Laughing It Up in La Jolla: The Comedy Store offers a special Sunday with ‘Last Comic Standing’ winner Dat Phan


What is the funniest place in all of La Jolla? The 900 block of Pearl Avenue. That’s because it’s the home, at 916, of The Comedy Store, a place that has been churning out laughs for the last 40 years — in the same location!

It all began back in 1976 when The Comedy Store was opened in South Mission Beach. In 1977, the Store moved to its La Jolla location and it’s been there ever since.

The list of who has performed at The Store includes all the greats, like David Letterman, Robin Williams and Michael Keaton, to name but a few, plus numerous local favorites. On Sunday, Aug. 7, there’s going to be a special event at The Comedy Store, billed as “Dat Phan and Friends.”

The show will open with music from Enter the Blue Sky, a local up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band, and afterward the comedians will ascend the stage. These include former Italian-American banker, Tony Calabrese; former massage therapist, Toni Torquatto; and the headliner, Dat Phan — one of the most prominent Asian-American comedians.

Enter The Blue Sky is a band headed up by singer/songwriter/guitarist Sande Lollis, who started singing at age 2, and playing the guitar at 13. Her performing style has been described as, “a powerhouse of energy and melodic bliss.”

Lollis will be accompanied by the electric viola of Karen Childress-Evans, who is the retired director of the Visual & Performing Arts Program at San Diego Unified School District. Childress-Evans has also played with the La Jolla Symphony.

On harmonica and blues harp is John Seever, who learned to play the harp in his college days at the University of Florida at Tallahassee. Sever went on to a successful career with a blues band in Memphis and has recorded at many of the legendary blues studios, such as Sun Records.

Providing the low notes of flow for the band on upright bass is Taoist musician Alberto Gonzalez. He says that the bass chose him, and he merely helps his instrument to express itself.

The comic lineup for the evening will be hosted by Maria Hernandez. She will introduce Dat Phan, who won NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” competition in 2003. Phan is known for his comic inspection of ridiculous stereotypes. He has been featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “The Tyra Banks Show,” among numerous other TV appearances.

Born in Saigon and raised in San Diego, Phan has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the 10 most influential Vietnamese Americans. He says that he seeks to rectify the under-representation of Asian America in the media and theater arts, noting, “We are more than just martial artists!” He has a DVD, “Dat Phan: Live,” available on and an album for sale on iTunes called, “You Touch, You Buy.”

Calabrese, describes himself as, “a frustrated middle-aged married fat guy meets a lazy Ninja.” When he is not ironing dollar bills down at the First National Bank of America, Calabrese teaches standup comedy at the Point Loma Actors Studio and the National Comedy Theater.

Torquatto is one of the two female comics in the show. She has had an assortment careers, first as a radiologist, then as a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner. When she is not performing, she works as a Certified Celebrant of Weddings & Important Life Events ... whatever that is!

Also on the bill is Cammie Cooley, who may have got here because she is also the agent and manager for comics Dat Phan and Gene Levin, who is also on the bill.

IF YOU GO: Dat Phan and Friends; Sunday, Aug. 7. The Comedy Store La Jolla, 916 Pearl St. The show starts at 6 p.m. with an hour of music. Comedians take the stage at 7 p.m. Tickets: $20 with a two-drink minimum purchase per person. Must be age 21 or over. (858) 454-9176.