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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stand-Up, Scottsdale!

I'm back, safe and sound. While on vacation in sunny Arizona I found myself staying right next door to a comedy club. This, believe it or not, was not by design. But at least now I can answer the question, "What's so funny in Scottsdale?" I'll tell you: It's a club called Stand-up, Scottsdale!

I wasn't expecting much. The "club" was a room off Papi Chulo's Mexican Restaurant, which itself was part of the Clarion hotel. And they only held shows on Friday and Saturday. Still, I'm always up for comedy so gladly paid my ten bucks admission (I got $5 off the $15 cover charge with my receipt from Papi Chulo's). The early show was sold out so I had to come back for the 10 o'clock show, which was almost sold out, too. I use the past tense because it turns out I was there for the penultimate weekend at Papi Chulo's. So if you head down to Scottsdale looking for comedy, check their website for their new location. I believe, if my chickenscratch serves me, it's at a location called Anderson's Fifth Estate, a legendary Scottsdale club where, Google assures me, a young David Spade and the Gin Blossoms cut their teeth.

But back to the show. The host was a guy named Howard Hughes. Turns out he's also the owner of Stand-Up, Scottsdale! You gotta love a guy with such a famous name who doesn't make a single reference to it in his act. He just comes out and plays the aging cool guy to perfection, giving medical tips and reliving the '80s. I talked to Hughes after the show. It's nice that a comic is running the show. I got the impression that art is more important to him than the bottom line. He hates cookie cutter comedy, which he'll readily tell the crowd is what is offered up by his competitor down the street. I call it paint-by-numbers comedy; he calls it balloon animal comedy. Same difference.

When I got back to my hotel room, I Googled Howard Hughes. Not an easy thing to do, given the name. But perseverance paid off. I found a great quote by the comedic Hughes in a story on
"People think laughter is the only reaction to comedy; it's not," Hughes said. "You can leave thoroughly disgusted from a comedy show and love it."
As someone who's not a huge laugher, I really love this quote. But beyond that, even, it's exactly right. Any reaction, from laughter to disgust to discussion to reflection and thoughts, is good so long as the comedian is competent. With an attitude like that coming from the owner, it promises an always interesting show. (Read the whole article here.) If the night I went to was typical, you won't see generic comedy at his club. Everyone had a unique perspective on their subject matter that seemed true to them. But before we get to everyone on the bill, let's look at a clip of Hughes in action from a couple years ago. He didn't do any of this material on the night I saw him. In my opinion, he was much better live than in this clip, but you still get a sense of his persona:

First to the stage after Hughes was local legend Steve "ShortBus" Krause. I don't know Krause's disability, but he's in a wheelchair. If there were any sympathy laughs, they soon turned into real laughs. The guy is very funny. As he said, "You guys are staring at me like I'm contagious. Don't worry, you can't catch awesome." And while he necessarily talked about his condition, he didn't harp on it. It obviously informs who he is, but he was the total package. Here's a sampling for you:

Next up was the Mexican Ricardo Rocha, who described his light complexion as "Saved By The Bell Latino". And for those of us who didn't get it, he clarified: "CHiPs Latino". I appreciated the older reference. Like Krause, though, he didn't fixate on his identity. Here's a clip of Rocha:

The feature act was Dean Delray, who you may have seen in The Longshots or Hellride, but I haven't. Again, like the comics who hit the stage before him, he didn't play to type. Delray has tattoos up and down his arms and looks like a rough and tumble character but there was nary a mention of his ink and he showed lots of vulnerability. He did long chunks of material. One I remember was on Radio Shack. His explanation for the store's longevity is that it's a front: they must sell weed in there, that's how they stay in business, then mimicked a stoner carrying out a big item: "Thanks a lot for that VCR." I couldn't find any video of Delray's stand-up, but here he is as Curly from the Three Stooges in a video from Funny or Die:

The headliner was Jay Davis, who was on Dane Cook's Tourgasm. Out of all the acts that night, he was perhaps the most generic, starting with a reference to his look ("like Emilio Estevez and Anne Heche morphed into one") and going into a Smart Car gag. But then he got into a long, painful story about his ex-wife cheating on him which resulted in, after some obsessive behaviour on his part, a restraining order. I hope it was true because it wasn't that funny, yet it was strangely compelling. He also talked about being the manager for Dog Star. I have no idea if he really was, but it seemed he just wanted to do his Keanu Reeves impression, which was, albeit, uncanny. Here's Davis:

So that was my comedy weekend. Even if you can't make it down to the Phoenix area, let this be a reminder to get out to live comedy wherever you are, be it your home town or on the road. Whether you laugh or are disgusted, it's all good.


LSF said...

Oh man, I need to go see more shows in Phoenix.

HH said...

Guy, thanks so much for the review! I found this on a day when my comedic energies were way low; this def put me back in the fight! Thank you. The new place is awesome. Let me know if you get back to az, i'd love to have you by. Again, thanks, your honesty and insight in all of it was just really incredible and appreciated. Take care. HH.

Anonymous said...

Stand-Up Scottsdale Comedy Club is, bar none, the place to be on a weekend to be entertained. We frequent the place and the show and Howard never disappoints. Highly recommended! ~DN

Guy MacPherson said...

Hopefully I'll be back next spring, HH. Keep the new room going until then! I look forward to seeing it.