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.
"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.