Comedy show Sunday night in River FallsArea News
-- Passersby may hear a lot of laughter coming out of the River Falls High School the night of Feb. 12.
By: Jillian Dexheimer , Pierce County Herald
Passersby may hear a lot of laughter coming out of the high school the night of Feb. 12.
That is the night that 1983 RFHS graduate, Tom Steffen, and friends use their comedic skills to raise money for the RFHS band.
Steffen, a professional comedian, will be bringing his comedy show back for a fifth year.
This year, Steffen is very excited to be “coming home.” After living for many years in the Twin Cities, Steffen recently moved to New York.
Says Steffen, “Putting the show together this year from afar has been interesting. On the one hand, this is the fourth time, so the framework is there; but I’ve really had to rely on the band, band boosters, my parents, and other friends to help promote the show. I wouldn’t be able to do it without all of them.”
Steffen is again joined by fellow comedians from throughout the country.
--Tom Steffen, who has performed at the 2009 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival, including a TV special that currently airs on the CBC network in Canada and the 2009 Great American Comedy Festival at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk, Nebraska.
--Jason Schommer, originally from Minnesota; Schommer now lives in Las Vegas, where he is the regular opening act for Louie Anderson at the Louie Anderson Theatre in the Palace Station Resort.
--Calvin Cato, a New York-based comedian who has performed at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival and has been seen on the Game Show Network.
--Tommy Ryman, a Twin Cites-based comedian who is back to RFHS for the third time. Ryman has performed at the 2010 Great American Comedy Festival.
--Mary Mack, a Webster native who now splits her time between the Twin Cities and Los Angeles. She has been on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, and has performed at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival. Mack is also a returning performer.
Home grown comedy
A stand-up comedian since 2002, Steffen has been in show business on-and-off since high school.
“I started as an announcer at WRFW while I was still in high school. I did radio from then until 1993 (with a brief return in 2000 at B96, now K-twin in the cities),” he said, “I got into acting after that, and moved to stand-up in 2002.”
Feeling that his career was at a developmental plateau, Steffen made the move to New York in 2011.
“I came here to become better as a performer and artist. So in a way, my career hasn’t progressed much. I don’t do nearly as many paid shows here in New York, but I feel I’ve really improved my timing and delivery onstage. My writing has improved, and I’m much more comfortable performing in any setting.”
He recounts one show he did in the basement rec room of an apartment complex in Brooklyn, N.Y. -- it was packed and was a great time.
When asked about his style of comedy, Steffen describes it as observational and storytelling comedy.
“Observational comedy involves exploring odd things about the world and human behavior,” he said, citing George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld as examples. “Storytelling is just what it sounds like. For example, last year at the show I told the story of my car being broken into and my backpack stolen. Sounds like a bummer, but there was hilarity to be found. This year I imagine I’ll get into some stuff about adjusting to New York and some of the weird things I’ve been through here.”
River Falls is not far from Steffen’s heart, “I’ve spent the last nine years surrounded by comedians, but my old RFHS crew is still some of the funniest people I’ve ever known. I know I would not have sharpened my wit to this degree without trading barbs with them for a lot of years.”
Steffen is incredibly proud of the “…great and diverse line-up of comics who do the show each year.”
“I’d like to say it’s because of the beautiful theatre space, the great work the band and directors do to help produce the show, or the great audiences we’ve had each year; but I secretly think it’s because the band boosters put together a killer cheese tray for the green room each year,” he jokes
In all seriousness, Steffen credits the show’s success to “…the great support from the band, band boosters, and my friends and family in River Falls. My parents did a lot of the leg work this year.”
For the band
The PG rated show will be at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 at the River Falls High School.
“We do what’s called a “TV-clean” show. There’s no profanity or dirty humor. The PG rating is to remind people that stand-up comedy is not really fun for small children,” said Steffen.
The show is expected to last around two hours with a brief intermission, during which concessions will be available.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students. All proceeds to go the River Falls High School band.
Advance tickets can be purchased at The Dish and the Spoon Café, John & Kathy Steffen, Tom’s parents, at 715-425-6982, or Jaci Zimmerman at 715-222-5373. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Jillian Dexheimer is a reporter for the River Falls Journal.