We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Aronson Tyus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamie, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Being able to roll with the punches. Over the ten years that The Cosmonauts have been performing, there have been countless challenges. Theaters close, cast members move out of state, personal issues arise, sketches don’t work well, our audience doesn’t laugh like we had hoped, you name it. If you can imagine what could go wrong for a theater/comedy troupe, it has probably happened to us at one point.
The reason we’re still here with pretty much the same cast we’ve had for many years, filling our houses, and being accepted into high-profile comedy festivals, aside from offering what I’d like to believe is an above-average product, is that we accept adversity as part of the creative and business process, myself in particular as the producer of the troupe.
Accepting adversity and pushing through it means not being afraid of failure, which I feel is very important. This probably comes from my attempt to learn chess over the course of my life–I’ve lost thousands and thousands of games since I first started chess lessons twenty years ago. But I learned from my losses at chess, and became a better player. Same thing with producing and writing for a comedy troupe. I learned from my failures. For me, failure is not the end. Now I’m reaping the rewards of a successful creative endeavor.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I had wanted to do sketch comedy since discovering The Kids in the Hall in the early ’90s. I absolutely loved them. I was fascinated by how they worked as a team to make audiences laugh. SNL never did it for me, oddly enough. It lacked the underdog feel of Kids in the Hall.
So I went looking for people to write with, and fortunately stumbled upon The Oxymoron’z Improv Comedy Troupe run by the brilliant Louis Anthony Russo. Although it was improv rather than scripted sketch comedy, I performed hundreds of shows with them from 1992 to 1996. It was like comedy college. I learned so much, even how to run a comedy troupe, which served me well later. The Oxymoron’z morphed into The Jester’z after Louis passed away in 2000.
Fast-forward to 2010/2011 and a diagnosis of breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and recovery. I thought that if I could handle breast cancer, I could finally take the plunge and start up a sketch comedy troupe of my own. It was my unrealized dream. I contacted friends from the local comedy scene as well as old friends from the Oxymoron’z, and we “put the band back together,” so to speak.
One of my old friends from the Oxymoron’z ran a very successful and funny weekly stand-up show at Ice House Tavern in Phoenix, and he was kind enough to let us perform a few scripted sketches that I wrote. He let us perform there again–a very short set–and then it sort of steamrolled. We did short sets of sketches, and by sketches I mean scripted comedy that we wrote ourselves, at comedy shows across town. That was in 2012 to 2013. We had our first full-length, 2-hour show at Space 55 in 2014. From then on, we performed 2-hour shows, each containing almost all-new material, at venues such as Tempe Center for the Arts, Mesa Arts Center, Brelby Theatre, and SIC Sense Theatre. We continued to do short sets at comedy clubs in between our full-length shows. I’ve lost count of the number of shows we’ve performed–definitely more than 80.
What was really fun was being part of sketch comedy festivals. As we grew and improved over the years, we felt we were finally ready to try our hand at them. We are now Official Selections of the 2o21 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, the 2021 Portland Comedy Film Festival, the 2020 SF Sketchfest (in San Francisco), the 2018 Joshua Tree International Improv/Comedy Festival, and numerous local comedy and performing arts festivals. We’re the only comedy troupe from Arizona, sketch or improv, to ever be in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival!
During the worst of the pandemic, we switched to filming short videos, which was a blast. I hate to say that since it was during such a dismal period. We’re going to be back on stage for the first time since the pandemic started, with an all-new 2-hour show at Desert Stages Theatre on January 7th and 8th, 2022!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Let’s say the pandemic is finally over for good. No worries about social distancing or congregating in large groups. In this case, the Roosevelt Row Arts District’s First Friday Art Walk is the place to go, with its open galleries and cute restaurants and creative feel. If you’re in the mood for nature but want to stay within the city limits, it’s the Desert Botanical Garden, hands down.
I like little Mom and Pop restaurants, I would recommend Carly’s Bistro on Roosevelt Row, Kitchen18 in Scottsdale (a kosher restaurant that prepares its food to Glatt Kosher standards), and Fresh Mint in Scottsdale, a Vietnamese restaurant that is also kosher.
My absolute favorite small concert venue is Valley Bar in Phoenix. For stand-up comedy shows featuring local comics, I’d suggest JP’s Comedy Club, and Tickle Your Bone Comedy.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for my husband, Gordon Tyus, who is our stage manager. He has been an invaluable source of support. I’d have no troupe if it weren’t for our cast, so huge thank you to them. The talented and funny SIC Sense Sketch Comedy Troupe has always been there for us, and of course a big thank you to our dedicated audience who makes it all worthwhile.
Wade Moran, Michael Potts,