The Improv to feature Rivera, Duchaine |

The Improv to feature Rivera, Duchaine

Howie Nave
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Shayla Rivera, pictured with Howie Nave, performs at Lake Tahoe this week.
Courtesy Photo |

Shayla Rivera

All entertainers usually work on holidays because non-entertainers (who we refer to as civilians) go on holiday and expect to be entertained be on New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, Christmas (yes, we do a show Christmas night) and on Thanksgiving. Having Shayla Rivera up here is great because she’s like family. Part of that family feel is because every Wednesday the former rocket scientist turned comedian is on my morning radio show with her segment, “It’s Rocket Science with Shayla Rivera.”

It’s always improvisational and has become very popular over the years with her matter-of-fact bluntness, which has garnered Rivera a sizable following in the high Sierra. She returns for the first time in more than a year, and we’re glad she was able to find the time to work us in, given her schedule.

Rivera is a must-see performer as her stand up is not just jokes but stories from her real life experiences. She really was a rocket scientist who worked for NASA during the space shuttle years. NASA’s decision to discontinue its space shuttle program opened up more opportunities for Rivera, and it was the perfect time to develop into a full fledged stand-up comedian. She parlayed her life experience into a one-woman show called, “Rocket Science and Salsa: The Shayla Rivera Story.” She’s a network sitcom just begging to be aired because her life is a sitcom. Maybe a reality show? Hey, if that’s what it takes Rivera will do it.

She grew up in Puerto Rico barely knowing any English but watched a lot of American television sitcoms, learned the language and excelled in school, eventually graduating with honors from Texas AM University before getting her gig at the space shuttle program and with space station systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. At NASA, Rivera was tasked with determining the trajectory of the two rocket boosters that would splash down in the Atlantic after take-off to make it easier for the Navy to retrieve them and use again. That meant a lot of mathematics and being able to pinpoint and approximate when and where they would splash down into the ocean. So why leave all that for a career that seems to have so much uncertainty attached with it? Passion. Rivera said if she had not started following her instincts, she would have regretted it later on when the opportunity had passed her by.

If you’ve ever tuned in to listen to her segments on Wednesday, you’ll know that in addition to her stage work Rivera does a lot of fundraisers for the Hispanic community and also uses her comedy entertaining middle and high schools students 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.

Robert Duchaine

Also over this Thanksgiving week we have another member of the comedic dysfunctional family, and no one fits that title more than Robert Duchaine. His sarcastic social commentary is perfect for our audience and, given the state of the country recently, even funnier than anticipated.

Robert pokes fun at everything one isn’t supposed to comment on (well, for “civilians”) such as race, religion and relationships. I always wonder what Duchaine was like before he became a stand-up comic. He had all the prerequisite conditions needed to become a very good comedian such as questioning authority, wondering what someone’s agenda might be and not belonging to any type of organized institution. As a youngster he was forced to join, then quit the Cub Scouts.

He didn’t last very long in the U.S. Army and later found himself fired from every job he ever finagled. Wow, Duchaine is almost too qualified to be a stand up, which as it turned out has been the only full-time employment he’s been able to keep. He headlines rooms all over the country and we’re fortunate he’s here over the holidays.

Duchaine performs regularly in Las Vegas show rooms, colleges, comedy clubs and concert venues. He also is involved in avant-garde theater and independent film projects. He was a runner-up in the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition. I’m just psyched he’s finally back up here and we get to hear what his latest rants are all about.

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