Gay Old Time

Former "Joe Arizona" yuks it up at The Comedy Spot

There's a big difference between being laughable and being laugh-out-loud funny. Talking to Nick Tarr about his career as a comic, however, blurs the line of distinction.

Tarr, famous (or infamous -- again, it depends on one's perspective) for his recurring role as "Joe Arizona" in the gaming initiative commercials a couple years back, headlines Gay Comedy Night at The Comedy Spot on Thursday, June 24.

After Tarr provides a primer on his set -- "Most of my routine is about being gay . . . that is, if you can laugh about being called a 'fag' while riding a bike," he says -- the conversation turns somber once he talks about his depressed state of four years ago, and how it spilled into and nearly ruined his standup career.

Tarr-ific: Comedian Nick Tarr performs at  Gay Comedy Night.
courtesy of Nick Tarr
Tarr-ific: Comedian Nick Tarr performs at Gay Comedy Night.

"My drinking became really sad. I tried to kill myself," admits Tarr, 41. ("But I look 40," he says.) "I was too honest onstage. I had to pull back."

The comedy gigs helped Tarr pick himself up, he says. And that goes for Kass McPherson, as well. The 33-year-old lesbian comedienne -- sandwiched between Tarr and the show's opener, Becky Goff, on the Gay Comedy Night bill -- came out about six years ago. In the year since she started doing standup, McPherson has transformed her act -- as well as her self-confidence -- from a well of childhood depression into a celebration of dysfunctionality.

"When I first started [standup comedy], I wanted to get into my family history," she says, adding that -- in contrast to Tarr -- a little blatant honesty went a long way in her comedic development. "I learned a lot about myself once I started being honest. It's opened up the works for me. I can't hide the fact that I'm a lesbian onstage."

Both Tarr and McPherson say that they don't want Gay Comedy Night to be a gay-only event.

"I don't care if the audience is gay, straight or drunken," Tarr says. "As long as they're laughing." --By Joe Watson

Gay Comedy Night takes the stage at The Comedy Spot, 7117 East Third Avenue in Scottsdale, at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 24. Tickets are $10; call 480-945-4422.

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