A spotlight hits the red brick backdrop, and a lone mic stands out in the open stage. A hush ripples through the rows of tables and the air is heavy with silence.
Laff’s Comedy Caffé’s stage is not empty for long. It’s a stand-up night at Arizona’s longest continually running stand-up club (by their own estimation)— open since 1988— and on this particular Saturday night, March 29th, it is host to stand-up comedian and actor Steven Michael Quezada.
Quezada is known for his role as Drug Enforcement Agency agent Steve Gomez in the hit American Movie Classics television series “Breaking Bad.” But when he isn’t on the television screen chasing meth dealers (and winning Screen Actors Guild awards), he’s on the stand-up grind with a mic in hand — and has been for 24 years.
“People who go support live comedy are a special kind of person,” Quezada says.
This isn’t the first time he’s been through town, and for him, Tucson is all about the crowd.
“[This] is how it’s supposed to be,” he says of Tucson. Quezada admits he has a soft spot for the Southwest, being from New Mexico, and when’s he’s in Tucson, he feels at home.
With good reason, too.
Quezada is “what people are talking about,” says Laff’s Manager Gary Hood. “[He’s] relevant, funny.” When booking acts, Hood says the club looks for what’s fresh, what’s hilarious, and what people want to see, and he says Quezada is all of those things.
According to Hood, the current trend across the country is toward more Hispanic comedy. This is anything but surprising, he says, because as America’s Latinos grow in number and influence, it’s only natural that their culture and comedy be reflected in the nation’s entertainment and art.
Hood and Quezada agree — the comedy scene is changing. Latino comics and comedic tastes are establishing a larger role in the comedy world.
Which is why Quezada, along with the help of friend and fellow comedian George Lopez, is planning to revamp stand-up in the Southwest, where comedy clubs are far rarer than in eastern or West Coast cities. He says in a sly tone that he can’t go too far into the details yet, but added that comedy fans should be on the lookout for a push toward more clubs in the southwestern states, as well as a push to get more people out of their homes and into the seats of those venues.
Regardless of who is on stage, Quezada stresses that comedy is universal. “I had people come up to me after the show and say, ‘Hey man, we’re not Latino, but we know exactly what you’re talking about with this thing.’”
Even in Montana, where he swears there were “like four Latinos” in the crowd, (“We were happy to see each other,” he laughs) his comedy has been met with a huge positive response, and to him, this just goes to show that comedy can speak to the full spectrum of emotion and experience.
“Comedy is storytelling,” Quezada says. “Comedy is pain.”