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 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

Published in Comedy


After not even a year at 117 La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, Greek Islands Café has moved up the street to the spot that used to house Mykonos Greek Restaurant.

You can’t miss new digs, at 139 E. Andreas Road, thanks to the bright-yellow building. Even cooler than the building, though, is the restaurant’s gorgeous courtyard. I stopped in a couple of days before the “official” Nov. 16 grand opening for lunch, and was completely enchanted by the lovely space. (At one point, a tiny kitten zoomed under my chair!) And then there’s the food: The gyro sandwich I had was fantastic.

For more information, call 760-413-3811.

It appears Greek Islands’ move has set off a game of restaurant musical chairs: There’s now a sign in the restaurant’s old La Plaza space that touts the expected January 2014 opening of Délicatesse, a restaurant offering German meats, gourmet cheeses, French pastries and other European goodies. The fare will be available for in-house dining, for take-out and on party platters.

Yum! We’ll keep you posted.


The Copa—the sister nightclub of the ever-popular restaurant Tropicale, which sits right next door—should open its doors at 244 E. Amado Road in Palm Springs sometime in December.

An email went out to The Tropicale’s regular customers on Nov. 20 promising that the Copa’s opening was “just a couple of weeks away,” and referring folks to That website is chock full of information: “In a throwback to old Palm Springs’ nightclubs, the Copa is fashioned around an elevated performing stage and a stunning U-shaped bar lined with leather barstools, upholstered booths and gilded cocktail tables,” it promises.

It seems The Copa will offer a series of themed nights: “Stardust Swingers,” with swing, jazz and ballroom dancing on Monday; pop and country classics on Wednesday; music from the ’70s and’80s on Thursday; modern club nights on Friday and Saturday; and salsa/Latin dancing on Sunday.

Cliché alert: But wait; there’s more! Further sleuthing led to another website,, which is selling tickets to performances by actor/comedian Leslie Jordan (Peanut!) on Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 19 through 21; comedian Judy Tenuta on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28; and other performers going into January.

Since this is the restaurant news column, we should mention that The Tropicale’s full menu will be available at The Copa.

Watch the aforementioned websites for more details.


Like gingerbread? Then you’ll want to check out the Miramonte Resort and Spa’s Gingerbread Village, debuting Friday, Nov. 29.

Varied gingerbread buildings—all of which must be at least 51 percent edible—will be on display in the Tuscany Foyer starting at 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 29. They were all made by kids, adults, businesses or pro bakers/chefs who entered a contest for a good cause: The proceeds are being donated to the Desert Cancer Foundation.

Catch the Gingerbread Village through Dec. 26. It’s just one of the many holiday events taking place at the Miramonte, at 45000 Indian Wells Lane, in Indian Wells.

Visit for more.


Wang’s in the Desert, at 424 S. Indian Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a reception on Thursday, Nov. 21. … Las Casuelas Terraza, at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is getting into the holiday spirit by offering pomegranate guacamole. We’re not sure that regular guacamole needed sprucing up, but this “seasonal tradition” will be available through December, or as long as pomegranates are in season. … Chez Pierre Bistro is latest incarnation of Pierre Pelech’s eponymous restaurant, and it’s now open at 74040 Highway 111, at Portola Avenue, in Palm Desert. It replaces his old Town Center Way digs. Get more info at … Oscar’s Café and Bar, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, celebrated the opening of its remodeled dining room with a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, Nov. 20. … The dates have been set for Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week: May 30 through June 8, 2014. The 2013 incarnation was 17 days long, which means the 2014 version will be a week shorter. Find more info at

Published in Restaurant & Food News