Cristin Davis: Stand-Up Comedian

Cristin Davis, stand-up comedian, photographed at The Duce in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Cristin Davis, stand-up comedian, photographed at The Duce in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Cristin Davis
www.monkeypantscomedy.com

Cristin Davis is hosting a very unique comedy contest for local comedians this fall, one where the winner will get a bigger prize than is almost ever offered in Valley contests: a car. Sure, it only cost a little more than $400 at an auction and is broken in many ways, but it runs.

The 40-year-old Tempe resident is a stand-up comedian himself and hosts an open mic every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. at Monkey Pants in Tempe, called Up in Them Guts Comedy. The contest is the same day and time as the open mic for nine weeks starting Thursday, September 17, and up to 50 comics can enter through Sunday, September 13 for $16.43 — find more information here.

Davis shared why he’s passionate about stand-up comedy and gave his advice for new comics. See him watch his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. I’ve been here my entire life and have never lived anywhere else for any extended period of time.

I went to Greenway High School and junior college, before getting some record deals and music opportunities. I toured around the world and made a living at it for a few years before starting my professional career at 30.

The first band I got a record deal with was called Big Shot All Star. We got a record deal with Mammoth Records, which was owned by Disney. Disney shut them down, so we lost our deal.

After our record deal fell flat, I got hired in a band called Trick Turner. I was in Trick Turner for a year, and we were on RCA Records. After touring for a year, RCA got a new president and cleaned house. Even though we sold over 350,000 records and had the number seven alternative hit of 2002, they dropped us from the label.

I got into marketing and am a marketing automation software consultant now for a company called Digital Pi. I consult businesses on their business process practices and do digital marketing based on online behaviors. Continue reading

Karin Fellman: Founder and Owner of Hot Yoga University

Karin Fellman, founder and owner of Hot Yoga University, photographed at Hot Yoga University in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Karin Fellman, founder and owner of Hot Yoga University, photographed at Hot Yoga University in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Karin Fellman
twitter.com/hotyogau

Every day, Karin Fellman and her Hot Yoga University bring peace, confidence and strength to those who walk through the yoga studio’s doors. The 53-year-old Tempe resident has created a sanctuary for mental, physical and emotional restoration, melding encouraging messages into each challenging workout that increases muscle-building, fat-burning and flexibility. The studio also offers sleep-based meditation, and with 45 classes per week, there’s a yoga offering for anyone, no matter the skill level.

Fellman talked about how yoga has changed her life and why she wanted to open her own studio, and lets readers in on how they should prepare for a class. Hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My family moved to Arizona in 1961 when I was 6 months old, and I was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. My dad broke his back in an accident while working at machine shop, and after that couldn’t find work in Massachusetts, so my aunt said, “I hear there’s lots of opportunity for machinists in Arizona. Why don’t you move out there?”

He bought a Rambler station wagon and my mom, dad, brother and two sisters piled in, and we began our journey to the West. I attended Supai Elementary School, Coronado High School and Scottsdale Community College on an athletic scholarship for basketball and softball. Continue reading

Lauren Wise: Founder of Midnight Publishing

Lauren Wise, founder of Midnight Publishing, photographed at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Lauren Wise, founder of Midnight Publishing, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Lauren Wise
twitter.com/MidnightWriting

Lauren Wise is a writing and editing machine, as a freelance writer for publications around the country, and as founder of her own Midnight Publishing, which provides editing, self-publishing and ghostwriting services for authors and businesses. The 30-year-old Tempe resident has helped edit more than 30 books, aiming to create industry experts with the power of the pen.

Wise is also a huge heavy metal fan and works with HeavyMetalTelevision.com as a host and record label contact. She shared why she’s passionate about writing and helping others hone their skills, as well as shared her most memorable moments as a journalist. You can also watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved here when I was 15 and went to Saguaro High School before attending ASU and getting my degree in journalism. My parents relocated, so I had to go with them. I was born in Hinsdale, Illinois, a little bit out of Chicago.

I spent my childhood all over South Florida and my early teenage years in Kansas. My dad designs golf courses, so that is why we moved so often — you go where the work is. Arizona is a perfect place for that, and the projects here he worked on include Grayhawk, Mirabel, Estancia and Whisper Rock. Continue reading

Kirstin Van Cleef: Founder of IN FLUX

Kirstin Van Cleef, founder of IN FLUX and outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Kirstin Van Cleef, founder of IN FLUX and outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Kirstin Van Cleef
facebook.com/INFLUXAZ

Vacant Valley storefronts get new life thanks to IN FLUX, a public art initiative founded by Kirstin Van Cleef, outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art. Van Cleef founded the program in 2010, and it gives artists the opportunity to take over a vacant space and fill it (or cover it) with innovative visual and performance art. The 34-year-old Tempe resident started IN FLUX in Downtown Scottsdale, and she now works with public art programs all over the Valley to bring creative works to otherwise desolate spaces. IN FLUX completed its latest annual month-long call to artists in August, which garnered a new roster of impressive artists to show off their work.

Van Cleef is involved with Scottsdale Public Art programming this weekend, as artist and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art muralist James Marshall, aslo known as Dalek, comes to town for a Meet the Artist party Friday, November 7 at 7 p.m. at the Museum — find more info here. Saturday, November 8, Dalek hosts a Community Mural Project at 10 a.m. — find more info here.

Keep reading to learn how IN FLUX works, and to watch a video of Van Cleef naming her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents brought my sister and me here when I was 10. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, then we moved to Colorado and New Mexico, then here for my dad’s work. I went to Cactus Shadows High School and ASU, where I got a degree in photography. Continue reading

Rodney Hu: Owner of Yucca Tap Room, Arizona Distilling Company

Rodney Hu, owner of Yucca Tap Room and Arizona Distilling Company, photographed at Yucca Tap Room, by Nicki Escudero

Rodney Hu, owner of Yucca Tap Room and Arizona Distilling Company, photographed at Yucca Tap Room, by Nicki Escudero

Rodney Hu
twitter.com/YuccaTapRoom

Rodney Hu is responsible for some of the Valley’s biggest gems: one of the longest-standing live music venues, Yucca Tap Room, and purveyor of fine local spirits, Arizona Distilling Company. The 39-year-old Tempe resident is proud to be a native Arizonan, which is why he put so much passion into his businesses that show off the state’s talent.

Hu works tirelessly on his ventures and is gearing up for Yucca’s 42nd anniversary, to be celebrated this fall. He’s successfully combined his businesses by serving up Arizona Distilling Company spirits at Yucca, including Copper City Bourbon, Arizona Distilling Co.’s Desert Dry Gin and Arizona Distilling Co. Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey.

Sip on one next time you’re at Yucca, which features live music every night. Keep reading to find out what drives Hu’s work ethic and why he loves being in Arizona after all this time.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m a native. I was born in Phoenix, went to high school at Marcos de Niza and received my degree in finance from ASU. I moved to New York City and worked at a couple different investment banks – I also did sales and trading before moving back to Arizona about 11 years ago. Continue reading

Anthony Desamito: Stand-Up Comedian

Anthony Desamito, Phoenix-based stand-up comedian, photographed at Monkey Pants in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Anthony Desamito, Phoenix-based stand-up comedian, photographed at Monkey Pants in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Anthony Desamito
twitter.com/AnthonyDesamito

Anthony Desamito is instantly lovable. The local comic and 26-year-old Tempe resident is constantly smiling during his sets, making people crack up with his tales of messed-up romances and hysterical views on life. The Mexico-raised comedian has steadily grown his audience since he got his stand-up start four years ago, having performed at the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival 2014 and Phoenix Comicon 2014. He was also a finalist in the first annual Arizona’s Funniest Comedian 2014.

Desamito, who by day is a videographer at ASU in the School of Engineering and teaches video at ASU in the School of Art, is polishing his material for two big upcoming shows: the first, his birthday show, is Thursday, August 28 at Monkey Pants in Tempe. The free show starts at 8:30 p.m. and also marks Desamito’s four-year comedy anniversary. He’s also performing at the Queer Queens of Qomedy show Thursday, September 18 at the Tempe Improv, opening for the Poppy Champlin.

Desamito is a busy guy: he plays a gay comic in a college town on Serious About Comedy, premiering September 9 on Trends TV throughout U.S. colleges. He also writes and performs in The Freakin’ A’s, a YouTube video sketch comedy group, and performs funny videos on his own channel. He regularly performs longform improv with groups Funnel Cake and Brunettes On the Run at the The Torch Theatre, and he’s also a writer for satire news magazine, Grown Up Recess.

Read on for why he got involved with stand-up comedy, and to watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I lived in Mexico until I was 8 years old. I was born in El Centro, California, right on the border of Mexicali, Baja California in Mexico. I was basically an anchor baby. My mom had me here in the U.S., and when I was 8 years old and able to say “American citizen” and walk across the border, we moved to Yuma.

I was culture shocked. I was like, “Wait, white people? I thought these were only on TV.” I didn’t know my name was Anthony — I thought it was Antonio. The doctor named me Anthony so I could fit in better here when I moved here. After Yuma, I moved to Flagstaff to go to Coconino Community College. I got some scholarships to ASU and moved here in 2010, and graduated two years ago with a degree in intermedia digital art and video. Continue reading

Taso Tirkas: Co-Owner of Salut, Co-Founder of Ufficient

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas, co-owner of Salut and co-founder of Ufficient, photographed at Salut, by Nicki Escudero

Taso Tirkas
twitter.com/SalutKitchenBar

Walk into Salut Kitchen Bar in Tempe, and you’ll soon encounter Taso Tirkas. The 33-year-old Tempe resident from Cypress co-owns the restaurant, and is constantly seen milling about the space chatting up diners and drinkers and charming them with his enthusiasm and worldliness. The spot has quickly become a Tempe stand-out since its opening last year for good reason — the menu blends cuisines into tasty handcrafted offerings, the beer and wine selection is plentiful, with more than 100 wines offered, and the atmosphere is both relaxed and classy.

While Tirkas is thrilled with the success of Salut, he’s also working on a new venture, a mobile application called Ufficient, which puts users directly in touch with a variety of service providers and allows users to vet them before hiring by perusing reviews and making sure they’re appropriate for the job. The app is currently in beta testing, and Tirkas is confident it will also be a hit.

Read on for how he’s created his businesses, and check out a video of him talking about his favorite reasons for living in the Valley below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here to go to ASU for business and marketing when I was 22. I’m from the island of Cyprus, a small island close to the Middle East on the Mediterranean Sea, close to Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

I came here because my brother, cousin and uncle were at ASU. I was choosing between London and ASU for college and had never been to the States. I was at an American college over in Cyprus, the University of Indianapolis, so I was able to transfer all my credits. I had been to London before and didn’t want to go there, because it’s very moody weather. Continue reading

Alexi DeVilliers: Creator of Fishliptz Sculptures

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi Devilliers
facebook.com/Fishliptz

Alexi DeVilliers started his career with wanting to feed the homeless. The 48-year-old Tempe resident creates unique sculptures, such as robots and dogs, made out of cans formerly containing food used to cook meals for those in an elderly shelter. As an artist, he goes by Fishliptz, which he’s been devoted to full-time since November. His art is sold everywhere from Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale and SunDust Gallery & Art Center in Gilbert, to Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art in Prescott, Arizona, Pop Gallery in Sante Fe and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Find him  on 4th St. and Roosevelt for every First Friday Artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and read more about how he merges his passion for creating art with helping others, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Miami, and 9/11 brought my wife and I here around 13 years ago. My wife worked for the airlines, and I worked for a sprinkler company. After 9/11, they started to lay people off and gave her a severance package. We were going to come here to visit my friend John for his 40th birthday, and we said, “Let’s just move.”

I was born in New York, and my parents were born in Cuba. We moved to Florida when I was 5. Continue reading

Eric Lin: Pianist and MusicaNova Orchestra Performer

Eric Lin, 16-year-old pianist and performer with MusicaNova Orchestra, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero.

Eric Lin, 16-year-old pianist and performer with MusicaNova Orchestra, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Eric Lin
twitter.com/MusicaNovaAZ

Eric Lin is only 16, but he’s already performing with an adult classical orchestra as he takes the stage with MusicaNova Orchestra this Sunday, February 16 for the Recapturing Youth concert at 4 p.m. at the Central United Methodist Church. The talented piano player won the opportunity to become a soloist with the orchestra after he was crowned champion of last year’s Steinway Avanti 2013 Future Stars Piano Competition, and he’s won a slew of other contests because of his deftness. You can hear him play Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 50 “Youth” at the show, which you can learn about here.

The Corona del Sol High School junior and Tempe resident is also talented at cello and serves as vice-president of his school’s Music for Cure club, which performs for places such as nursing homes. Lin talked about what motivates him to sharpen his musical skills and about his future goals. He also names his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in the video below.


What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. We moved to Iowa City, Iowa for a year, but my dad got a job offer out here. We ended up moving here when I was 4 years old. Continue reading

Nicholas Polando: Designer for State Forty Eight

Nicholas Polando, designer for local T-shirt line State Forty Eight, photographed in downtown Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Nicholas Polando, designer for local T-shirt line State Forty Eight, photographed in downtown Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Nicholas Polando
twitter.com/StateFortyEight

When it comes to T-shirts showing off Arizona pride, cartoon cacti aren’t the only way to go. A new locally printed line, State Forty Eight, sets out to impact the Arizona fashion scene in a big way with chic, eye-catching, stylish designs showing off state pride. The line includes lightweight hoodies perfect for Valley winters, as well as women’s, men’s and children’s shirts and accessories. Designer Nicholas Polando started State Forty Eight with his brother Stephen Polando and their friend Mike Spangenberg, and it launched this past March. The 25-year-old Tempe resident talked about the future for the line, with Phoenix Suns and Coyotes themes expected to launch by early next year. Keep scrolling to hear Nicholas talk about his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved here when I was 3 from Urbana, Ohio with my parents. I grew up and lived in Chandler and went to Chandler High School and Scottsdale Community College. Continue reading