"When I first moved to Phoenix," T.A. Burrows said, "they told me it was known as the Valley of the Sun. I think they're right, because when I first moved here I was white."
In case you missed it, Burrows is black. And lest you missed the professional tempo with which he told the preceding joke, he is a stand-up comedian and he'll once again be peddling his comic wares on the stage of the Mazatzal Casino tonight (Friday).
But Burrows is more than just another stand-up comedian. He is a multi-talented entertainer who has invested more than 20 years in the business and has worked with such notables as the legendary Bob Hope, comedienne Rosie O'Donnell, singer Patti La Belle, R&B artist Brian McKnight, country star Lee Greenwood, jazz artist Dave Koz and many others.
"I actually opened two shows for Bob Hope when he was doing his college tour," Burrows remembered during a telephone interview. "When I met the man, oh my goodness, I was just overwhelmed, to meet a legend like that.
"The best part was getting to watch him work live. He was reading off cue cards, and at first I was kinda shocked by that even though he was 80-something years old at that time. But after a while, you just settle into watching him work, and you didn't notice it anymore. That was certainly one of my career highlights and a big thrill for me."
It wasn't Burrows' original idea to become a performer. That brainstorm came from his wife, 20 years ago when Burrows was in the Air Force and stationed in North Carolina.
"I used to do impressions around the house, and my wife actually talked me into entering a talent contest they were holding on the base," he said. "So I signed up and won the contest, then went on to win some more contests and that's how I got my start as an impressionist. As time went on, I decided I wanted to branch out and get more into the stand-up comedy field. Today, impressions are only about 40 percent of my act."
As Payson audiences will discover, Burrows can sound like anyone from Casey Kasem, Paul Harvey to Bill Clinton and sing like Johnny Mathis, Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond, and Michael Jackson. He's done voice-over work for the Armed Forces Radio Network, McDonnell Douglas and others and lent his talents to a CD-ROM recording, "The Voice of the Bible."
As a comic/impressionist, Burrows has appeared regularly in Las Vegas at The Riviera, The Imperial Palace, The Sahara and The Aladdin hotels ... not to mention the Mazatzal Casino and Kohl's Ranch Lodge, where he's appeared numerous times, as well as the Bison Ranch in Overgaard and the Hondah Casino in Pinetop, where he's appearing Saturday and Monday night, respectively.
T.A. Burrows will perform at 9 p.m. at the Mazatzal Casino. Doors open at 8 p.m. There is a $7 cover charge; $5 for Players Club members. Admission is free to those with a birthday in May. Audience members must be 21 years or older.