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Wander down to Arroyo Cafe for a little Tucson-centric holiday ha-ha's

Wander down to Arroyo Cafe for a little Tucson-centric holiday ha-ha's

The group, featuring a handful of noted Tucson comedians, celebrity guests, musicians and a special “mystery guest,” will take the Rialto Theatre stage on Saturday, Dec. 22, for the fourth annual “Arroyo Cafe Holiday Radio Show,” a fundraising variety show that has become a Tucson holiday tradition.

“It’s all funny. I think from beginning to end, it’s two hours and it’s just really, really funny,” said ad-executive-turned-stand-up-comedian Jay Taylor.

This year’s show opens with the gang hosting a bake sale at their favorite haunt to help poor Sour Fred (Marty Bishop). Seems the cranky conservative of the group had a little mishap with the Christmas lights. No one is quite sure if he slipped putting his lights up or taking someone else’s down, but Sour Frank is now saddled with more medical bills than Tortolita has rattlesnakes.

If they make their goal — which ringleader and head writer Fitzsimmons is pretty confident they will — they’ll all head out to Winterhaven to get their ho-ho-ho on.

Along the way, the cast — which includes comedians Josiah Osego, Mike Sterner, Nancy Stanley and Elliot Glicksman; KXCI host Brigitte Thum; Tucson blues singer Crystal Stark; and Reveille Men’s Chorus spinoff Reverb performing as the Grandsons of the Pioneers — will tell a few jokes that might strike a local chord or two. They might name-drop a Tucson area politician or prominent business leader, invoke the memory of a local celebrity or make fun of one another, all in the holiday spirit, of course.

“Last year we dipped a little bit into politics, but that was very rare,” said Fitzsimmons, who started the Arroyo Cafe series 20 years ago as part of the MixFM diaper bank fundraising show. “This year it’s light and bright and cheerful and wholly focused on life in Tucson.”

Except for that one Trump moment that will come when Taylor takes the stage for his standup set and sings his “I’m Sorry Trump Spoof” parody to the melody of the Platters’ 1957 song “I’m Sorry.”

When the self-proclaimed Barry Goldwater Republican sings, “I’m sorry for the things I’ve done / Don’t take away my Air Force One / I’m not above a reproach, but flying coach? / I’m sorry,” you can expect to hear some of the loudest laughs of the show.

“Jay’s our Tim Conway, he’s our big star. We just leave the stage when he does his solo,” said Fitzsimmons, the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial cartoonist who also writes a weekly satire column on local issues. The Arroyo Cafe is a central character in those columns.

During his solo turn, expect Taylor, at 81 the elder statesman of the group, to crack wise about getting old. Among his quips:

  • “I was in line at the store and the cashier asked me, ‘Are you ready to check out?’ and I didn’t have anything in my hands.”
  • “My youngest child is 45. I can’t believe I had sex that recently.”
  • “I went to the doctor’s office and it took two minutes to draw blood, three hours for urine.”

Taylor writes his own standup, but the Arroyo Cafe show is a team effort, Fitzsimmons said. It began in October when the cast, sitting around like the fictional TV writers on the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” came up with the show’s narrative — the Sour Fred storyline.

Once they had that, each took turns adding and subtracting until it was “thick with jokes,” Fitzsimmons said. But much of the show, like the Van Dyke show and all those great early TV sitcoms, will be improvised, which can open the door for some spontaneous hilarity.

An example: Osego, who plays Mr. Marley, the owner of the Jamaican Christmas Tree Lot and Marijuana Dispensary, admits his Jamaican accent is pretty rusty. But he has a pretty solid Russian accent he could pull out.

A Russian running a Jamaican marijuana dispensary? Pretty funny.

But Osego, a regular on Tucson comedy stages for the past several years, said it is the local references that will get the big laughs even among people who aren’t from Tucson.

“I think it helps Tucsonans feel proud about being in Tucson,” he said. “We’ve got Wilbur the Wildcat and a lot of local references. It’s comedy, so even if you’re not from Tucson, it can be an educational venture.”

Fitzsimmons said in addition to being excited about having the youth mariachi ensemble Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School performing, he can’t wait to see his pal Bishop try to come up with sound effects when the action moves outside of the cafe. Bishop, like most of the cast, has a duel role, serving as Sour Fred and the sound effects guy.

“Every show I just love watching Marty desperately try to keep up with the sound effects,” Fitzsimmons said. “Door closing, wind, crowd scenes. I’m looking forward to how he is going to come up with the sound effects of Winterhaven.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

Cathalena has covered music for the Star for the past 20 years. She's a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.

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