Valley resident and standup comic Robert Schimmel's steadily rising star seems to have accelerated in recent months. Much has happened to him since the knockout performance of his dirty-mouthed, hilarious act on September 18 of last year at the State Theater in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which became an HBO special, Robert Schimmel: Unplugged.

Why Kalamazoo? "Just because I've been there several times, and they're always such a great audience," says the comic, by cell phone from L.A. traffic. "I don't know why, but when my CD came out, I sold 5,000 copies there, when I hadn't sold that many in the whole rest of the country. Maybe because it's such a conservative part of the country, when they hear my stuff, it has more impact."

Schimmel, who will play before no less enthusiastic audiences at the Tempe Improv this weekend, continues to revive the long-dormant tradition of the comedy record. The Kalamazoo performance -- with material not included in the HBO show -- is now being released under the same title as Schimmel's third CD on Warner Bros. "Warner just asked me to do another one," he says. "So I'll be doing my fourth CD."

His bigger news, however, is that in a few weeks he's set to start shooting the pilot for a sitcom, which he hopes will be on Fox's fall schedule this year. "Mike Scully, from The Simpsons, is helping me put it together. It's like a slice-of-life, like Roseanne or Everybody Loves Raymond, or Married . . . With Children, except that I love my wife." In keeping with the Roseanne and Raymond model, " a lot of the episodes are based on stuff from my act."

He's not the only busy person in his family, however. His wife, Vicki Schimmel, continues to work toward establishing, here in the Valley, "O.U.R. House," a nonprofit "grief resource center dedicated to helping children and families heal" after, or during, a devastating loss. And the comic's mother, Betty Schimmel, has recently published a book, To See You Again, an account of her youthful romance in Budapest in 1939, and of its interruption when she was imprisoned, with her mother and sister, in a concentration camp. "She's in South Africa now, on a book tour," says her son proudly, after pausing to complain about the L.A. motorist who's "right on my ass."

Robert Schimmel is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 16; 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, March 17; the same times Saturday, March 18; and 8 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at the Tempe Improv Comedy Theater, 930 East University (at Cornerstone mall). For details call 480-921-9877.

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead