So a burn survivor, a blind man and an amputee walk into this bar…”
Actually, it was the Hollywood IMPROV, and comedians Reginald Pope, Michael Lee and Damienne Merlina were joined by an assortment of other comics for the sixth annual Norman G. Brooks Standup Comedy Showcase. Sponsored by Fern Field, coexecutive producer of the USA Network’s hit television show Monk, in honor of her late husband, Norman Brooks, the scholarship competition is presented by the Media Access Office (a program of the California Employment Development Department) and the Friends of Californians with Disabilities.
This year nine contestants took the stage, with five minutes each to get the audience (and judges) laughing. First up was Franky C, poking fun at his Jewish Puerto Rican heritage as well as his blindness. He was followed by Nancy Becker Kennedy, an accomplished actor as well as comedian. Next came Reginald Pope, otherwise known as Reggie Blaze, who joked about his reaction to a car explosion that left his skin on fire: “I ran so fast my shadow was behind me, shouting, ‘Slow down! You know I got asthma!’” Rosi Reed followed Pope, then came Michael Beers, then Chris Fonseca. Michael Lee brought his guide dog Filbert onstage and had him do tricks, laughing as he rewarded the animal with doggie treats shaped like chicken legs, pizza and cheese. “You wanna impress my dog? Shape them like a little poodle’s butt.” After Lee, Damienne Merlina, a young redhead, performed, and one of ABILITY Magazine’s own, comic writer Jeff Charlebois, ended the night.
Beers won the competition with a constant stream of jokes about college, careers and girls. A junior communications major at the University of Montana, he told of his struggle with algebra. “I’ve been looking for x for eight years,” he grumbled. “When I find him, I’m going to give him a map, some breadcrumbs and a cell phone so he’ll never get lost again. I wonder sometimes: “If I got lost, would x come looking for me?”
The judges for the competition were Bonny Dore, producer with Bonny Dore Productions Inc.; Chuck Parker, production designer for Monk; Kathy Buckley, actor, comedian and motivational speaker; Roger Strull, an agent with Preferred Artists Agency; Joni Ravenna, writer and on-air personality of Hello Paradise on KVCR Palm Springs; Anthony Santa Croce, producer for Monk; Carol Casella, studio director with RenMar Studios; John Landis, director of Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, Coming to America and numerous other films; and Field.
In between acts, host Fred Burns and hostess Tanyalee Davis entertained the crowd. Burns has won the grand prize on ABC’s America’s Funniest People and performed in the Farrelly Brothers’ movie Stuck on You. Davis won last year’s Comedy Showcase and has held roles in several television shows and movies.
After announcing Beers as the winner and presenting him with the scholarship, Field handed Paul Miller, director of Disabled Student Services at California State University–Fullerton and board member of the Friends of Californians with Disabilities, a check for next year’s scholarship recipient. Thus, the Norman G. Brooks Standup Comedy Showcase is already prepared for another year to delight a new audience with several of the most talented up-and-coming entertainers, and to give one more comedian the chance to study his or her craft in depth.
And that’s no joke.
by Noelle Kelly