Howie Nave

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February 8, 2012
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Dat Phan has another secret, but Howie is like an open (comic) book

Every time I get a text from Dat Phan I crack up.

When he first auditioned for the DirecTV television commercial called "The Whale," Dat sent me the text: "I think it went really well but don't mention it to anyone just yet." Then he gets the spot and after he's done shooting Dat sends me another text: "I'm so excited, Howie; I just finished shooting the commercial for DirecTV and I think it's going to come out really good! Please don't tell anybody until it airs, OK?"

Now he has yet another project in the works but I can't comment on it until I get the text that gives me the green light to mention it.

What I can tell you is Dat will perform nightly at Harveys' Improv through Sunday, Feb. 12. Shows are at 9 p.m. except on Saturday, when there are two performances, at 8 and 10 p.m.

I love Dat's enthusiasm. This quality has been with him even before he won the first season of "Last Comic Standing." He's the same way with movie roles, even if they're small ones, and also when appearing on television.

Dat has been seen on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "The Tyra Banks Show," plus he's done voiceover work such as his stint on "The Family Guy."

The often-shy comedian was born Dat Tien Phan in Saigon, Vietnam, but grew up in San Diego barely making ends meet. We're talking living in his car for a while until he could afford something that wasn't on wheels. He attended public schools and eventually moved to Los Angeles after graduating high school taking whatever work he could get while perfecting his standup routine. He caught a break answering phones for the Improv in Hollywood on Melrose Avenue. Not exactly a gig to retire on but it offered him something more valuable: stage time at the famed comedy club at night after doing the phone gig during the daytime hours. It eventually paid off once that little TV show came along.

Being from a large family, it was only natural that Dat harvested some choice material because it was right there in front of him.

"That's why so much of my material is based on my mom and family, and 85 percent of my material is true," he said.

He also gives insight to his cultural background, poking fun of the ridiculous stereotypes and shares that experience of being a regular American guy within a Vietnamese heritage. Like many comics with immigrant parents, Dat would incorporate his mom's accent as an added punch to the jokes making his characters come to life.

His latest DVD "Dat Phan Live"(and available from Amazon.com) is a collection of some of the funniest bits I've ever heard and a testament that his act just keeps getting better. His CD, "You Touch, You Buy" also is funny and available on iTunes.

Dat gives back a lot. He's been a mentoring figure to new Asian comics to those not even in the entertainment business. I think that's why he's been rewarded by such prestigious organizations as The Smithsonian Institute when he was mentioned for their "Top 10 Most Influential Vietnamese-American Individuals."

Dat's been on the big screen in addition to his television work. He had a small but funny spot in the movie "Cellular" but the one project I am still waiting to see get completed is "Yellow Fever."

I'll let you know when that one is finished once I get another text.

Last-minute replacement Gene Pompa returns earlier than expected.

The prolific comedian and writer is well respected by his peers. I can't imagine what that feels like.

I just love the wide variety of things he has accomplished. Some of Gene's television work include appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," starring in his own half hour Comedy Central special, FOX's "In Living Color," "The Brothers Garcia" on Nickelodean, Showtime, HBO, MYV, MUN2, Galavision and the Game Show Network just to mention but a few.

Did you see Gene in the Jennifer Aniston-Adam Sandler movie, "Just Go For It" last year? It is hilarious. There's one scene where Gene must touch Aniston's breast and he said it took over 37 takes before the director (and probably Gene) were satisfied with the final edit.

Gene was born in East Los Angeles. He has been a Mexican-American most of his life, except for a few years when he was a practicing Chicano. Gene became a product of his multi-ethnic upbringing in the suburbs of Los Angeles and it was this diverse background which ultimately inspired Gene to incorporate universal themes into his standup comedy and writing.

Pompa's offbeat perspective on comedy crosses all racial and ethnic lines and goes over well with everyone from college age audiences to a more mature crowd. Gene credits comedic legends Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Steve Martin as being his influences.

In fact Gene Pompa was been inspired to develop his own brand of late-night humor with "The Nite Nite Show," a show that had great social relevance and irrelevance as its format.

It's going to be a fun week with these two, that's for sure.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 8, 2012 06:42PM Published Feb 8, 2012 06:40PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.