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Rivera, rocket scientist, comedian, offers advice while stuck at home

Howie Nave
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Howie Nave with Shayla Rivera.
Provided

It’s a known fact most comedians tend to be pretty intelligent overall and you can hear it in their act by the use of language and references where sometimes your mind needs to Google to get it.

Even Jeff Foxworthy, the ‘You Might be a Redneck’ blue-collared comedian, attended Georgia Tech spending five years working at IMB before graduating to a successful life in stand up comedy.

The late comedian and friend Greg Giraldo graduated from Harvard Law School after achieving a near perfect score on his Law School Admission Test, scoring in the 99th percentile of students taking the test in 1990. Giraldo passed the bar and worked as an associate lawyer for a law firm but thankfully for us quit after eight months to pursue a career in comedy.

You can count comedian Shayla Rivera in this same league of individuals with comedy opening doors of opportunity.

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Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera grew up with an interest in science, machinery and human behavior (one of the essential ingredients needed to become good comedian). Her parents always made it clear that going to college was the way to go in order to have a successful, personal and professional life.

Rivera attended Texas A&M University earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and has a great number of additional credits, including psychology (another essential ingredient needed to become a good comedian).

After graduation, Rivera joined McDonnell Douglas Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she worked on the NASA Space Shuttle and Space Station programs for five years. That’s right folks. She was a bonafide rocket scientist. When that program was scuttled it freed Rivera to pursue her other passion as well: comedy.

I have Rivera on my morning radio show on Wednesday’s for our segment, “It’s Rocket Science with Shayla Rivera,” where we never run out of things to talk about because, in addition to her stand up comedy, she is also a professor at her alma mater, Texas A&M where she teaches ethics in engineering.

Turns out her class is very popular. I mean, how many students get to say their professor was a rocket scientist for NASA who worked on the space shuttle program and then tune in to HBO and watch that same professor making people laugh to a full house on a premium network? I want to be in her class but I suck at math.

If you’ve ever tuned in to her segments on Wednesday, you’ll know that in addition to her comedy, Rivera does a lot of fundraisers for the Hispanic community. She uses her comedy to entertain middle and high school students, using those skills as a motivational speaker. However, when you ask her what she loves best about her career she’ll tell you that making our troops laugh at military installations overseas is by far her favorite.

Of course, now that these gigs are on standby she, like the rest of us, are sheltered-in-place at home with her honey, Daryl.

So, how is Rivera coping now that her university is locked down and has no stage to perform on? Well, she rattled off a list of things she’s been doing since that C-word came along:

1. I am observing people who have never power walked or run before or ride bikes doing all these activities while struggling and breathing hard, so we are either going to come out of this healthier or more will die due to their new quarantine workout.

2. I have observed that because of social distancing people aren’t even saying hello when you walk by them … I am 6 feet away, say hello! Sorry it is a bit annoying.

3. I like to see if I can open the refrigerator and eat without having Darryl come out of his office to see what is going on in the kitchen … so far I have failed 100%

4. I am preparing some chocolate baked goods using Exlax to see how it affects Darryl … we do have plenty of TP.

5. I reached out to UFO enthusiasts to ask them if they think that aliens might be observing social distancing … you start them talking seriously about that and it is fun to watch.

Rivera knows I’m a sci-fi, conspiracy theorist addict so forgot to mention that’s another reason we like each other. When I asked her what things should be avoided during this shelter-in-place moment in time again, she read off a list:

1. Stay away from the desire to clean your kitchen, pantry, garages, bathroom, closets etc… you will not only find things you don’t want to find but you will discover many things about yourself (like the fact that you are a hoarder, and waste lots of money, and are just a pig).

2. Stay away from doing any self-reflecting … trust me, you don’t want to truly discover how screwed up you are. You won’t like it.

3. Refrain from deep conversations with significant others … you don’t want to discover their true characters either.

4. Binge watch your favorite shows.

Wow, I have to admit so far out of all the comedians I’ve chatted with regarding coping in the era of COVID-19, Rivera by far has the best options.

In fact, we’ve been knocking around the idea of doing a podcast together because our thoughts and language are kinda dark and somewhat inhibited by terrestrial radio.

Is the FCC considered an essential business? We’re thinking of calling our podcast, “Howie & Shayla After Dark.”


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