Blake Lynch, known to millions as comedian Nurse Blake, says a lot of theaters think his performance is going to be a TED Talk.
“But it’s not,” he said. “It is so rowdy and wild.”
Pandemonium is what you’d expect from an intimate party of 1,200 close friends who’ve waited for years to meet in person. All the hospital break rooms are abuzz with excitement.
Nurse Blake: The PTO Comedy Tour comes to the Rialto Theatre with two shows on Thursday, Sept. 29.
“I feel like, as nurses, we are some of the funniest people because we see life and death and we have to use humor to get through our long shifts,” Lynch said. “Everything people hear in the show, they’re all true stories that happened.”
His worldwide fans are all in the same virtual Mercy Ship.
Preternaturally chipper, Lynch has a perpetual smile, as earnest as a 10-year-old’s. He’s as bright and open in a Zoom interview as he appears in his videos. And we want all of his skin products.
“I never thought I would be doing comedy, ever,” he said. “When I graduated nursing in 2014, it was never on my bucket list. But when I was starting nursing school, I did work at Disney at the Magic Kingdom and in Orlando,” And there it is — the welcoming smile, the charisma, the quality of his listening. Maybe not even Disney could imagine a nurse so comfy as a blanket fresh from the warmer.
That smile barely puckers when he’s slinging the snark. In his show, he’s occasionally an Avenger excoriating hypocrites, bureaucrats and poseurs in the medical field. He’s been a force for good even in real life. His 2013 project, “Banned4Life” attracted his earliest fans and made them a force to be reckoned with.
He was in nursing school at the time and a very sick friend needed blood. At the time, gay men could not be blood donors. Lynch mustered friends and fellow nursing students to protest the policy. “Banned4Life” mushroomed as part of a nationwide movement.
“In 2015, the FDA ended the lifetime ban on gay males from donating blood,” Lynch said. “That’s when I realized that even as a nursing student, I had a voice to create change.”
Now, he hopes his show encourages health care workers to make an impact in their community. “I always try to balance the humor with professionalism and inspiration,” he said.
Lynch’s almost rocket-like ascension to the public consciousness is partly a phenomenon of its time. While Facebook and YouTube opened to the public in the mid-aughts, the popular mash up of messaging and video, TikTok, didn’t emerge until 2016. Meanwhile, podcasting, which had been growing steadily since at least 2005, surged when national media and entertainment producers started climbing on board around 2017.
All that and continuing advances in user-friendly, personal and home-based technology, not to mention target marketing, coincided to generate “influencers” and launch them to global notoriety overnight.
Lynch’s first step into social media was in a dark night of the soul in 2018. “I was coming home from a really long shift, and I had something like a panic attack,” he said. “I thought it was me because nursing is so hard and challenging.
“Even before the pandemic, nurses are working short staffed, and I needed an outlet and a community to connect with. So I started my Facebook page just for fun and it’s kind of grown into this.”
“This” has grown from Facebook to TikTok, YouTube and a podcast channel, plus at least a presence on every other social media platform. His podcast with husband, Brett Donnelly, “Me, Myself and My Husband” is entering its second season, and he’s just started a new podcast, “Breakroom Gossip,” that will feature conversations with friends and other influencers in the health care field.
How is he adjusting to the transition to live performance? “It was so surreal,” Lynch said, adding, “Now I feel like I’m helping nurses in a way by giving them a night to let loose and have fun. I do get a little nervous, but I can take the energy from the crowd and just use it to give them a great experience.”
Nurse Blake: The PTO Comedy Tour, 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street, Tucson, rialtotheatre.com, $32 to $58.
Joel Martin: All in the family
Joel Martin remembers the exact date of his first open mic: Feb. 5, 2009. “It was Laff’s open mic,” he said. “I had always wanted to do comedy, but I never realized how accessible it was in my own city.”
Martin remembered when he and his cousin Jared Martin were kids and watched their cousin, touring comedian Sam Griesman, at Laff’s. “We were still underage, but they got us in because we were family.”
Martin hosts a mic at 7 p.m. Monday nights at On the Rocks, a new bar and restaurant in the former Famous Sam’s spot at 7930 E. Speedway Boulevard, Suite 170. Martin’s brother Paul is general manager there.
He will host his first showcase in the venue, Ice Cold Comedy on Saturday, Sept. 24. Rebecca Fox headlines, Roxy Merrari features and Sylvia Remington, Ashley Tappan and Anthony Jenkins round out the lineup.
He was always a fan of TV comedy shows but he took the stage only after a bad breakup of a long-term relationship. “I hear that’s a common thread,” he said.
“So, I went to one open mic at Laff’s with Jared. I thought we could do it the following week and maybe be in the middle.” They did, and they were. “It’s been fun ever since,” Martin said.
Joel and Jared became regulars in Tucson’s growing comedy community. “It’s grown astronomically,” he said. There are so many more opportunities to get on stage. I couldn’t tell you how many active comedians there are right now. Over 150, I’d say.
More comedy this week
Arte Bella, 340 N. Fourth Avenue, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, $10. “Blazed and Amused” 420-friendly comedy showcase with music by Lew Lepley, hosted by Rebecca Fox and Paul Fox, featuring Cory Lytle, Levi Hernandez, Rory Monserat, Allana Erickson-Lopez and Ashley Tappan.
Bumsted’s, 1003 N. Stone Avenue, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, “Lady Ha Ha” open mic, facebook.com/LadyHahaOpenMic, free. Five minutes stage time with priority for marginalized folks. First show in its new venue.
Catalina Craft Pizza, 15930 N. Oracle Road, Suite 178, 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24, “Comedy in Catalina,” $8 or free with a donation of food or clothing. Phoenix comics DeVonte Easby and Phyllis Voren. Brady Evans and Kenny Shade guest and Allana Erickson-Lopez hosts. Reservations recommended, 520-825-0140.
Chuckleheads, 41 Brewery Avenue, Bisbee, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, chuckleheadsaz.com, $20. Kylie Vincent and Will Foskey. Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Vincent recently toured 18 cities with her solo show, “Bird.”
Laff’s Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Boulevard. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, laffstucson.com, $15, $20 preferred seating. Andrew Rivers, a hit on YouTube and “Dry Bar Comedy,” assures a good time with his winning, storytelling humor.
The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress Street, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, screeningroomdowntown.com, $20. Will Foskey and Kylie Vincent. Just for Laughs tapped Foskey as one of its “New Faces of Comedy”.
Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. Ninth Street, tucsonimprov.com. Thursday, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m. Improv 101 Showcase and “The Dating Scene;” 8:30 p.m. Open mic. Friday, Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. Improv Jam; 7:30 p.m., “The Soapbox” with writer and director Nickolas Duarte; 9 p.m. Stand Up Showcase. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, “The Game Show Show;” 9 p.m. “3V3 Tournament of Champions.” $7 each show, $10 for both shows, same night, free jam and open mic.
Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, unscrewedtheatre.org, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, Family-friendly improv; 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, “Improv Blox” Showcase; 7:30 p.m. Family-friendly improv, 9 p.m. Uncensored Improv Comedy with NBOJU and “The Big Daddies;” $8, live or remote, $5 kids