Deep within most of us is an eighth grader waiting to bust the chops of the senior class president.
And lurking in another corner of the psyche is a high-brow intellectual awaiting affirmation for feelings and attitudes he is just becoming aware of.

A good stand-up comedian can play to both of these natures, says Eddie Tafoya, a college professor who has dedicated his life to the study and performance of stand-up comedy. After years of scholarly research examining what Freud, Hobbs, Mark Twain and others have to say about humor, Tafoya has concluded that the comedian represents something very close to the human essence.

"But what do I know?" he says. "For years I thought 'homo erectus' was a gay porn movie."
While many animals, like birds, walk erect and have digits that function like opposable thumbs, and virtually every animal has some kind of language, says the literature professor who earned a Ph. D. from the State University of New York in 1997, "human beings and hyenas are the only beings that laugh -- and as far as I can tell, hyenas don’t laugh at jokes."

Tafoya contends that the stand-up comedian's job is quite similar to that of a philosopher: to identify attitudes, feelings and observations that are lurking just below the conscious level.

With his takes on Chicanos telling him "I thought you was a gringo," surviving a failed marriage ("On my second anniversary, I walked into the bedroom with flowers and whispered to my wife, "I'm gonna give you super sex." She replied, "Great. I'll take the soup"), or dating in middle age ("I spend hours working on my hair -- mostly plucking it out of the palms of my hands") Tafoya pokes fun at just about everyone and everything, including himself. For instance, he says, he recently made a major dating faux pas when he took his girlfriend to a swingers' party.
"It was not what I expected," he says. "All that tension, all that jealousy. All those six-year-olds fighting over the slide and monkey bars."

Born and raised in Albuquerque’s North Valley, where he attended the parochial schools, Tafoya has been a stand-up aficionado since he was six, when he and his brother used to get up extra early on Sunday mornings to listen a stand-up comedy radio show. It wasn’t until many years later, when he was teaching at a university, however, that he realized that, much like Hemingway and Shakespeare, Richard Pryor and Jackie Mason had plenty to reveal about the human condition. In February 2002, after years of studying stand-up as literature, Tafoya finally got the nerve to work up an act and signed up for an open-mike spot.

Six weeks later, he did his first professional gig. He has never looked back, except to wonder why it took him so long to get on stage.

When his teaching schedule allows, Tafoya performs around New Mexico and has knocked 'em dead in Albuquerque, Grants, Las Vegas and Santa Fe.

Recently, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco, Calif., invited Tafoya to perform, give a workshop on joke-writing and a presentation on his work involving stand-up comedy as literature