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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Laugh Locally: Tucson Offers Many Outlets for Comedians

Nov 24, 2020 09:20PM ● By Katta Mapes
Comedy is a lot like sports in that you can be a spectator, a player or both. There are three basic categories of comedy performance: improv, stand-up and sketch comedy. Locally in Tucson, one can watch and learn how to do all of these.
   
Comedy improv is totally spontaneous theater with no scripts. A comedy improv team will play off of each other to make up scenes, characters and songs. Each player adds to the skit by adding “Yes, and…” The hit show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was a popular comedy improvisation show. Started in 2012, the Tucson Improv Movement (TIM) “brings laughter, joy and fun to the southern Arizona community through the art of improvisation.”
   
TIM (TucsonImprov.com) offers a comprehensive program for enjoying online shows and learning how to do comedic performances. In November, they held the Tucson Comedy Arts Festival on Facebook Live with shows in all three categories of comedy.
   
Yes, and, in addition to these classes, owner Justin Lukasewicz also offers comedy improv team-building activities for groups as professional development. Even online, these fun-filled workplace events help foster better connection, communication, creativity and innovation. Surely laughing on the job will lower stress and improve employee satisfaction.
   
At Unscrewed Theater (UnscrewedTheater.org), a nonprofit comedy company, volunteers perform comedy improv shows for families and adults. Once they open up again, children, teens and adults can take classes and workshops.
   
In stand-up comedy, the comedian develops a routine with funny stories and jokes that has been written and rehearsed for the performance. Beginning comedians often practice in front of live audiences through “open mic” opportunities. Popular stand-up comedians become well known and, then, well paid. In her stand-up comedy class at TIM, funny woman Mo Urban recommends keeping a notebook handy to jot down the comical, interesting and ironic things that we might encounter in everyday life, which can be integrated into a stand-up routine.
   
When players learn how to do stand-up comedy, they need to have a place to practice and perfect these skills. Roxy Merari, comedian and founder of comedy at the Surly Wench Pub on Fourth Avenue, is actively involved in providing open mic nights for stand-up comedians to go public. Right now, information about virtual shows and sign-ups is available at WenchComedy.com.
   
On the third Wednesday of the month, Merari also hosts a show about Tucson Comedy on local indie radio station KMKR-LP (Radio.net/s/kmkr). Others host “All Things Local Comedy” on the other Wednesdays.
   
Linda Ray, of the Tucson Comedy Alliance, says, “Creative and driven as they are, Tucson comics quickly adapted to the virtual world. The deepest cut is not to have a live audience. Audience feedback is the reason folks do comedy to begin with. They literally feed on the feedback to evolve and grow their material and their skills.” Fortunately, there are still a few live open mic shows in Tucson at these venues: KAVA Bar, Country Line Grille, Laffs Comedy Club and Café à la C’Art. Matt Kearney hosts live shows at Brother John’s BBQ from time to time.
   
Sketch comedy involves scripted acts that are commonly strung together to make a larger show. Each of these acts is a sketch that starts with a comedic idea developed to show some irony or inherent contrast from life. Rich Gary of Keep Tucson Sketchy has this example of inherent contrast: “When a character is in a situation that is strange for him or her to be in—like a construction worker who is a germaphobe or high maintenance. This helps to highlight an exaggeration of something that is weird and amusing.”
   
Keep Tucson Sketchy rounds out the local venues with a place to see and do sketch comedy. Currently, all programs are available online only. Gary was on a public access news team originally. When that program ended two years ago, he and his team reached out to local comedians to form the comedy company. You can catch their COVID Comedy Classic 3 online on December 23 (Instagram.com/KeepTucsonSketchy, Facebook.com/KeepTucsonSketchy).
   
Putting it all together, the TucsonComedyAlliance.org is the site that lists all the comedy available where Tucsonans can go to laugh locally. In 2021, this will be the place to go to find out about all local comedy events. Search on YouTube and Facebook Live for more local comedy acts. Until then, keep on laughing.

Katta Mapes, M.A., M.Ed. is a freelance writer, book author and comedian wannabe who is dedicated to promoting social, emotional and spiritual well-being for all. Connect at [email protected] (hablo español).
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