Wednesday, January 7, 2015



Temecula, CA – In the theatre, we all know one of the masks is laughing while the other mask cries. Those two bookends of life mark our journey through it. Humor helps us make it past the sadness and makes reality, if not more sufferable, at least a lot more bearable. 

Starting with making the King happy through entertainment as a jester then progressing to political satire and finally breaking through with performers like Lenny Bruce, comedy now touches on the personal, as legendary comic Bill Cosby found out. The Book of James says that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, partly because it can reveal an unknown truth as well as bring laughter. Last night as Conner McSpadden presented Inland Emperors, both were onstage at the Ontario Improv. This is the Calendar review and report.

First to make it easy to find if you have never been to the Ontario Improv, the Improv Marque is visible from the AMC entrance at the Ontario Mills super mall. From the I-15 take the I-10 west to the first exit and that takes you to the mall. Cruise the outer drive until you see the AMC area. The Improv ticket window is right inside on the mall pedestrian walkway. As the Captain* and I walked down the semi long hallway into the room, you are greeted by a big framed gallery of modern comedians in B&W shots; some you recognize and some you don’t.

Entering the ballroom, the hostess greeted us and seated us in a audience 7/8 full. The room is a half circle of tabled tiers extending out from the center stage area like a sculptured lake ripple. The Capt’n and I settled in. I ordered some delicious chicken flautas [$$] and a Blue Moon with an orange slice. I wasn’t driving the 50 minute trip either way.

Connor’s crew of young comedians all delivered personal humor about their pop culture lives, their genders, their heritage/ethnic blends, even the first time they got laid [“I was 22 (and doing standup) when a black chick gave me her number. It was eleven o’clock…”]. The comedy today, from what I saw, is less about politics and more about the person and the personal. I would also guess that most of the guys, there were no lady comics, are on the nerdy side. Fun humor that’s self-deprecating over angst, except for the headliner, Comedy Central comedian Thai Rivera.

Thai’s humor was personal also, but more on a gut level with Richard Pryor. Although that comparison flashed through my mind since I’m that old, a closer, more local personality came to mind, just not as tortured and more twisted. Caught in the double identity culture of today’s modern youth from blended heritage marriages [Asian, Latino] who don’t follow the straight and narrow, gender-wise, the chem-trailed skies, police brutality, and Ferguson racism are the unfunny background noise to Life’s Chessboard when you see all the squares are black or white and you fit on neither. The angst created can fuel a person in many, sometimes scattered, directions.

As you look at the logo design advertising his name in a style that would make even Ivan Promotions smile, you know Thai has chosen art as his direction of expression for the life he knows. This is an act worth seeing and was definitely the headliner for keeping it real, thoughtful, and funny in that edgy ‘this is how we living’ way. 

Connor McSpadden and friends are just part of the monthly lineup where comedy reigns king every night of the week except ‘stormy Mondays’.

(*- Captain Tuesday, co-adventurer who did some standup back in the Peter Surowski - Java Joz daze)

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