Get your laugh on July 27 at Latin Comedy Jam in Kennewick

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJuly 24, 2013 

Johnny Sanchez performs July 27 at the Latin Comedy Jam in Kennewick.

COURTESY LATIN COMEDY JAM

Luke Torres, Shayla Rivera, Johnny Sanchez and Jerry Garcia all have a common goal -- to make you laugh.

This quartet of funny people headline the Latin Comedy Jam tour, which comes to the Tri-Cities on July 27 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

The tour is the brainchild of executive producer Mike Acquisto-Gotti, who emcees the show though he is not a comedian by trade.

"I went to a comedy show here in Phoenix (once) and saw the joy the people had when they were leaving," he said in an email to the Herald. "I wanted to bring that same joy to people because it's a blessing to bring laughter into life."

The Latin Comedy Jam lineup of comics changes all the time, so the tours stay fresh, Torres said.

Torres, 45, is a veteran comic, having made his living on the comedy circuit for 25 years making people laugh with his impersonations of Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken and Arnold Schwarzenegger, or his take on the oddities of life, marriage and just about anything else that involves what people do.

"I think I was born funny, and loved to make my mother laugh," he said. "When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be a doctor like my dad, but that soon changed.

"Believe me, this is not just a show for the Latino community," Torres said. "We touch on all topics that are universal for all cultures."

Torres was the first Latino comedian to be part of the cast in the iconic TV show In Living Color from 1995-97, alongside Jamie Foxx and the Wayan brothers. He also was in the movie Space Jam with Michael Jordan.

Torres also is lending his comic writing to the silver screen as a co-writer, with actor/filmmaker R. J. Adams, for the independent film, Chasing Jose, which is scheduled for release next year, he said.

Torres adds that the Latin Comedy Jam might be a little racy in content but not vulgar. "I'd rate it PG-13," he said.

Rivera, 51, agreed that the show is not raunchy but recommends it for teenagers and not children.

Rivera's comedy shtick could be described as rocket science meets the funnies. She is a former NASA scientist who earned her aerospace engineering degree at Texas A&M University. She was part of NASA's shuttle and space station programs for eight years before cashing it all in about 20 years ago for an even tougher profession: comedy.

"I used to conduct corporate training seminars, and people would tell me I added a humorous flair to them," she said. "So, I guess I'd have to say comedy found me."

And like any rocket scientist, Rivera takes her comic job seriously.

"Funny is a serious thing for me," she said. "George Carlin's brand of humor has pretty much been my inspiration."

She sometimes will bring science into her routine, but it all depends on the audience, she said. And when she isn't on the road, Rivera is putting the finishing touches on a book -- titled ABC: Awareness Begins Change -- that humorously helps explore the limitations people put on themselves with their beliefs.

"It all has to do with the fact that truth has nothing to do with what people believe in," she said.

Garcia, 32, said he got lucky breaking into comedy when promoters caught his act at a Los Angeles club about four years ago.

"I grew up in a very poor Latino area of L.A. called Huntington Park," he said. "And even though I was the class clown, I wasn't doing much with my life until I started mentoring kids when I was in high school on anti-gang prevention. I learned a lot doing that, but I'm still immature enough to like clowning around."

Sanchez, 45, got his first taste of comedy life 21 years ago when he left his job at a meat-packing plant near Fresno, Calif., to take the leap into comedy at the Cabaret Comedy Club in L.A.

"I like doing impressions of the comedians I remember from my youth, like Flip Wilson, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and Cheech and Chong," Sanchez said. "Not like Luke (Torres) does, of course. His impersonations are amazing. But I like poking fun at myself because I'm a small guy, only 5-foot-5."

He says his humor has a definite Latin flavor to it, but also crosses cultural boundaries.

"I'm a third-generation Mexican American," Sanchez said. "On the inside, I'm American pie. On the outside I'm nachos and a cockfight. But funny is funny no matter who you are."

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets cost from $17 to $37 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or the Toyota Center box office. Tickets purchased at the box office avoid service charges.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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