There are plenty of stand-up comedians on the market, but significantly fewer who have discovered and mastered the art of character comedy – transforming themselves into personalities that become well known on their own.
It’s an approach probably best mastered by the late Red Skelton, who parlayed his multiple personalities (Freddy the Freeloader, for example) into the mainstay of his 20-year, Top-10 run on television.
Two stand-ups with memorable characterizations headline at Thunder Valley on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27: Jo Koy, who has launched from the TV show “Chelsea Lately” to his own podcast, “The Koy Pond”; and Anjelah Johnson, who went from Oakland Raiderette to MADtv to YouTube favorite.
Koy has a raft of characters at hand, including a greeter at the restaurant P.F. Chang’s and an angry cabbie, but he’s stunning portraying his own mother, especially when she masters a sample game on the Wii, besting her son and becoming as hip as hip can be.
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For Johnson, check out two of her best on YouTube – the Vietnamese nail salon manicurist, so spot-on it’s eerie; and Bon Qui Qui, the rude fast food employee continually calling for security when a complicated order comes through. Heaven help the customer who goes for the cookies and cream milkshake. (Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.; $42.75-$87.75; thundervalleyresort.com)
Cache Creek this weekend has a couple of excellent shows, first with Little Joe y La Familia, two-time Grammy winners for 1992’s “16 de Septiembre” and 2008’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” whose predecessor in Tejano was Freddy Fender. The band plays Friday, Aug. 26 (8 p.m.; $49-$79; cachecreek.com). Also playing are the Commodores, who ruled the charts in the late 1970s (“Three Times a Lady,” “Easy”), hitting the stage on Saturday (8 p.m. $49-$79)
In Reno, the Eldorado has opened another Broadway musical, this one sandwiched between “Rock of Ages” and the upcoming “The Producers.” It’s “The Full Monty,” the delightful story of unemployed men who decide to make money by making like Chippendale dancers.
For Broadway, the action was moved from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, N.Y., but the story remains the same. It enjoyed a near two-year run in New York, drawing in crowds more for the delight of the strip (how will they pull off the promised finale?) than for any of the songs, none of which became popular even though they all work.
The Eldorado cast members are charming performers backed by a four-piece combo set up on one of the side balconies. Any musical cut to 90 minutes is going to suffer when it comes to character and plot development, but this group manages to make it work and the plot is not all that complicated. It makes for a fun evening and, yes, they go for the full Monty at the end, delivered in a flash of clever stagecraft. (Through Sept. 18; 7 p.m. nightly except Mondays, plus 9:30 p.m. Saturdays; $40.45-$57.46; eldoradoreno.com)