Clean Comedy Marana wasn’t even a glimmer in Randy Jenkins’ eye when he asked his now wife, Stephanie, out on a first date. It was for a comedy show.
Her response? “I don’t do those.”
Randy asked why not, and Stephanie said, “I don’t like vulgarities.” He had her, there. The comedy show was to be in a church. It was part of a series, “Clean Comedy USA,” that his friend Randy Houser produced in Phoenix.
She went, she laughed, they fell in love. Randy kept her laughing after she had a stroke soon thereafter, and through her recovery. He learned that comedy helps stroke victims’ brains retrieve their ability to make connections. As Stephanie’s condition slowly improved over a long, post-surgery rehab, they continued to make the drive to Phoenix. Within a year, they married.
Eventually the drive got old, though. Houser suggested they start a clean comedy show in Marana, closer to their Avra Valley homestead. He helped the Jenkins’ find a location and work out booking and promotion strategies.
Clean Comedy Marana was born on the Jenkins’ first anniversary in 2015. “Initially he produced our shows for us,” Randy says of Houser, “Then after about six months, we had sufficient contacts within the industry and we just started doing it.
“We had a few shows that were struggling, that just weren’t really funny,” he said. “They were a learning experience, but every show now is a good one.”
A good one is substantial. Clean Comedy shows attract an average 300 people to the 600-seat theaters Randy rents in Marana and now Vail. Before COVID-19 lockdown, the Jenkins’ were producing three shows a month. Having rebooted a year ago, they are just now back to booking two shows a month.
So let’s invite Will Rogers!
The Jenkins are among the millions of us today who wish we could all get along. Stephanie Jenkins may not like vulgarities, but she dislikes hatefulness even more. Who better than Will Rogers to pillory the haters on all sides and get us all laughing at ourselves, as well as each other?
Rogers famously poked fun at political strawmen from both parties but was so beloved that Republicans and Democrats both claimed him. Life magazine suggested in 1928 that he launch “The Bunk Party” and run for president himself. He accepted, writing in his “Life” column, “Your offer struck me like what the better fed English authors call ‘a bolt from the blue.’ It leaves me dazed, and if I can stay dazed, I ought to make a splendid candidate.”
Teddy Roosevelt said of him, “This man Rogers has such a keen insight into the American panorama and the American people that I feel he is bound, in the course of time, to be a potent factor in the political life of the nation.”
Rogers was a Cherokee cowboy, a trick roper, a vaudevillian, a newspaper columnist, a radio star, a silent movie actor and a pilot. He circumnavigated the globe three times, but he never ran for office.
He excelled at everything he did, in part because he was a comic genius rooted in compassion for the human condition. He claimed to have wanted for his gravestone epitaph, “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident (sic) like.”
Or at least let’s see Steve McAlphabet to “Get the Bunk Out”
Actor, musician and humorist Steve McAllister (aka Steve McAlphabet) came to know Rogers, and his humor, when he played the lead in a Sarasota, Florida, staging of “The Will Rogers Follies.” The production is a musical show in which each phase of Rogers’ life is portrayed as it might be in the Ziegfeld Follies. Rogers was a popular headliner in the Follies for years.
McAllister dove into the part, and into Rogers’ life, to absorb his outlook, philosophy and especially his wit. The result was his own one-man show, “Get the Bunk Out.” McAllister has said that most of the laughs in his 90-minute performance arise from the words Rogers actually used, exactly as he wrote them.
He will perform shows in Tucson and Vail along the route of a 74-day motorcycle tour of America he began on Aug. 28. He’s visiting sites named after Will Rogers.
Rogers often spoke of Arizona including his admiration for the cattle industry and his impressions of its Boulder, Hoover and Coolidge dams. He attended the dedication of the latter. He’s quoted as recommending, in particular, his experience of flying a plane over the Grand Canyon.
McAllister both amplifies and showcases Rogers’ story with some of his own original poetry and songs, accompanying himself on guitar. He’s written, referring to Rogers, “Revisiting the insights of America’s ‘ambassador of good will’ as he addressed them (a century ago) would do us well. As democracy moves forward, it’s time to ‘Get the Bunk Out.’”
Jenkins said he has invited every politician running for office in Pima County.
Clean Comedy presents Steve McAllister channeling Will Rogers in “Get the Bunk Out” at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14, at Coyote Trail Stage, 8000 N. Silverbell Road, Tucson, and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Vail Theater of the Arts,10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.
More comedy this week
• Catalina Craft Pizza, 15930 N. Oracle Road, Suite 178, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, “Comedy in Catalina,” $8 or free with a donation of food or clothing. Phoenix comic Leslie Barton and Tucson favorite Monte Benjamin co-headline and Kristopher Royer and Kyle Verville co-host this production by Kenny Shade. Reservations recommended, 520-825-0140.
• El Jefe Cat Lounge, 3025 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 141, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, eljefecatlounge.com, reservations $18. hosted by Lady Ha Ha Comedy, 21 and older, BYOB and snacks. Priscilla Fernandez, Mo Urban, Morgan Kuehn, Corbin Barker, Katei Rose, Jackie Carpio.
• Laff’s Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Boulevard. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and Saturday, Oct. 8, laffstucson.com, $15, $20 preferred seating. Tucson favorite Pauly Casillas and Bryan Ricci of Phoenix coheadline.
• Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. Ninth Street, tucsonimprov.com. Thursday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m. Harold Epsilon and Harold Zeta; 8:30 p.m. Open mic, Friday, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m. Improv Jam; 7:30 p.m., “The Soapbox” with Andrew Campbell and Nate Wade; 9 p.m. Stand Up Showcase. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, “You’re Favorite Movie Improvised” and “The Meeting;” 9 p.m. “The Haunted Tees” and “Spooooky Girls.” $7 each show, $10 for both shows, same night, free jam and open mic.
• The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress Street, 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, “Keep Tucson Sketchy: A Film Festival,” eventbrite.com, $10, $15 at the door.
• Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, unscrewedtheatre.org, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, “From the Top Improvised Musical;” 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m. Family-Friendly Improv, 9 p.m. “Coming Unscrewed for Pride;” $8, live or remote, $5 kids.