Nigerian-Puerto Rican bent this week at the Improv | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Nigerian-Puerto Rican bent this week at the Improv

Shayla Rivera is a regular on columnist Howie Nave's morning radio show. Howie's regular, too. Thanks to coffee.
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If you were to place a photo of any comic who would define “dark comedy” it would be Joel Lindley.

Comedy is informative and laughter is the means of carrying that information, and the Improv headliner though Sunday is the mand for the job. Dark or shocking humor informs you that the person delivering the message probably has experienced the material in real life. I enjoy seeing the expression on the unsuspecting audience’s faces when they hear some of the stuff he says.

Maybe it’s his sarcastic, observational slant directed at authority figures that cracks up crowds. Or maybe it’s the women in his life who have little or no patience with him.

Joel has done some pretty off-the-wall things, most of them funny. Remember not too long ago when there were tons of those spam e-mails coming from Nigeria letting you know some prince had left you a bunch of unclaimed money? Millions of dollars were waiting for you if you would send over your personal information and, oh yeah, $500 to $5,000 as a processing fee, and then the money was all yours! Well, Joel would actually send replies to all of those e-mail requests and have a check ready to go only after setting up an appointment to actually meet with the individuals at Los Angeles International Airport! He would give them the bogus check if they would agree to have their picture taken holding an outrageous sign or posing like an nimrod to show what idiots they were. After he got his pic, Joel would then post them on a website dedicated exclusively to those scammers for all to see! I thought for sure we would never hear from Joel again.

In between duping Internet scammers, Joel can be seen on stage offering edgy material delivered through myriad weird characters that he brings with him every night. Some of those characters include Trucker Clock, Bouncer Guy, El Conquistador and others that I can’t print here. Sometimes Joel and I will exchange recorded crank calls to clueless people. Some of those can’t be aired either and are pretty much just for our own entertainment. He has taken on corporations that have no time to deal with the common guy and makes them look incredibly stupid in the process. In fac, Joel has compiled some of his favorite crank calls on a CD, and you won’t believe some of the things Joel has been able to get the other party to talk about once he gets going.

Joel is also a writer who has written for CBS. His standup and writing capabilities have led to such programs as Conan O’Brien, “Boston Public,” MTV’s “Half Hour Comedy Hour” and on the “Bob and Tom” syndicated radio show.

Joel is a blast to witness but be forewarned if you offend easy then you might want to check yourself out first before entering the comedy club.

Shayla Rivera’s on my radio show every Wednesday morning in a segment we call “Rocket Science with Shayla Rivera.” But seeing her in person is always way better.

I wonder what was going through Shayla’s head that day when she told her parents she was giving up her job as a rocket scientist to become a full-fledged comedian? She worked on the space shuttle and Space Station systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She attended Texas A&M University earning her degree in Aerospace Engineering and then landed the gig at NASA soon after. This was her chosen career path because she wanted to be an astronaut. While she was at NASA Shayla realized that her calling was going to lie elsewhere.

“It was more like being at K-Mart with lots of pocket protectors,” she said.

The Puerto Rico native said one of the reasons she left NASA was “They wouldn’t let me put St. Christopher on the Shuttle’s dashboard.”

Shayla has done very well launching her career in comedy. She became recognizable almost immediately.

“You try to learn English in Texas and you’re going to find out how funny you are – everyone laughed at me,” she said.

Shayla would later incorporate that experience into a one-woman show appropriately called, “Rocket Science and Salsa: The Shayla Rivera Story,” directed by renowned actor-choreographer Debbie Allen and written by Shayla Rivera and Michael Ajakwe Jr.

When not joking on stage or on the air, Shayla is making our troops laugh at military bases overseas, and she still receives quite a number of e-mails from the men over there wanting to know when will she be returning. Soon, but for now this week we have her here in Tahoe.


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