Take away celebrity judges and the censors and you've got Star Search, Payson-style.
Comedians lobbed raunchy jokes and regional humor at an enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd during Mazatzal Casino's Thursty Thursday comedy finale.
A total of 12 comedians competed for the Funniest Person of the Year title and a $500 cash prize.
The winner, Jay Penn from Chandler via Indiana, stole the show with a physical comedy bit about potty training his toddler son.
For the past year, entertainment veteran, Jimmy Danelli, has added panache to Payson's dull Thursday nightlife, as host of the weekly comedy event in the Apache Sports Bar. Danelli said Thursty Thursdays will continue into the new year and the competition will be an annual event at the casino.
In the first round, each act had five minutes to make the crowd shriek with laughter.
Bob Howard, dressed for a conference call in a business suit, cracked jokes about married life. The attorney from Scottsdale, likened his wife's attitude toward sex to the recently released holiday film about a trip to the North Pole: "They made a movie about my life -- ‘Polar Express,'" Howard said.
Rednecks apparently aren't immune from the piercing fad. Comedian Brent Tory seems to have had a bit of trouble fishing lately; he cast off and pierced something other than the fish's mouth with the hook.
The only female comedian in the line up, Jodi Weisberg, said she didn't know what to expect from the competition. Known for her dry feminist humor, Weisberg was impressed with the audience's participation. "I am delighted by the crowd," she said. "They have great energy."
With his smooth delivery and sexy voice, Ken Kaz had the audience in the palm of his hand. "It doesn't make me a pathetic loser -- the fact that I was driving a minivan before I was married," Kaz deadpanned.
The final first round contestant, blond California Star Search winner Reggie Walker, appeared on stage with an untucked checked shirt and blue jeans. Walker said, "I'm thankful Willy Wonka is fake. Or is he?" Referring to the Gloved One, Michael Jackson, he asked rhetorically, "Who in America would make an amusement park for other people's kids?"
After Walker left the stage and the house lights came up, audience members voted for their one favorite comic while local musicians, John and Lou Carpino played La Bamba and other rock 'n' roll favorites.
The audience chose Andy Sly, Captain Tom and Jay Penn as the three finalists. Each man was another chance to woo the audience with their jokes and claim the prize.
Grandfatherly ex-pilot Captain Tom asked the audience during his monologue, "What do you get when you cross Rogain with Viagra?" Without wasting a breath, he hit the audience with the punch, "Someone who looks like Don King!"
Captain Tom on custody: "When a judge asks children which parent they want to live with, the answer is easy. ‘I wanna live with the (Arizona) Cardinals. They don't beat anybody.'"
Handsome Andy Sly, with his risque routine was clearly an audience favorite.
The crowd cracked up when he talked about getting off the blood bank's donor list. "Keith Richards doesn't want my blood." Waving his hands. "No. No thanks."
Penn, the winner, had the audience in stitches as he demonstrated his young son at the learning-how-to-wipe stage of potty training. Penn bent himself over the stage with his legs spread wide and his bottom in the air. The audience, breathless from laughter, went wild as he described wipin' and flushin,' wipin' and flushin,' asking his wife, "What have you been feeding this kid?"
Penn's award-winning comedic philosophy is simple. "One wife, no more. One mom that lives with me and two dogs that weigh out to more than I do," said Penn. "Family humor works for most people."
Payson thought so too.