Things are tense right now in America -- and that's good news for Bobby Collins.
The veteran stand-up comedian, whose Buffalo roots include graduating from the University at Buffalo in 1973, was recently in California entertaining a conference that turned out to be full of hedge fund traders.
"The news had just come out about how bad the economy was," Collins said by cell phone this week, while walking around Yankee Stadium on "tour day" before it's torn down.
"So I get on the stage, I say: 'A friend called me up, he says, "Bob, I've got all these stocks, what should I do?"
"And I say, 'Move to the first floor.' They didn't even smile."
Hard times create a more receptive market for comedians, Collins said.
"They're on the verge of panic," he said. "You gotta let them know it's all going to be OK. It's all going to be OK."
Collins, who is bringing his brand of observational humor to UB's Slee Hall on Saturday, cemented his nationwide profile while hosting VH1's "Stand-Up Spotlight." He has spent years opening for entertainers such as Cher, Julio Iglesias and Frank Sinatra.
"Now, I'm the No. 1 guy played on XM and Sirius radio," Collins said in his trademark rasp. "I've got four CDs out, two DVDs out, one was nominated for a Grammy. Life is good. People need to laugh."
Wherever he goes, Collins said, he meets people who still identify themselves as Buffalonians. "Me, too," he tells them. "I went to UB."
There's something special about the city, and the way Buffalonians can get down on their corner of the world doesn't sit right with Collins.
He recounted returning to UB a few years ago to help headline a seminar that included media stars like Wolf Blitzer and Hollywood figures.
"We wanted people to know that Buffalo has got more heart in its little finger than most places," he said.
Collins is doing his part to get the message out.
"Don't feel that just because it's rainy and crappy in your corner of Western New York, you can't do anything," he said. "You can do anything you want, because Buffalo's got heart."
Who knows how things can change in a few years, he noted.
"Eight years ago, I'm standing on a stage wherever, opening for Julio or whatever, and I start saying 'Ladies and gentlemen, this guy George Bush, we're not just talking stupid -- ' and half of them started booing me.
"Now I mention George Bush," he said, "and everybody boos."
WHO: Bobby Collins
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Slee Hall, University at Buffalo North Campus, Amherst
INFO: (866) 651-2906 or www.lowbrowtickets.com