‘Chappelle’s Show’ writer debuts at Tahoe Improv
Ryan Summerlin March 21, 2012
I don’t know what to be more excited about, that we finally received snow or that we have a new face at Harveys Improv. Both are a cause for celebration.
The snow should attract visitors and local populous to the resorts. It took a little longer than expected, but it’s a great way to introduce the spring season.
OK, regarding the new guy, Neal Brennan’s written jokes for Dave Chappelle working on this little sketch comedy show that would become “Chappelle’s Show.” He co-wrote the cult classic “Half Baked” and made the transition from comedy to directing.
Last year he directed VH-1’s “Totally Awesome” (starring Tracy Morgan and Chris Kattan), a hilarious made-for-TV ’80s spoof which he also co-wrote and most recently is working on “The Don Ready Story” which he will direct, starring Jeremy Piven and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for Paramount Vantage. He also directed “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” starring Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames and Will Ferrell.
Neal was nominated for an Emmy for his work on “Chappelle’s Show.” This is his very first time performing up here in the Lake Tahoe area. Despite his success in television and the big screen, Neal still loves the rush of doing standup comedy.
“Doing standup is kind of like the most interesting thing in the world” he said. “You write a joke that’s a creative way of stating your opinion and then you go out in front of people and tell that joke and see how people react.”
Neal has made his rounds of the late night talk show circuit appearing on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Last Call with Carson Daily” and “Lopez Tonight.”
We’re fortunate to get Mr. Brennan up here as this was the only break in his astronomically busy schedule that would allow him a week here.
Ascending comic, downhill skier
Opener Shayla Rivera, who tried to teach me Spanish, is a regular feature on my radio show Wednesdays.
She has developed her own following high in the Sierra. Very quick-on-her- feet Shayla Rivera performs this week through Sunday and is she ever happy to be here. First off she was just as happy as everyone was up here when we received our long overdue snowfall last week. Second, she drove up here and was even happier there was a break in the weather so her ’98 Sierra (how ironic), rear-wheel drive vehicle could make it up the mountain. And, yes, Shayla we will hit the slopes this weekend before you head home.
If you haven’t seen her standup you’re really missing out. She has a whole history of fascinating experiences and she brings them out on stage to share with everybody. Her one-woman show, “Rocket Science and Salsa: The Shayla Rivera Story,” (directed by renowned actor/choreographer Debbie Allen and written by Shayla Rivera and Michael Ajakwe Jr.) chronicles her story from her beginnings in Puerto Rico, to graduating with honors from Texas AM University, to working as a bonafide rocket scientist for NASA and yes, chucking it all deciding that a life of standup would be more rewarding (if not more profitable at least not right now). I can still hear her parents crying somewhere out there.
Out of all the comics I’ve known Shayla has the most interesting story working on the space shuttle program and Space Station systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
When Shayla started doing her standup, the response was almost immediate. She merely traded one launching pad for another, but this time the comedy club was her liftoff pad taking her (and her audience) to another world for a brief period of time.
Shayla does so many fundraisers for the Hispanic community that it’s tough to remember what city she’s in on a daily basis. She’s also a first-class, sought-after motivational speaker in addition to her club and theater work. When not joking on stage or on the radio every Wednesday you can find her making our troops laugh at military bases overseas. I think Shayla loves doing that the most bring laughter into a war zone where the soldiers can experience a little bit of home for a short while.