By August 27, 2015 Read More →

209 ComedyView

209 Comedy View
by Guest Writer Jimmie Menezes

The Modesto Area Music Awards turn Sweet Sixteen this year. Growing up with the MAMAs, Modesto’s entertainment community has also blossomed into maturity during the new millennium. Our cultural landscape used to be defined by three things: bored teenagers with nothing to do but cruise the main drag, George Lucas & the 2009 comedy starring Ice Cube called “Janky Promoters” about, you guessed it, our reputation as an entertainment wasteland nestled between Los Angeles & San Francisco. The movie’s cool if you’re from anywhere but Modesto – sorta how people feel about being from California in general – and illustrates exactly how big of a hole our reputation as an entertainment capitol has had to dig itself out of since the 1990s.
If you’ve ever heard “Oh… you’re from MO-desto?!?” while silently being judged for where you come from, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It speaks volumes that no one is surprised every year when we get elected as one of the “most miserable place to live” in a zillion polls nationwide. It doesn’t help that outside of Detroit and the Appalachians, we live in the most impoverished region in the nation; we’re in the top 10 nationwide for unemployment rate, foreclosed homes and drug addicts per capita. BOTTOM LINE: to everybody on the outside looking in, this is a crappy place to live. To me, it’s HOME.

Enter the job of a stand-up comedian. Ya think it’s easy to get a room full of people facing job cutbacks and foreclosures laughing their cares away for a couple of hours? Ya think it’s easy to ask someone to come out for a few hours, spend some hard earned cash to sit in a chair and forget their problems? Well it ain’t, ask any of the 2015 Modesto Area Music Award “MAMAnated” comedians.

The art of stand-up comedy is a pretty new concept to the Modesto Area Music Awards, “BEST COMEDY” having been introduced as a category five years ago. Coincidentally, around the same time Modesto started popping up on those “most miserable city” polls. In that short period of time, the past winners in the COMEDY category (Marcella Arguello 2009, Jay Smith 2010, Anthony K 2011, Drew Monsoon 2012, Screeching Slay Bats 2013, & myself last year) have used the MAMAs to springboard to new career opportunities in TV, movies and music while continuing to build their comedy careers.

To win the MAMA in the COMEDY category, it takes more than “just being funny”; it takes moxie to stand up there in front of “miserable” folks, talk about the things that are bumming them out and helping them to see the silver lining in every situation: humor. It takes a willingness to hustle, a drive to never quit & a desire to make other peoples’ lives better while knowing you’ll get nothing in return except maybe a handshake, a pat on the back, a “thanks for coming out” and the laughs – oh, the laughs. It takes an especially dedicated entertainer to be happy with “just” the laughs: Hell, a few bucks for gas would be nice, too. But to the select few that are content with the short end of the stick so to speak, success is measured in the most basic of metrics: the laughs the audience gives back to to the comedians. Comics know the laughs mean we’re forgetting our problems together: it’s mass hypnosis of the most healing kind. Yes, we’re at the comedy
show for laughs too, and we comedians need them just as much as you do. The awkward laughs, the knee slappers, the belly laughs, the applause breaks – that’s the sound of us escaping together.

To be a successful comedian in the 209, you gotta be part carney, part faith healer, part truck driver, part journalist, part social commentator, part self-sacrificing monk, and most importantly, part entrepreneur if you don’t wanna starve. That’s alotta hats to wear along with “life of the party” while you’re onstage. The laughs onstage are a small part of the work that goes into creating a comedy act, but, ultimately, are the biggest dividend.
Laughter is what we have to keep us going during the hard times, the happy times, the meh times – laughs are the one constant in everyone’s lives. And if you don’t have laughter in your life, well, you need to go see a 209 Comedy show.

Introducing your 2015 Modesto Area Music Award Nominees in the BEST COMEDY category (in no particular order)

* AJ DeMello – Originally from the Bay Area and now based in Turlock, AJ is among the hardest working comedians in the Modesto area. He runs a monthly Stand Up For Charity Comedy Show at the Queen Bean in downtown Modesto. He’s the co-host of “Sports Talk” on local public access TV station, MyTV26, where he approaches current topics in sports from a humorist’s point of view. He writes satire pieces for an online blog, “Stuff Dudes Like”. With AJ, it’s always a “good game of ball”.

* Saul Trujillo – Saul is from Stockton and is what we call comics call a “grinder”, or a comedian that’s on the road a lot.  He’s performed in Montana, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho at casinos, comedy clubs, dive bars & theaters. Saul co-hosts the “Joke Me off” podcast & produces comedy shows in his hometown of Stockton. Be on the look out for the “No Strings Attached” Comedy shows.  He has appeared at many of the finest comedy clubs on the West Coast from the Punchline in San Francisco to the Improv in San Jose to the World Famous Comedy Store in LA; you name a historic club that’s known for churning out “the next big thing in comedy”, and there’s a good chance Saul has been there.

* Jason Sohm – Jason is a Manteca native. He’s a comic that “talks about stuff and makes ya think”. No topic is off the table, Jason pulls no punches and he’s not afraid to “go there”. He talks candidly about his hometown, his punk rock roots, his past drug addiction, his children and his new life as a father and husband; he’s equal parts Louie CK, Kevin Hart and GG Allin – biting comedian, gifted storyteller and the smartest madman you’ll ever met.

* Nick Larson – Nick is from Stockton and co-hosts the “Joke Me Off” podcast (avaliable at He is a multi-media powerhouse, having established himself as a sound man, studio tech, photographer, and all around multi-media ninja. He’s opened up for Latin King of Comedy, Paul Rodriquez, at the Bob Hope Theater. Nick’s brand of comedy is  the most-relatable of all the MAMAnees; he’s the king of crowd work and impressions (check out his Bane from Batman);  and he’s instantly likable, which is HUGE in the business.

* Dane Madden – Dane is from Ceres, and has the best resume’ of all the MAMA-nominated comedians. He’s opened up Bobby Brown and New edition at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. He opened up for Keith Sweat. He’s opened up for Mad TV’s Aries Spears, Eddie Griffin (the one and only Undercover Brother) and Chris Reid (Kid from Kid n’ Play). Dane’s rocked Shaq’s Comedy Jam Tour. Dane also runs ALL MADDEN PRODUCTIONS, an organization that produces charity events for people within our local community living with cancer; the lives All Madden Productions have touched can attest to how passionate Dane is about making the Modesto area a better place to live.

* Taylor Evans – Taylor is from Turlock. He’s new and fresh to the 209 comedy community. He was last year’s 209 Comedy Rookie of the Year. Taylor is up & coming, becoming a hot commodity, having recently toured Southern California, which included a stop at the World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. Taylor’s style is a perfect mix of self deprecating, witty and sincere – his jokes hit the sweet spot between idiot and genius.

* Hannah Hosford – Hannah comes from Lodi. For two years in a row, Hannah has been voted “Funniest Female in the 209” by her peers. She’s been a finalist in the 209 Comedy Competition two years running and watching her tell a dirty joke is like watching Miles Davis play the trumpet – loud, with lots of spit. She’s crass and she’s profane, yet still comes off as sweet and classy.  She’s hilariously decadent, and if you haven’t yet, catch her belting out Dolly Parton songs at karaoke.

* Insane Wayne – Dewayne “Insane Wayne” Jackson is from Stockton. He has some stuff to say; Wayne’s act is so real and so true to life, it’s hard to not think of him as a motivational speaker as well as a comic. He makes fun of his own life with an amount of self-awareness that is unreal. His everyday observations hit home. He can get everyone to relate TO HIM, not the other way around – it’s a very unique approach to stand up; one that has grown out of Wayne’s 10+ years of stage experience. He was the winner of the 2011 Bay Area Black Comedy Competition and the 2011 Central Valley Comedy Competition winner. Wayne has appeared on Shaq’s Comedy Jam, winning the title of Shaq’s “Next Comedy All Star”. Wayne tours constantly, has starred in the online film, “The Date: Episode 1”, and is one of the real heavy hitters of the 209 comedy community.

* Leon Gibson – Leon is from Stockton and is the most recent winner of the 209 Comedy Competition, having smoked the rest of the competition. Leon is a master of crowd work, he says what everybody’s thinkin’ – it’s like he’s psychic or something. Leon produces regular shows in Stockton and Vallejo and is one hell of a host (the hardest job in all of comedy). Wanna talk about connecting with an audience immediately, well look look no further than Leon Gibson.

* Chris Teicheria – Chris is from Manteca, where he writes “Manteca to a T”, a regular column in the Manteca Bulletin. Chris is also the co-host (along with 2011 MAMA-winning comedian Anthony K) of the “Pretending to Care” podcast. Chris is somewhat of a local celebrity; he’s an acclaimed author and has a reputation for being the life of the party whereever he goes. All of this translates to Chris being one of the most beloved comedians from the Modesto area, as well as a super successful producer / promoter . The shows he put on at Isadore’s are the stuff of legend; you couldn’t squeeze a cigarette paper in there if ya wanted to, much less another person.

Well, there ya have it folks, the cream of the crop. The best of the best. The most accomplished and deserving comedians in the Modesto area, all MAMAnated for the 2015 Modesto Area Music Award in the “BEST COMEDY” category. Look ’em up, pick your favorite & vote for who makes you laugh the most, or catch the 2015 COMEDY MAMAnees live, onstage on Saturday, October 3rd at at DEVA – 1202 St, downtown Modesto – at 7pm for the 2nd Annual BrewMAMA Comedy showcase.



About the Author:

Middagh Goodwin LIVES Music. He has been booking and promoting Music, Art and Comedy for years in the Central Valley. He ran the award winning Plea for Peace Center in Stockton for 5 Years and has booked bands from A-Z. Middagh is beginning 2016 with a new position at the Gallo Center for the Arts and celebrating Beat Happy! Music's 30th Anniversary. Read the MAMAView every month and a the Needle Drop 52 Records 52 Weeks.