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JUST ASKING

You might know him as one of the smart-mouthed morning hosts on the radio station 97 Rock. Maybe you've seen him in Tonawanda or Rochester, introducing comedians at the two Comix Cafes he co-owns. Perhaps you even purchased his latest CD, "Live and Uncensored."

An Amherst native, Rob Lederman started out as a comic magician, working the tourist circuit in Greece. He spent 12 years as a stand-up comic, headlining clubs from Los Angeles to Kansas City to Miami. He has opened for David Brenner, Jay Leno and Jim Carrey.

Two years ago, Lederman gained local notoriety when 97 Rock's morning crew unleashed a slew of Christopher Reeve jokes, one of which involved a wheelchair-bound Superman being pulled through the streets. The station's news director resigned in protest. Later that year, Lederman found himself publicly apologizing for a racist remark he made on the show.

A mellower Lederman sat in Hooligans recently to talk about his on-air, on-stage and backstage career.

If you had to do it over again, would you still do the Christopher Reeve jokes?

No. In fact, I'm getting a reputation of being a real ogre at the club, because I'm concerned about what the comics say. If I know that somebody has a joke that is a midget-tossing bit, and there's a table of 20 midgets out there, I would ask them not to do it. I think that when you're on stage, these people are paying you, and you've got a responsibility to them.

Do you enjoy being on the radio?

I love it. We're a weird format, because we're classic rock. The people who listen to us are either 1) blue-collar, hard-working types who want to hear a good crude joke in the morning, or 2) the baby boomers who are taking their kids to school, so you can't offend them. So you have to do so much double-entendre and be so subliminal. That's what makes it fun and challenging.

Do you think people are getting tired of shock radio?

I think so. If you're going to shock somebody, you have to shock them for a reason, to get them to spend more time listening. If I say, "I'm going to have sex with a cat," you're going to say, "Why would you do that?" And you might want to listen a little longer, but you don't want to hear me have sex with a cat.

Do you miss being on the road?

The road itself I don't miss. It's unhealthy. I was never home, I was boozing a lot, it wasn't good for me. You're always in a new place where you don't do anything except work 45 minutes at night. You discipline yourself to write for an hour and a half, but then you've got 10, 11 hours to kill.

So it was more tragic than comic?

Definitely. You want to make people laugh because you want to be accepted. So when you're not in front of everybody, you're alone and insecure. Here, because of the radio show and because I've been here for so long, people expect me to draw crowds -- so now I'm even more insecure. Even when I'm playing the Moose Lodge, I call them up: "How're you doing on ticket sales? Oh, my God, they don't like me!"

How does it feel being a comedian who manages a comedy club?

Oh, it's bizarre. On any given night, I'll go from the stage to the kitchen, where I'm chopping chicken wings, to running to the store when we're out of something, then I run back on stage. It is 80 percent business and 20 percent show. I'm doing deals with beer distributors this afternoon, which I never thought I'd do.

How do you choose your acts?

Crowd-pleasers. If we go by what I like, we're sunk.

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