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COMEDY NOTES : Jeni Hooks ‘Em, Never Lets Up

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Jeni, the ever-popular boy from New York City and among the most sought-after stand-ups in the country, hooks audiences when he serves up observations on the human condition.

The comedian, who’s playing the Irvine Improv tonight through Sunday, likes to use characters to act out his bits as he drives home a point, fully exploring it with rapid-fire punch lines. This way, he doesn’t have to keep jump-starting the audience. Once they’re laughing, he keeps them laughing.

Jeni lists Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor as influences but admits to parroting Steve Martin for a while.

“Then I hit upon a novel concept of trying to be myself. But I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different comics.”

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Competing with Jeni will be George Lopez, who finishes his run at the Brea Improv tonight and Saturday.

Lopez, whose credits include “The Tonight Show” and recurring spots on the now-defunct “Arsenio,” is a comic on a mission to raise consciousness in mainstream America to the pride and humor of Latinos.

“People see color first,” he once told a Times interviewer. “After a show in Houston, a guy came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t think you’d be funny.’ I said, ‘Why, because I’m Latino?’ He said yeah. I appreciated his honesty, but it shows the stereotypes we’re fighting. I don’t do ethnic material. I only do ethnic material to people who see color. When I was growing up, I never looked at color. I looked at people.”

When Lopez leaves, Mack & Jamie take over Sunday in Brea, where they also perform Dec.4.

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Though not a perfect match off stage (Mack Dryden is a conservative Southerner who loves a good steak, while Jamie Alcroft is a liberal Northerner and devout vegetarian), the pair clicks on stage. Their show, which they’ve been honing since hooking up in Florida in 1978, is part stand-up, part musical, part parody.

When not doing clubs or corporate dates, “The Tonight Show” veterans are a popular item on KLOS’ “5 O’Clock Funnies.”

ON THE TOWN: Locally, Jackie Vegas & Friends are at Costa Mesa’s El Paso Cantina this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. On Sunday at 8 p.m., Debby Cali, Scott Greenwood, Joey Simms, Louis Weisenberg and Barry Weisenberg will be at the Holiday Inn at 25205 La Paz Road, Laguna Hills. It’s hosted by Tom Riehl.

Bill Word continues to take the stage at 8 p.m. Mondays at the Cornerstone Cafe in Costa Mesa.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING: And for the far-thinking among us, it’s never too soon to start making plans for New Year’s Eve.

The Brea Improv is going for the throat when it brings in comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and his pals Peanut and Walter from Dec. 27-31. After experiencing a Dunham performance, one is never certain who’s in charge.

The Irvine Improv is countering with The LoveMaster, Craig Shoemaker, who has just signed a deal with Big Ticket Television for a sitcom next autumn.

The LoveMaster is Shoemaker’s deep-voiced, sex-driven alter ego who channels through the comedian to tempt the women in the audience. The Philadelphia native also does a wicked Barney Fife imitation, among others. He’s there Dec. 27-31.

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