“They had an open date the day before my birthday, and I thought, ‘I'm going to take that,’ says comedian Monte Benjamin. He had been smitten by a cool 75-seat pop-up theater in Tucson Mall when he opened for a magician there, and decided it would be a great place for a “clean comedy” birthday show.
The date he booked is Saturday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. The bill includes local favorites Nancy Stanley, who co-hosts the popular Estrogen Hour benefits, Matt Ziemak., Rory Monserrat, Cindell Hanson and Charles Ludwig. The theater is next to Macy’s and across from the container store. It’s operated by the Arizona Rose Theatre, which uses the space for kids’ education programs and stage productions.
“I was really impressed by the intimacy of the room,” Benjamin says. "My intention was to see how well it draws a crowd and see if I can continue to do something like every month to give Tucson another spot to go to.”
He sees a model in area shows produced by Randy and Stephanie Jenkins of Marana Laughs Clean Comedy, for whom he’s performed in Safford and Vail as well as Marana. Having produced successful shows in both Tucson and Vail, Benjamin thinks the mall space might be ideal for attracting retirees and families from Tucson’s northern reaches to his brand of clean comedy.
And just what is “clean comedy”? “My definition would be no profanity, no vulgarity or sexual innuendo," Benjamin says. “Material that everybody everyone can be a part of, even kids.”
Benjamin says he’s always been a comedian – a hit as the class clown and in school-sponsored comedy shows in his Miami, FL hometown. But a school employee, who perhaps should have known better, nearly ended the promising comic’s career by taking him to an adult-oriented open mic. “I tried this stuff that I did in high school,” Benjamin says, “and I was heckled and pretty much booed off the stage. I wasn't ready for it and I was, like, ‘I'm done with comedy. I can't do it.”
A year or so later, though, work colleagues got him back up at an open mic. “I did my 5-minute set, I killed and then all of a sudden I got that feeling, like it's a high.” Benjamin says. “I decided to work hard and never let that thing happen to me again because … I have a heart for comedy.”