Power House hosts 'Just for Laughs' comic series

John Pizzi and Billy Garan will perform in Walla Walla starting July 12 at Gesa Power House Theatre.

John Pizzi and Billy Garan will perform in Walla Walla starting July 12 at Gesa Power House Theatre. Courtesy photo

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WALLA WALLA — For a while magic didn’t seem like it would be in the cards for a young John Pizzi.

The comedian, who makes his Walla Walla debut next weekend at the Gesa Power House Theatre with fellow standup comic and impressionist Billy Garan, was first enchanted by magic as an 8-year-old watching a friend’s brother perform a trick.

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Billy Garan is one of two comics who will appear in Walla Walla starting July 12.

Power House comedy

“Just for Laughs” opens July 12 with two performances at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at the Gesa Power House Theatre, 111 N. Sixth Ave.

That’s followed July 13 with two more at the same times. July 14’s concludes with a matinee at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $25-$35 for reserved seating. Balcony seating is for ticketholders 21 and older, excluding the July 14 performance.

The 7:30 and 3 p.m. shows are all family-friendly. Families booking four or more tickets will save 5 percent.

The late show July 12 offers a Ladies’ Night special for women. Females who purchase any main floor seat using the code “GirlsOnly” can get a second ticket for half off, plus half-priced drinks in the Electric Lounge. The lounge will be open Friday and Saturday with drink specials throughout the night. No alcohol will be served Sunday.

Opening night is also Transformer Night, for those whose financial support helped launch and sustain the theater.

Transformers during the 7:30 p.m. show will get their own private outside balcony bar area pre-show, special ticket pricing and recognition from the stage.

For more details call the box office at 529-6500 or visit PHTWW.com .

“I was so intrigued by the possibility of how things worked,” he recalled during a phone interview from the East Coast before shows in Staten Island and Queens. “From that moment on I devoured everything on the art of magic.”

The problem, he described, is that he was “terrible — really, really terrible.” At least, at first.

“Persistence prevailed more than talent,” he said. “I started realizing as time went on that I really wasn’t interested in being a magician. I was trying to get a laugh.”

Now the magic is not only in the tricks, but how quickly he can transition from illusion to standup to ventriloquism. From family events to corporate parties to late-night shows geared more toward adults.

The same goes for Garan, a spitfire with impressions and props who said during a break from cruise ship entertaining in Nova Scotia that he’s cooking up some new material for Walla Walla.

The duo will be at the Power House for five performances July 12-14 in the “Just for Laughs” comedy series. It is the first installment in the series.

Longtime friends, the two don’t often get the chance to work together, Garan said. But they both hail from the same school of thought when it comes to contemporary comedy: keep moving and changing to engage an audience with a shorter attention span.

“Back in the day comedy was like jazz,” said Garan, who’s known for his time on “America’s Funniest People.” “You would go to the club, watch an act, pay attention to where it was going to go. Now people just don’t have the attention span. And I’m probably one of those people myself.”

He battles back with rapid-fire delivery and nontraditional props. “My goal is to not be boring,” he said.

The same goes for Pizzi whom you may have seen on “America’s Got Talent” with a “virtual ventriloquist” act. He likens himself to an old-school Don Rickles with a dummy.

“I give my act in a very manic way,” Pizzi explained. “I bring it up and bring it down, change the content and the characters and the puppet. It’s like machine-gun delivery.”

The esoteric approach brings newness to live comedy, he said.

Both Garan and Pizzi developed their appreciation for comedy as kids, watching their idols on late night television and working their friends over to get laughs. Garan remembers driving to the city in the 1980s to catch shows at the Improv.

He became so well-known at the small venues he went to as a patron that he knew enough people who would let him in to perform his first five minutes. He got an invite to return. Then another.

When he had 20 minutes of material, he could bring it to the bigger clubs. His first paying job was at Pips in Brooklyn.

From small comedy clubs to cruise ships, showrooms and resorts, the two say they are excited to get to the intimate venue of the Power House Theatre.

“To me that size is great,” Garan said. “It’s more of a club atmosphere. It’s got a warmer feel. You’re working to a smaller audience and you can kind of play with them. Take chances.”

Added Pizzi: “It’s in the moment. It’s live. It’s different every show.”

Pure magic.

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