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Comedy scene: Savitt, multiple characters dealing with 1 pandemic

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Howie Nave (right) with Tommy Savitt.
Provided

Over these past few months, I’ve chronicled comedians I’ve known over the years to see how they’ve been coping during this pandemic that has pretty much wiped out their ability to perform in front of a ‘live’ audience.

If and when folks are allowed to go back to comedy venues remains to be seen as conditions seem to change on a daily basis. Some are handling it better than others, having projects done or close to being completed before the pandemic hit releasing DVDs/CDs of their shows online earlier than expected to fill the gap hoping to get back on stage soon.

Most though solely relied on their performances as income being booked months sometimes a whole year in advance only to be cut off financially overnight. It’s been an interesting experience that’s for sure and like everyone, I just want to get back to some resemblance of normalcy and what better individual to comment on all this than comedians. And given everything else that’s been happening on top of this pandemic, well, it would sure be nice to be able to laugh again.

One of my favorite comedians who cracks me up is actually three acts in one: Tommy Savitt. I first met Tommy at the Boston Comedy Festival years ago when he was part of the ‘Best New Comedians’ competition beating out hundreds of some pretty good acts.

In fact, one of the judges, political humorist Lewis Black, is on my list of comedians to chat with this month. Tommy won the whole event and then the following year took top honors at the Seattle-International Comedy Competition. After that, he won “Best In Comedy” twice at the LA Comedy Awards for Stand-Up.

Yep, Tommy is pretty funny. He’s been on WGN’s “The Bob & Tom Show,” SI Tv’s “Funny is Funny,” Comcast On Demand’s “Man up, Stand-Up” on mav.tv and on JLTV’s “James and Sunda.” One of the last shows that Tommy won was up here in Tahoe, claiming the trophy for the 3rd annual Comedy Cage Match at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I have a rare copy of his CD, “Who Wants Me Now?” that is still a favorite. Before the shutdown, Tommy had done shows overseas performing at military bases in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Japan, South Korea, Bahrain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Curacao, Honduras and Ecuador. He even performed at the United States Embassy in Belarus.

With all that he’s accomplished as a performer I’d have to say that Tommy really came into his own when he created The Tommy Lama persona and was given his own show in Las Vegas at The Laugh Factory and, to no one’s surprise, received some pretty cool reviews. I can honestly say that’s when the transformation happened.

He gave up the material world and went all spiritual with those shows. What with all the madness going on around our planet I can’t think of a better comedian who could not only make people laugh but also feel self-fulfilled. As The Tommy Lama the comic formerly known as ‘Savitt’ created one of the more unique shows ever. Not bad for a guy born in Jersey and raised in Brooklyn.

But wait, didn’t you say that Tommy was three characters rolled into one? Yes, I did. The third character is the complete opposite of his ‘Lamaste’ performing as the character, ‘Schlemenko’ who is both Tommy’s and The Tommy Lama’s personal agent. He’s from Chernobyl, has a very thick accent that’s hard to understand and is very rude. When I hosted an evening of The Tommy Lama at the prestigious Throckmorton Theatre in Marin a year ago the line-up was Tommy Savitt, Schlemenko and the Tommy Lama. At least 15 people walked out during Schlemenko’s set but the rest who ‘got it’ enjoyed a really good show capped with his Lamaste.

When I asked The Tommy Lama how he’s been dealing with this pandemic and being put on hold he said, “It is through the forced Sabbath I’ve had to take to acknowledge the rest I’ve needed. Even though I have been creative prior to the pandemic I was capped and blocked due to fatigue and travel. So I am the case of receiving a blessing in these bizarre times for my imagination and artistry has never been more strong.”

So, it looks like his Lamaste has been able to deal with all that’s been happening as a time to reflect on it. When I asked Schlemenko what he thought of the pandemic, well I can’t print it here but suffice it to say he’s not doing as well. Comedian Tommy Savitt however is looking forward to performing again as he’s written so much material on the subject. He said if he has to he’ll do a Zoom performance but doubtful he can get the other two to perform together with him on the same bill.

As comedian Tommy’s take on this whole experience it’s more straight forward.

“I feel live stand up comedy was on the decline and this pandemic just accelerated the process. Take the Las Vegas Strip, many of those comedy clubs were mastodons of yesteryear that needed to be put out to pasture anyway. Until we have medication, I believe many folks won’t come out and have been conditioned these past few months to stay home out of fear. The truth is there will be many comedy clubs that will have to close because they can’t afford the losses and restrictions. The bottom line in 2 or more years from now, live stand up comedy will be relegated to the likes of our modern day jazz clubs; a few here or there and niche.”

In the meantime Savitt has a few projects of his own that could find its way online and there was a documentary in the works too so depending how the rest of this pandemic unfolds could put an interesting climax to the finishing touches of that movie.

Yeah, it’s been an interesting ride for Savitt and even more so when you consider it’s not just him waiting to see what happens but those other two characters waiting to get back on stage in some capacity. I’d like to see the Tommy Lama do an extended run like he had in Vegas where even other Vegas entertainers and those traveling through town would stop by to seek his guidance.

Like I mentioned earlier, I just wanna see people get back out into the comedy venues and be able to laugh again. The Tommy Lama said it best: “As is the circle of life, when a forest is destroyed by a forest fire, new vegetation and wildlife are formed. As soon as fresh opportunities of comedic entertainment shall manifest, the sooner we may lay Zoom to rest. Namaste.”


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