Gary Menke

House Emcee and Promotions Director, Improv Comedy Theater

BEST SHOW AT THE IMPROV THIS YEAR
Jim Breuer

Definitely Breuer. Darrell Hammond and Jay Mohr are close. All three were on Saturday Night Live, so that tells you something right there. But Breuer was the best. He actually got his start here (while living in Palm Harbor) over at the Comedy Corner. Now it's a gay bar, the Metropolis, on Kennedy.

BEST UP-AND-COMING COMICS
Tony Gaud, Roy Johnson, William Sloan and L.C.

This is hard 'cause inevitably I'm leaving somebody out, and then they're going to come to me like, "I thought I was your boy." But I can give you four names of up-and-comers. Two black and two white — politically correct — so everyone's happy. Tony Gaud and Roy Johnson, who help me with some of the house emcee duties. (Gaud started out as a doorman at the Improv, honed his material and caught a break in 2001 when Jackie Mason invited him to be an opening act on his national tour.) And William Sloan and L.C., who open the Apollo shows (a Sunday night showcase of black comedy); they're instrumental in making that night happen. They're all Tampa boys and cover everything from family to R. Kelly.

BEST OLD-SCHOOL COMICS
Bobby Taylor and Pretty Paul Parsons

As far as old school goes, these guys are both dependable funnymen. Taylor was on some of the early MTV Spring Break comedy shows, and then he opened a business, Condotrader.com, buying and selling timeshares. It grew so big so fast he had to drop out of comedy and run things, but now he's back full force. Pretty Paul Parsons is a favorite senior citizen. He's 62, but don't bring the kids cause he's definitely X-rated. He looks like a serial killer. He wears a jumpsuit on stage and goes: "My grandkids asked me, 'Where do babies come from?' And I said, 'Well, the three downstairs in the freezer came from Ecuador.'"

BEST WRY INSIGHT ON COMICS
This Ramble by "Menker"

Typical hours of the touring stand-up comic are, Thursday and Friday, up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. Get to the radio and TV stations and get on the air. Get the word out. If they have time in the afternoon, they'll probably go online or try to see a movie. Nap from 3 to 5 p.m. Usually after a show, comics like to go out and stay up late, and then go back to their room and stay up even later. Maybe watch movies until 4 or 5 in the morning. They're very nocturnal, very Internet savvy.

BEST HOTEL TO CATCH COMICS GOOFING OFF
Chase Suite Hotel-Rocky Pointe

It has two bars they can walk to (Green Iguana and Bahama Breeze). There's Scarlett's and the Tanga, if they're in the mood for a little treat. There's a pool and an ocean view, and a market down at the corner. Plus they give you a free ride to the airport. All of the comics' needs in one little variety pack.

Chase Suite Hotel, 3075 N. Rocky Pointe Drive, off the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, 813-281-5677.

BEST PLACE TO FIND COMICS PIGGING OUT
Moses White & Sons BBQ

Gerald White, the proprietor, takes good care of us. It's barbecue like grandma used to make. Ribs, chicken, pork, greens, rice, coleslaw, sweet tea — anything in the barbecue family, he's got it. If you can kill it, he can grill it. Who's eaten there? Everybody: Jay Mohr, Bruce Bruce, Earthquake ... (One might describe the latter two comedians as "healthy.")

Moses White & Sons BBQ, 1815 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813-247-7544.

BEST CELEBRITY COMEDY CONNOISSEURS
Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks

Tyrone Keys also comes to a lot of shows. (Keys, founder of All Sports Community Service, was a member of the Super Bowl-winning '85 Chicago Bears). So does Jen Holloway (Bay News 9), Brian Fasulo (WFLA Ch.-8), Orlando from the Freak Show (WiLD 98.7) and Fisher (97X).

BEST PLACE TO ENJOY A STOGIE
King Corona

The last place you can smoke in Tampa besides a gigantic field.

King Corona, 1523 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-241-9109.

BEST NIGHTCLUB
The Castle

I like going to The Castle on Monday nights so I can feel normal and look at the people who weren't hugged as kids.

The Castle, 2004 N. 16th St., Ybor City, 813-247-7547.

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