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Not-So-Straight Comedy

Whatever bad things you may remember or have heard about the 1970s (disco, polyester pantsuits, god-awful hairdos), let's not forget that Carol Burnett was making great comedy skits every week for a good chunk of the decade. With great bits including "Went With the Wind" and "As the Stomach Turns," Burnett and company truly made some classic television.

If you've been missing this type of comedy sketch and the doorbell that rings off-cue, you're in luck. Local writers and producers Kenton Jones and Rob Zonfrelli are paying homage to Burnett this weekend in their Homoneurotic comedy revue.

But as the title suggests, this is a gay comedy show. As described on the Homoneurotic Productions Web site, the show "covers the spectrum of gay dating, gay frustration, gay celebration, bawdiness, timidness and everything in between. There are even a couple of musical numbers ..."

So move over, Burnett and Lawrence; Jones and Zonfrelli are ready to follow your lead.

"This is our tribute to Carol Burnett," says Jones. "We wanted to give a tip of the hat to Carol Burnett, Laugh-In and Monty Python. ... There's a supportive gay population in Tucson, and a good amount of GLBT theater. We wanted to do something mainly funny and off the deep end."

Homoneurotic was co-written by Jones and Zonfrelli after they decided Tucson was ready for funny gay theater. The 90-minute show has two acts and 16 four- or five-minute sketches. There are 10 cast members, and Jones notes half of the cast is straight.

"Most of the sketches are flat-out hilarious," says Jones. "Some are poignant and thought-provoking. Our main goal is to make people laugh and give them something to think about."

While the show's title may get people wondering, Jones says it relates to everyone. "We are holding up a humorous mirror to neurotic behavior that we all share. ... We are in no means suggesting all gay people are neurotic. The neuroses we write about are our own. ... There are situations a lot of people will be able to (understand) ... issues of dating, rejection ... stuff everyone feels."

Homoneurotic begins with a "normal" New Jersey couple at a dinner theater. It moves on to other sketches, with a blend of comedy and "dramedy." One poignant sketch written by Zonfrelli takes a look at two middle-age gay brothers who are home for Christmas dinner. Jones says through the process of talking and arguing, they discover they both suffer from self-esteem issues.

While Jones considers "Boner the Magical Clown" the "darkest, edgiest and (most) potentially offensive sketch," it is also one of his favorites.

"Harpo" is a spoof of the Oprah interview with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger after they made Brokeback Mountain. I was able to read the script of this sketch. Without giving anything away, there's a lot of hilarity and hoopin' and hollerin' here. Jones captures plenty of Oprah-speak. At one point, she questions the audience about the film, wondering, "Weren't y'all just devastated?" Later, she exclaims her trademark, "Oh mah stars!"

Jones just hopes he doesn't piss off any Oprah fans.

Performing in front of an audience isn't new for Jones. He played a drag queen in Murder at Magic Manor, which is still in production at The Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater. He acted in Wilde Playhouse's Lend Me a Tenor and was a member of the Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed improv comedy troupe. He has also acted in Chicago and New York.

"I've always written and performed. As a kid, I did puppet shows for my book reports. My brother and I would put on shows. ... I got a degree in acting, and then combined it with technical theater ... I designed, painted and came up with costumes." Homoneurotic is Jones' first producing gig.

"Writing and producing this has been very healing for both of us," says Jones. "In the process of writing, it seemed like the issues became less damaging (to us) as they became funnier.

"It's been quite a journey. ... A lot of people auditioned for this. ... We got a small grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council that covers half our production cost. ... And Club Congress, bless their hearts, is the one venue that came through."

Jones is working on new material for a show he hopes will run three nights next year. He also has an idea to offer workshops in improv theater.

But for this weekend, Jones has high hopes for Homoneurotic. "People who have worked on the project told us they loved the material. Everyone involved seems to be having a good time. There's nothing more healing than people having fun together."

Homoneurotic, a gay sketch-comedy revue, takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets are $10, available at www.hotelcongress.com or at the door. For more information, visit the company Web site.

More by Irene Messina

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