George Carlin's opening act was stuck in an airport, so his manager's granddaughter suggested they call Waukegan native Rob Paravonian, the funny guy she saw on YouTube performing his famous "Pachelbel Rant" on the guitar.
"I was in my apartment in Brooklyn, and they called and said, 'How fast can you get up to New Hampshire tonight?' I looked online and saw that it was five hours. So I got in my car and went. I'm glad it happened that way, because I didn't have a lot of time to think about it," Paravonian said of the 2007 phone call.
Before the show, Carlin found Paravonian backstage and talked to him about his video, which now has more than 13 million views.
"He said to me, 'It's pretty good!' To get a 'pretty good' from George Carlin ... that's a big deal," Paravonian said, noting that Carlin was one of his idols.
Paravonian ended up opening a dozen more shows for Carlin, who died a year later. He recalls Carlin as nice, friendly and very supportive of other comedians.
It was a highlight of Paravonian's comedy career, most of which has been spent also playing the guitar and writing original comedy songs.
The son of the late Waukegan Mayor Haig Paravonian, Rob Paravonian has toured all over the U.S. and done appearances on Comedy Central and VH1. But Paravonian's perhaps best known for his popular YouTube videos.
One of his newest, "Baby in a Bar," takes on hipster parents who bring their kids to Brooklyn bars. Others, which are part of his #52sellout project, mock music used in advertising.
What he's most excited about, though, is the not-yet-titled play he just finished, featuring 20 original songs. It's about the fifth and largely ignored guy in a popular boy band.
"It's a really fun musical," he said.
Music has been part of Paravonian's life since he was a kid at Washington Elementary School in Waukegan, when he started playing the cello. He also played it in the orchestra at Waukegan West High School.
"I had many flavors of geekdom in my past," he said. "I was pretty shy. I was quiet in class, but people who knew me knew I was funny. I was a kid who'd say something quietly at my desk, and other people around me who heard it would laugh. But I wasn't the class clown or anything."
In orchestra, they'd play Pachelbel's "Canon in D," and it was so boring for the cellists they didn't even bother to take their music out of their folders. Little did Paravonian know it'd one day become the subject of his most popular comedy bit.
After college in Los Angeles, where he dabbled in comedy at open mic nights, Paravonian moved back home to play in the power pop band The Steppingstones. On the side, he took classes at The Second City.
"As the band career slowed down, I started doing more on the comedy side," he said.
"Pachelbel Rant" was something he did to close his stand-up shows, so he added it to his 1998 "American Cheese" album. He didn't post it on YouTube until almost a decade later, at the urging of a fan who heard it on the "Dr. Demento Show."
"People still pass it around. It's five minutes long. I didn't think anyone would watch something that long. So I was very excited when it broke 1,000 (views)," he said. "Then YouTube put it on its front page, and it shot up to more than 100,000." Dr. Demento helped those numbers climb even higher.
The online comments about it are comical in their own right -- such as "You wish you could write something as beautiful as that!" and others who get into deep music theory discussions.
While shopping around his musical is at the top of his priority list now, Paravonian's also looking to do a standup act for a streaming service such as Netflix, and has an unexplained desire to perform on a cruise ship.
"For better or worse, I think it's something you have to do," he said. "It's been really fun to try to make people laugh wherever I can, and to hear from people that they enjoy my work."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.