Alex Elkin looks just like Hagrid. He says he’s heard that before. He reminds us, though, that Hagrid is Warner Brothers. His aspect is more Disney.
His first job out of high school was as a Disneyland cruise skipper. He had that job for two years until he, and they, agreed it was time to part amicably. “It taught me a lot,” Elkin said, “about not getting upset when people don’t laugh at your jokes. It was very helpful for my standup career.”
By then, his career path already had been set at a talent show in high school when he was 14. “I wrote a little act, and I went out and tried it, and it worked. I ended up winning the thing. It tricked me into believing I could do this for a living. So that’s what I’ve been pursuing ever since. I started in ’94, so we’re going on 29 years in March.”
Elkin grew up in a little Southern California town known as San Dimas. At the time no one knew its portent for his future. In 1989, San Dimas would become the backdrop for the iconic “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
He remembers a lot of comedy at home. “My dad’s side of the family was Jewish. Humor is always prized, I think, in that culture. We’d watch specials and I’d listen to the old comedy records that my dad had.
“We loved Steve Martin and George Carlin and Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, the big ones that really kind of launched standup comedy for what it is today. I just remember sitting around loving those things. I couldn’t get enough of them. I just remember admiring people who could make people laugh.
“I always wanted to make people laugh, ever since I was a little kid. And I got it early on. It came easy to me. Even when I didn’t want it to be amusing, it still came out that way. Sometimes I would get in trouble for it in school, but it got me through a lot of sticky situations.
“I didn’t even realize it was a possibility for a career until I got into high school. I started doing open mics as soon as I graduated, even underage.”
Asked about the cultural changes he’s seen in comedy in recent years, Elkin draws a fine line.
“I can work a Mormon church and I can do a biker bar. That just comes with experience,” he said. But as far as political correctness and people being offended? I don’t want to water down comedy just because people’s panties are in a bunch.”
However, he added, “It’s not about offending people on purpose. It’s about taking a mirror to society, holding it up to them and going, ‘Hey, look at our foibles, and look at how stupid we can be.’
“There (are) comics out there that want to try rape jokes and they want to try abortion jokes and maybe they want to push an edge, but my opinion is, that punchline better be absolute fire every time and (never) miss. It had better be so fantastic that people are rolling over in the aisles about how funny that joke was, versus the consternation it’s going to cause if people (focus on) the premise. “
Much as he’s loved making people laugh, and impossible as it is for him not to, Aiken hadn’t reckoned on the effects of a comedy career on life in general.
“When I first started doing comedy, I thought I wanted to be a star,” he said. “I thought I wanted to be, you know, in films and television and have my name in lights.
“And as I got older and started having kids (two boys, one girl) and I started seeing what that fame did to other people, I decided I still want to do standup, because that’s what I love, (but) I wanted to . . . bring the family with me.
“And we’ve been able to achieve that goal.”
He described their first cross-country trip when the family was able to stay in hotels and see the sights, pay for gas and meals, and still come out a few dollars ahead from getting paid for doing shows.
Now, he said, his boys are “turning into functioning adults,” and he’s able to keep his daughter in ballet shoes, but most importantly he can arrange his schedule to be home for ball games and recitals.
“I love making people laugh but I don’t want to be famous. It’s a fine line, but I’ve been able to walk it really well, because, as you can see, nobody’s heard of me, but I’m making a living at standup comedy.
“You’re not going to find me at a Hot Topic or in a Target, but man, that bootleg copy of my mixtape is going around and people are digging it.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
For the Kids!
‘A Pirate’s Christmas’
Do mom a favor and get the little ones out of the house for a while on Christmas Eve day. Unscrewed Theatre has been performing special Sunday shows for kids throughout December. You can catch the last one at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 24. This is not a show to sit quietly and watch. The “Elves Gone Bad” ensemble makes space for everyone to get into the act with games, costumes and lots of pretending.
1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, Unscrewed Theatre, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, Suite 39, $5, unscrewedtheater.org
Jay Hewlett at House of Bards
Cory Lytle’s popular Tuesday open mic has spun off several new local comics since he launched it amid COVID-19 restrictions. The moment was like “Kismet;” House of Bards has an outside stage. Since then, the venue’s ambitions have matched his own. Recently he started booking veteran national touring comics into the mix.
Jay Hewlett heads up the bill on Thursday, Dec. 29. Rounding out the show will be Tucson favorite Roxy Merrari, who will be celebrating a birthday, Kyle Verville, Chris Whitney, Steven Black and Chris Quinn, host of the Screening Room’s Tuesday night open mic.
Hewlett’s long list of credits includes a send-up travel and cooking video series called, aptly, Road Kills. He invites us on his journey through the mysteries of his life, questioning why all this stuff happens to him. Does it relate to his misspent youth as the offspring of a drama teacher and a postal worker? “I’ve worked hard to achieve this little,” he says. We can relate.
7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, House of Bards, 4915 E. Speedway Boulevard, $10, eventbrite.com
Ryan Goodcase: A Ghost’s Christmas?
You don’t have to spend Christmas weekend alone. There may still be a few haunted Air B&Bs left in Bisbee. If you’d like some flesh-and-blood companionship, too, you can find it at Chuckleheads. Ryan Goodcase is coming through and there will be a crowd to laugh with.
Quiet and awkward, Goodcase observes smartly and delivers dryly. In 2019 he became the youngest person to win the World Series of Comedy, and after winning the 45th San Francisco International Comedy Competition in 2021, he began performing as a paid regular in a string of clubs across the country.
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Chuckleheads, 41 Brewery Avenue, Bisbee, $15, chuckleheadsaz.com
More comedy this week
Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. Ninth Street. tucsonimprov.com, $7 each show, $10 for both shows, same night, free jam and open mic. Thursday, Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m. “Harold Epsilon” and “Harold Zeta”; 8:30 p.m. Cage Match. Friday, Dec. 23, 6:30 p.m. Improv Jam; 7:30 p.m., “The Soapbox;” 9 p.m. Stand Up Showcase.
Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, unscrewedtheatre.org, $8, live or remote, $5 kids. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Family-Friendly Improv; Saturday, Dec. 24, 1 p.m., Elves Gone Bad kids’ show, “A Pirate’s Christmas;” 7:30 p.m. Family Friendly Improv; 9 p.m., Uncensored Improv Comedy with NBOJU and The Big Daddies.