CVIndependent

Sat11282020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Anyone need a good laugh? A chuckle? A giggle?

If you answered “no,” we want whatever mind-altering substances you’ve been taking. But if you’re like the rest of us, subsisting on a daily diet of COVID-19-induced gloom, you’ll be relieved to know that the Palm Springs International Comedy Festival is on its way, albeit virtually, from Oct. 11-18.

The Palm Springs International Comedy Festival will feature competitions in the categories of stand-up, improvisation, sketch, feature film, short film, TV pilot, web series, animation and music. Winners will receive awards and cash prizes. The festival will also bestow honorary awards on the legendary Judy Tenuta (PSICF Lifetime Achievement Award), comedian/actress Luenell (PSICF Breakthrough Award) and comic/host/actor Selene Luna (Diversity in Comedy Award).

During the inaugural event last year, the festival drew participants from all over the world to Hotel Zozo. Prizes were awarded to Kathy Griffin and Illeana Douglas, as well as the motion picture Book Club, and more than 100 comedians participated in the standup competition. But with the world shutting down, festival director Paul Cruz—after delaying the festival several times—pivoted this year to an all-online version when it became clear that there really was no other choice.

“It was a strange decision,” said Cruz. “First of all, we didn’t know what we were going to do. I had a feeling this was coming, because I have friends who work in the medical field and knew in February this was going to be a problem. We didn’t see any way to do it in Palm Springs in the summer, so we originally postponed the live event until September … and then that started getting closer. By July, so many people had already submitted films to us. Short of refunding their submission money, we knew we had to try to figure out something else.”

Once Cruz decided the festival was going to go virtual, he knew he wanted it to look great.

“As a producer, I’m a little picky about how I want things to look,” he said. “There’s only so much you can control about other people’s production values, but we are going to advise people, especially the standup performers, to look their best, make sure their lighting is good, tell them not to have a mess behind them, hang a curtain, use a virtual background, and check their internet speed.”

Those tips are going to come in handy—because the virtual nature of this year’s festival exponentially increases the opportunity for participants to be seen.

“It’s going to be much easier for major casting professionals to just log on to the festival rather than enduring the weekend traffic from L.A. to Palm Springs,” said Cruz. “We have tons of celebrity judges and comedy club bookers and network casting people participating in the festival this year. That’s going to be great visibility for our artists.”

Cruz said the standup competition will be live via Zoom, while films and industry Q&A panels will be stream online. The schedule had not yet been posted as of our press deadline, but Cruz encouraged interested audience members to go to www.PSICF.org to sign up for the newsletter to receive announcements.

“If you sign up for our newsletter, you can possibly win a VIP pass,” said Cruz. “Plus, you can learn about some tickets that will be sold at early bird prices.” Ticket-buyers will receive a link to access the live or streaming content.

For much of his career, Cruz worked in casting, working on such films as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, For the Boys, The Addams Family and City Slickers, as well as TV shows including L.A. Law, Thirtysomething, Models, Inc. and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. More recently, Cruz produced the critically acclaimed indie film Archaeology of a Woman, starring Academy Award-nominee Sally Kirkland and Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark. He recently produced three soon-to-be-released stand-up comedy specials, starring Tony Tripoli of E!’s Fashion Police; comedian Renaldo Evans, the winner of the inaugural Palm Springs International Comedy Festival; and this year’s Diversity in Comedy Award honoree Selene Luna, directed by Margaret Cho. He also has produced an upcoming comedy cooking show called Something Smells Funny.

As an actor, Cruz appeared in The Soloist with Jamie Foxx, as well as the HBO series Arli$$, and had a recurring role in the NBC primetime series Spy TV, among a host of other theater, commercial and music-video credits. He splits his time between Palm Springs and Los Angeles.

Ironically, Cruz said he would be terrified to do standup comedy, but has always gravitated toward comedy roles.

“I’ve always loved comedy, because it’s gotten me through the tough times in my life,” Cruz said. “Humor has always been a healing thing for me.”

Cruz’s favorite credit was decidedly unfunny: He said he is most proud of the work he did on Voices From the List, a 2004 documentary film produced for the 10th anniversary of the release of Schindler’s List. Cruz was a researcher on the film and got to work with executive producers Steven Spielberg and James Moll, who was one of the first people to encourage Cruz to produce his own projects.

“It was devastating to work on that project, so intense to hear first-person stories from the Holocaust,” Cruz said. “It was extremely emotional but incredibly powerful.”

However, comedy is what’s on his mind now. Cruz is hoping that his first post-pandemic project will be to bring his comedy club back to Palm Springs.

“There should be a more-thriving comedy scene in Palm Springs,” said Cruz. “We were doing comedy supper-club shows at Hotel Zoso. Once this whole COVID nightmare is over, I want to make that a successful ongoing thing for the community.”

The Palm Springs International Comedy Festival will take place virtually from Sunday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 18. Tickets range from $10 for an all-day pass to $40 for a VIP all-access pass. For more information and updates, visit www.PSIFC.org.

Published in Comedy

This Pride, the lesbians in Palm Springs have scheduled tons of fun!

But first, a little background.

The first official “Dyke March” event in the United States was part of the 1993 LGBT March on Washington, D.C. It boasted around 20,000 lesbians—and the women who marched got inspired and energized. Later that year, New York and San Francisco had their first Dyke Marches, and today, they’re held in various places, including Palm Springs.

By the way, try not to get hung up on the fact that this was started by and continues to be led by women who are proud to call themselves “dykes.” This event is designed for all women-loving-women, and every kind of human who loves women is welcome! And dogs, too!

I was lucky enough to be at the ’93 marches in Washington and San Francisco. There were markers and paints and big poster boards to make your own signs. I remember wandering around the National Mall, looking at the signs other women were making, and then plopping down in the grass to make my own. 

This brings us to today. Over the last few years, the lesbian community in Palm Springs has made great headway in organizing their own business and entertainment opportunities. The now-4-year-old Dyke March, for example, has grown from a mini-march into two days of events. This year, it all starts with a picnic, rally and march during Greater Palm Springs Pride, on Saturday, Nov. 3, from noon to 4 p.m., at Frances Stevens Park. That’s between Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon drives at Alejo Road. Bring a blanket, and stake your claim on the grass for a picnic with simple, catered lunches available for $5 (cash only). You can also bring your own feast—and make everyone else jealous! Sprawl out in the dreamy sunshine to enjoy an afternoon of women’s music, dance, speeches and comedy—with me as the emcee. There will be shade tents and some chairs and tables, in case you’re not the sprawling-out-on-the-grass type!

Also at the park: Lighting up the dance floor will be young DJ Ash, from Los Angeles, spinning so you can tea-dance your hearts out. A local favorite dance teacher, Jan Alden, will even teach a couple of country-Western line-dance lessons. This is a kid-friendly day, so plan to bring the whole family, as there will be fun and games … and face painting! Joanne Thompson will lead a drum circle, so bring your instruments, too.

Between music and raffles, you’ll hear brief yet brilliant speakers, including spoken word from Nalani Hernandez-Melo, a founder of the Wyld Womxn Collective. Also on the schedule: a melodious tease from Sweet Baby J’ai as she lures you to the Sunday Lesbo Expo Launch Party. (More on that in a bit.) Leslie Price, a lead nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood, will share insights on women’s health, and the ever-powerful orator Kate Kendell, who led the National Center for Lesbian Rights for more than 20 years, will rally a bit of energy as we’re about to march. Finally, there will be a few words from Bella Barkow, a producer of Lezathlon, the largest and intentionally most ridiculous lesbian sporting event in the world! (We’re hoping to convince her to bring one of their lesbian “field days” here to Palm Springs next year.) 

The short march to the Pride Festival area will step off from Frances Stevens Park at 4 p.m.

Later that night, you can dance the night away at the L-Fund’s annual Women's Pride Dance in the ballroom at Hotel Zoso, at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, with DJ T-LA Storm. Tickets are $20 in advance at www.l-fund.org, or $30 at the door. All are welcome!

On Sunday, women can show up—first come, first served—to watch the Pride parade from the patio of the not-quite-reopened Alibi Room, at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Drinks and catered eats will be available for purchase. When the parade has passed, stick around on the patio for a free drag king show with emcee Jesse Jones and the Inland Empire Kings: King Phantom, King Caux and Sir Labia.

The headliners and big names can be found after the parade inside at the Lesbo Expo Launch Party, from 1 to 4 p.m. This ticketed event includes awards, music, comedy, a taco bar and beer, all for $30. The superstar show features acclaimed comedian/emcee Marga Gomez from San Francisco, and a short concert with Sweet Baby J'ai and her Women in Jazz All-Stars from Los Angeles.

Kate Kendell will receive the Legacy Award; other honorees include Susan Unger, the project director at Get Tested Coachella Valley; Lucy and Gail, producers of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival; and Michelle Castillo, co-founder of Wyld Womxn Collective. A special Palm Springs City Council resolution will also be presented by Councilwoman Lisa Middleton to Lynn Segerblom, a co-creator of the original pride flag. The whole event will serve as an introduction by the Palm Springs Dyke March Steering Committee to the planned day-long Lesbo Expo, slated for Pride in 2019.

As a young comedian, waiting on the National Mall at the first Dyke March in ’93, I was intimidated by the strong emotions voiced on many of the signs. I finally drew flowers and peace signs around the words, “Issue-Free Dyke!” Through the whole parade, lesbians yelled back at me: “No such thing!”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/psdykemarch.

Published in Local Fun