Comedy lifted Mr. (Kivi) Rogers out of the hood
March 11, 2009
When a comic brings his kids, you really start to notice the passage of time.
I can remember first working with Kivi Rogers in the last century and how cute his oldest girl was (he has five, you know?) and she was in elementary school. Well now she is in college, and I feel like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s 2000 year-old man routine!
Speaking of kids, it’s funny that Kivi has five girls and one boy (hmmm, someone kept trying), and then you learn Kivi was the second youngest out of six boys and one girl. Wow. Is that history sort of repeating itself?
Kivi grew up in the tough Pueblo Del Rio housing projects in Los Angeles, and he became pretty streetwise early on. Comedy helped him cope with his situation. He told me there was never a dull moment and how humor carried him through his adolescence without dropping out of school. And who says comedy isn’t valuable?
Comedy also carried Kivi through the tough times and into college, where he earned a degree in electronics. He took a job working with a reputable firm in Orange County. But that soon changed when some of his co-workers (tired of being the butt of his jokes at work) coaxed him into taking his act to the stage. It all paid off, much to the chagrin of his understanding parents after he won his very first comedy competition.
Kivi has appeared at the prestigious Aspen Comedy Festival, where he showcased for HBO and landed a development deal with Castle Rock Entertainment to star in his own sitcom. Since then, Kivi has appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” been a Comedian of the Year nominee, courtesy the National Association of Campus Activities, made guest appearances on “The West Wing,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “VIP,” “Diagnosis: Murder” and “Dharma and Greg.” Kivi appeared with Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow in the feature film “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.” He was also in the movie “The Amati Girls,” which starred Academy Award winners Mercedes Ruehl and “Dancing with the Stars” diva Cloris Leachman.
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Who says you can’t be a rocket scientist and a comedian? Shayla Rivera made it work but is glad she wound up on stage instead of being an astronaut. Well, sort of.
Like Kivi Rogers Shayla hadn’t planned on being a comedian. She was never into performing in high school plays or being in the choir. In fact, all that Shayla wanted to be while growing up was an astronaut. Talk about one interesting career path!
“NASA and I had to part ways when they refused to let me to put St. Christopher on the shuttle’s dashboard,” she said.
But let’s begin with her childhood growing up in Puerto Rico. She was, and still is, a strong-willed Latina, and she plowed her way into success by first graduating from high school and then attending Texas A&M University. It was there she earned her degree in aerospace engineering. From there it was just a matter of time before she started using that science background working on the space shuttle and space station for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Quite an accomplishment, considering she didn’t speak the language.
“You try to learn English in Texas, and you’re going to find out how funny you are,” she said. “Everyone laughed at me.”
While at NASA, Shayla had anticipated being on the leading edge of technology with by America’s greatest minds, but instead she says, “It was more like being at Kmart with lots of pocket protectors.”
Shayla then began her second career, following her interest in psychology and became a motivational speaker. Wow. The field of psychology and stand-up go hand in hand. She worked extensively as a corporate trainer, holding seminars on stress management for executives at companies around the country. That too would lend itself nicely, by the way, to dealing with hecklers and drunks. It was while she was conducting seminars that Shayla discovered her comedic skills.
Shayla signed up for a weekend class on standup comedy, at the end of which she performed a five-minute routine. It was a rousing success and a personal turning point.
“I knew I’d found what I was looking for,” Shayla said.