I was never curious enough to cross.
Walking up the stairs I called Mike Targus, former manager of Park Bar, Wayne State theater graduate and the man-of-the-hour as it’s his one man show, “The Search for Ron Mims,” that will soon draw a semi-packed Elizabeth Theater located atop the bar and restaurant.
“Hey, it’s Norris. I’m here.”
“Yeah, we are gonna let you in now. Look for a guy in a red hat”
Targus’s short response took me aback but I was soon greeted at the door by a gentleman in a red baseball cap and a plaid shirt. He ushers me into the main theater area where a man in a simple grey tee, jeans and an inconspicuous Tigers away cap is decorating the humble stage.
“He’s up there…,” the husky man in the red cap said.
The stage itself was small, and the hurried comedian had already adorned the mesh backdrop with a mockery of the American flag. Old English “D”s as the stars, with red and white symbols usually associated with Detroit as the stripes. Guns, cars, skulls and musical notes – the standard fare. It wasn’t elaborate by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact he chose to do it himself, with no stage hands, said something to his nature. I hopped up onto the stage and we exchange pleasantries.
“Hey, how’s it going?” He asked warmly.
It was clear he wasn’t going to stop decorating the stage so we started talking as he pinned a crimson skull onto the mesh.
Targus paced back-and-forth after he finished the task, referring to a picture of the finished set on his iPhone to make sure the patterns were perfect.
“Detroit is always going to be a source of inspiration for me,” he said.
Targus helped open The Park Bar as a manager along with owner Jerry Belanger. His return, he said, doesn’t feel like a completion of a journey but a chapter in a new story.
“My plan? To build something and leave?” He said shaking his head side-to-side. “No, it became more viable to become a better artist, perhaps with more acclaim, more connections and then bring that back to the city.”
The northwest Detroit native recalled his last few years honing his craft in Los Angeles, where he wowed on the Comedy Central Stage in Hollywood.
“LA is cool, but even people there and people FROM Detroit say ‘Oh, well Detroit’s a nice place to be from,’ in a way saying ‘Glad you got out,” Targus said.
As the set began to fill out a pony-tailed man walks to the stage.
“Ten minutes to doors,” he said.
At that moment, Targus looked at the now half crooked decorations with a sigh and asked that I stay for the show.
“Don’t charge this guy, he’s cool,” he said sternly to the man in the red cap.
The sun began to set and the view of the Motor City Casino and the Masonic Temple was now becoming obscured by the cover of fog and darkness. Patrons began to pile in the Elizabeth Theater.
Two women danced by the bar to the placeholder music which varied from Phil Collins to Wu-Tang. A strawberry-blonde doing her best Zooey Deschanel did shots of Jameson with her boyfriend still in his finest office regalia. I thought back to something Targus said earlier.
“Right now, [Detroit] is going through a lot of stuff like gentrification…and what that really means.”
The lights dimmed to signal the show. The lights lowered and Targus took the stage.
“The Search for Ron Mims”, a one-man show, is a collection of stories and events in Targus’ life, a part of a ten or so year. The first half of the 55-minute show had its bright spots, which included Targus telling a story about being forced to purchase cocaine in New York that is honest, smart, self-deprecating and highlights Targus’ genuine nature as a funnyman.
“If you’re Detroiter, I mean if you’re a true Detroiter, you are an authentic person,” he said. “I think people appreciate that.”
The second act is totally devoted to the titular search for the enigmatic Ron Mims, an actual person whose party Targus crashes with a friend. This monologue was filled with bravado, self-confidence and addresses race in a way that is funny without relying on controversy. At one point, he tells all the white people in the audience to achieve “token white status” at least once in their lives as it provides access to parties and bars.
Targus ends the very solid second act with an overview of his life as a comedian, citing his influences Steve Martin and Richard Pryor. Imitating the latter legend at a party in the south, he said, actually caused him to be jumped by random goons who stated, “If you want to act black, we will treat you like you’re black.”
“The Search for Ron Mims” and Mike Targus are basically synonymous beings: mild, self-aware and unassuming in the onset, but acutely observant and quietly confident in their execution. They speak on race and class but don’t preach about it. They highlight their flaws without making you feel sorry for them. But most of all they provide insightful laughs, stemming from life’s most muddled moments.