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
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
"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
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