Try to imagine what it would be like to approach your everyday life, good days and bad, making a priority of finding the humor in it.
That outlook is what made Pauly Casillas an early trailblazing “influencer,” attracting a quarter-million fans to his Twitter feed by 2009. It’s also what makes him one of Arizona’s most reliable comedy draws, even while prioritizing his work and family time.
“I’ve always been funny,” he said. “It was a coping mechanism to deal with childhood trauma, and I just got really good at it. It’s just how my brain works.
“Whatever the situation, I just find the funny in it. It’s kind of always been that way. After a while, you get a feeling in your stomach. You get to a point where ‘I know this is funny. How can I make it funnier?’ Or ‘How can I make it sharper?’”
Accounting for his early Twitter success, he said, “I was just typing jokes. That really helped me learn how to write jokes.” He began to focus on the craft, a practice that absorbs him to this day. “I wanted to see how to springboard that into something,” he added.
In 2011, an open mic at Laff’s Comedy Caffe became that springboard. “I was just learning how to write a joke and how to say what I’m going say onstage — just milking it,” he said. “I’ll add stuff in, merge jokes, get a lot of beats on the same story. Tag the story.”
Over time, he began to attract the support of touring comics. That led to invitations to open for them at clubs elsewhere in the Southwest. Ultimately, he became a first-call opener at established clubs in Phoenix, Tucson and elsewhere in the Southwest. His work-life balance remained a priority, though, and, especially since the pandemic, he’s been staying closer to home.
“Right now, I don’t have a lot of new material, but the older material, I’m trying to keep it fresh and then lengthen,” he said. “I’m trying to turn my 5-minute bits into the seven merged jokes, even with added tags and a fresher, polished punchline.”
“I like to make it different for me too,” he added. “I don’t like to get to the place where it’s like muscle memory. That takes the fun out of it. You do that one joke or that one little new tag that hits and you’re, like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I love that feeling.”
Asked how his comedy has evolved since his Twitter days, Casillas said his content has changed. “I don’t have jokey jokes and more,” he said.
“I would say 95% of my jokes or bits — they happened to me. That makes it a whole lot easier because it’s easier to remember a story that happened as opposed to writing something that didn’t and then trying to recall it.”
At the same time, it makes his comedy relatable, in something like a supportive way. Audiences appreciate that he’s up there being vulnerable about his actual life. They can often relate to his stories.
“I like to find humor in the stuff that really happened,” he said. My stuff is really personal and emotional, as opposed to trying to make something up or make something funny that isn’t.”
As for his future, we borrow a well-worn quote from “The Big Lebowski”: “The Dude abides.”
“I’m happy where I am,” Casillas said, “because after where I’m at now, you have to pursue being a headliner, being famous, with the pressure of ‘What’s next?’ ‘Why am I not on a show?’ ‘Why is that guy on a show I’m not on?’”
“I’m at the point where I’m the only guy in a 100-yard radius who can do a good 45 minutes. So, they know who to call. I can do a solid 45—a 45 I’m proud of. And that’s all material, no crowd work.
“It’s never been like I need this to sustain a lifestyle. It’s more about just the craft part of being sharp.”
Pauly Casillas, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, Laff’s Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Boulevard, Tucson, tickets start at $15, www.laffstucson.com
All-Star Comedy Benefits ‘Miracle IN THE BARRIO’
If “Miracle in the Barrio” had been a baby, it would be old enough to drink by now. So, it’s fitting that its 21st birthday will kick off with a comedy show at O’Malley’s.
Featured in the festivities is the charity’s co-founder, local comedian (and home-loan lender) Steve Nuñez. He and his Nova Home Loans colleague Jon Volpe founded the annual drive to encourage local businesses to collect toys for children who might not otherwise get a new one for the holidays.
The bill also includes Elliot Glicksman, a recently retired attorney. Although now a rare treat on Tucson stages, Glicksman once toured with comedy partner and fellow Tucsonan Frank Kalil. They made several national television appearances, including the “Andy Williams Show.”
Priscilla Fernandez headlines and Dave Membrilla hosts the show. Rounding out the bill are Floyd Hass; Mo Urban, Fernandez’s partner in Hotel Congress’ “Lady Ha Ha” comedy series; and Phil Gordon, creator of the “Laughing Liberally” comedy show at Tucson Improv Movement.
O’Malley’s Bar & Grill, 247 N. Fourth Avenue, Tucson, 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, $15,
Other shows this week
Chuckleheads, 41 Brewery Avenue, Bisbee, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, $15, www.chuckleheadsaz.com, Jon Carden
Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress Street, hotelcongress.com, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, $15, www.dice.fm, the “Retro Game Show” presents an original format, “Battle Mimes.” It’s charades with contestants dressed in oversized masks, miming only really hard words, with special guest Paul Fox.
Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. Ninth Street, Tucson, www.tucsonimprov.com, $7 each show, $10 for both shows, same night, free jam. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, “Cage Match;” 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, Improv Jam; 7:30 p.m. “The Soapbox” 9 p.m. Femme Drop; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, “Tootpole” and “The Game Show Show;” 9 p.m. “4th Avenue Confessions.”
Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E.
www.unscrewedtheatre.org, $8, live or remote, $5 kids. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed; 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, Unscrewed Family Hour; 7:30 p.m. NBOJU; 9 p.m. The Backyard improv playground (pay what you will)