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Stand-up comedy in South Florida

Daniel Resking. Photo courtesy of
Daniel Resking. Photo courtesy of

John Gregory, an up-and-comer on the South Florida comedy scene, is like many stand-up comedians who like to pepper their irreverent jokes with tasteless expletives.

During the day, Gregory, 24, works as an assistant in a law firm in downtown Coral Gables. At night, he pokes fun at how odd it feels to be a “white gringo” in Miami. At the recent Sweat Records “Casa de Ha Ha” comedy night in Little Haiti, Gregory said he speaks three types of Spanish:

One, gas station Spanish: “Donde esta I-95.” Two, La Carreta Spanish: “Donde esta el baño?” And three, cleaning lady Spanish: “Oye Maria, Windex las ventanas en todo. Por favor usa una fabric softener.” Loud laughter from the crowd followed his broken “Spanglish.”

Miami’s comedy scene is diverse. The humor varies from self-deprecating like Gregory’s to observational and introspective. There also are personality driven theatrics and physical comedy. Ethnic humor prevails in most line-ups and jokesters target everything from their sex lives and addictions to their families and financial struggles. And except for the Improv Comedy Club in Coconut Grove, most of the shows are free.

Daniel Reskin, 27, recruits the line-up for “Casa de Ha Ha,” a comedy night on the second Tuesday of the month. After graduating in psychology from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Reskin has been playing with theatric comedy. His Australian alter ego Raniel Deskin is “crude, vulgar and heavy-handed,” he said.

“Casa de Ha Ha has become a hub for a creative showcase with reputable, talented comedians. … We don’t make any money,” Reskin said. He has been juggling his passion for comedy and working as a waiter at Soyka Restaurant in Buena Vista.

Comedian Forrest Shaw is a regular at Casa de Ha Ha, the Improv and was recently at Magic City Casino’s Stage 305 for a contest for comedians. Shaw is a marine biologist, who has worked for the National Audubon Society and the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

When his grandfather died, Shaw said he decided it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. His tragicomic routines got so popular that in 2010 he decided to make comedy his full-time gig. He has taken his tales about his struggles with a gambling addiction all over the country. In downtown Miami, Shaw coordinates a comedy night at Elwoods Gastro Pub, 188 NE Third Ave.

“The comedy scene in Miami is better than people say it is,” Shaw said. “There are good comedians, and good places to go see them, but the support network is weak. I just think it’s under appreciated because a lot of people don’t know about it and it’s not advertised.”

Comedian Lisa Corrao, 38, is one of the few local “leading ladies.” She was a Broward County sixth-grade teacher before she began her career as a comedian eight years ago. She now lives in Miami and is the spokesperson for Festival Flea Market Mall in Pompano Beach. She believes the Miami comedy scene is special because of it’s diversity.

“I was at the Improv and took their class just to force myself to go on stage,” Corrao said. “Now I’m bouncing off all over the place. I travel a lot so I’m on the road a lot. It’s hard being a comedian. You are a starving artist. I love the scene in Miami. I think we have the best comedy scene.”

There are many beginners, Michael Maryanoff, who is a Florida State University English literature graduate, considers comedians like Shaw and Corrao role models. He is being treated for cancer and uses comedy to cope with his difficulties with dating.

He has presented stand up routines at several bars in Miami-Dade County and said that although enjoyable, stand-up has its difficulties.

“It’s a very humbling art form. Even if you kill it one night, you can just as easily bomb the next, so it’s always keeping you in check,” said Maryanoff, 26. “It’s also difficult to develop a God complex when you regularly divulge the most intimate details of your everyday life to complete strangers.”