Open Forum in The Villages, Florida

Unmasking the World of Stand-up Comedy: Alex Soto's Journey from Grocery Manager to Laughter Entrepreneur

October 20, 2023 Mike Roth & Alex Soto Season 4 Episode 15
Open Forum in The Villages, Florida
Unmasking the World of Stand-up Comedy: Alex Soto's Journey from Grocery Manager to Laughter Entrepreneur
Open Forum in The Villages, Florida
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Prepare for some belly laughs as we chat with stand-up comedian and laughter entrepreneur, Alex Soto. He's going to take us on a whirlwind tour of his comedy club, the Joke Joint in Summerfield, Florida. It's not your typical comedy club. Beyond the laughter-inducing performances, the Joke Joint also hosts an eclectic mix of music trivia, karaoke, ballroom dancing, and live music events. Plus, it's been graced by the presence of hilariously entertaining acts like Jersey Jean (the Haitian Sensation), Danny Johnson, Alex Yu, Killer Bees, Michael Winslow, and Greg Solomon. Oh, and did we mention the Johnny Carson-style late night talk show broadcasted live from the club? 

But that's not all! Soto's journey from department manager at Publix to comedy club owner is a story worth tuning in for. He'll share how he got his unlikely start in comedy and how it led him to win Marion County's Got Talent in 2016. As a bonus, get ready to chuckle as you hear about a particularly memorable bonfire mishap involving his sister. So join us as we peel back the curtain on the world of stand-up comedy with Alex Soto. Trust us, this is an episode you won't want to miss, guaranteeing laughter, insights, and a good time!

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Open Forum in The Villages, Florida is Produced & Directed by Mike Roth
A new episode will be released most Fridays at 9 AM
Direct all questions and comments to mike@rothvoice.com

If you know a Villager who should appear on the show, please contact us at: mike@rothvoice.com

Emily:

Welcome to the Open Forum in the Villages Florida podcast. In this show we talk to leaders in the community, leaders of clubs and interesting folks who live here in the villages to give perspectives of what is happening here in the villages. We hope to add a new episode most Fridays at 9 AM. We are a listener supported podcast. You can become a supporter for as little as $3 per month or you can choose to pay more. To become a supporter, go to openforminthevillages. com and click on support in the black box. There will be shoutouts for supporters in episodes. In season 4, we have made some dramatic improvements and changes. First is a clarification of the podcast's title. It is Open Forum in the Villages, Florida. To make clear that this is a regional show, independently produced for folks who live in central Florida and the villages areas. It is a dramatic increase in the use of AI in the creation of each episode. In fact, the show's announcers are now all AI voices, including me, Emily. Hope you enjoy.

Mike Roth:

This is Mike Roth here today on Open Forum in the Villages, Florida, with Alex Soto. Thanks for joining me, Alex.

Alex Soto:

It's an honor and a pleasure sir.

Mike Roth:

Thank you for having me, Alex. Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and the business that you're running now?

Alex Soto:

Alright. Well, I'm a stand up comedian presently. I've been a stand up comedian for six years and people ask me where I get my material from and I say, well, when you're growing up in a community that's mostly retired people and you raise two daughters by yourself with immigrant parents, the material writes itself. So that's kind of my gist, you know. So I opened up a place in the north side of the villages in Summerfield, florida, called the Joke Joint. It's at 13685 US 441 in Summerfield, in front of Dell Web' , next to Grandma's Cafe.

Mike Roth:

Okay, and how long has the Joke Joint been open?

Alex Soto:

We've been open since Cinco de Mayo, june, july, August, september, so four months now.

Mike Roth:

And what kind of acts have you booked into the Joke Joint?

Alex Soto:

So we have a rotating schedule. It's the same every week. On Wednesdays at 7pm we have Petrina's Music Trivia Show, we have karaoke, we have ballroom dancing and then on Thursday nights we have 7pm. We have live music different act every week and then on Friday and Saturday nights we have professionally produced adult comedy shows, and then on Sunday we have a rotating schedule at 4pm that we like to call the Sunday Funday, and then we have other acts that happen at 7pm. That's on a rotation as well Open mics for the local comedians in the state, as well as a late night talk show, etc. Etc. We got all kinds of stuff booked coming up for the winner.

Mike Roth:

What is this late night talk show all about?

Alex Soto:

So I've been here since I was here before. Here was here. We got here in 81, 80. And I've built my whole life and all the stuff that I do now. I've built it on nostalgia. So I'm opening up, starting. We're shooting to have it done by November, december at the latest. Twice a month, the second and fourth Sunday at 7pm, we're going to be hosting a Johnny Carson style late night show that will be free to see you just have a drink or two while you're there, dinner's provided and it'll be filmed in front of a live audience and we will be uploading it on Facebook live and YouTube television so that the people at the independent living facilities that I work with, as well as some of the shut-ins, can get a chance to be part of the entertainment without being able to necessarily come out.

Mike Roth:

And even Villagers who have access to computers can watch you via Facebook or YouTube TV.

Alex Soto:

And we're going to be setting it up like the traditional format, which is I'll be at the desk, there'll be a guest, three guests, then a live musical artist and then the show will wrap up with a Q&A, which will be kind of interesting, considering a lot of times we get to watch the entertainers that we like from the audience, but we never get a chance to talk to them from the stage.

Alex Soto:

Yeah, and your seating will be about 80 people, correct, and since you've opened the club besides yourself, who have been the most popular acts that you've had, Fortunately for me and this is just a little behind the scenes Florida is the second largest concentration of entertainers in the country, based on the cruise ships, as well as the cities with the big airports, so I have a tremendous roll of decks of talent.

Alex Soto:

One of the people that I use regularly is the number one Carnival Cruise comic, jersey Jean, the Haitian Sensation, as well as Danny Johnson, who's got three specials on Drybar on YouTube, as well as man I mean the list goes on. Alex Yu, who's got a Netflix special, as well as Killer Bees, who was the host of the Discovery Channel Moonshiners program. We have all these acts. Michael Winslow, who did the sound effects from Police Academy we got him coming up next year. We've got all kinds of stuff lined up, as well as a lot of the cruise comics that people see every day, and we just book them left and right. I'm booked all the way till February with nothing but nationally touring headlining professional comedies.

Mike Roth:

Have you ever thought of doing a magic show?

Alex Soto:

We actually have Greg Solomon locally from Ocala who does a family-friendly magic show, who's been doing tremendous. We also are about to book Niel Sayer, who is a huge Vegas act, who is an illusionist, who, let's just say, because Florida was more open than other places, A lot of these entertainers are moving and they're buying places up locally. So now Niel Sayer, who's a big Broadway act in Vegas, is now accessible to me because he lives nearby.

Mike Roth:

Good I'm a member of the Magic Club and at least once a year we have a big magic show wonderful here in the villages Love it, where we have 18 magicians doing about a five-minute act and the audience walks around the room. Nice, something like that might feel like you.

Alex Soto:

Maybe we'll be looking to open up a second one in the North End.

Mike Roth:

Well, we'll do it in a different style.

Dr. Craig Curtis:

For sure.

Mike Roth:

Yeah, because you easily could have you know seven magicians filling up an hour.

Alex Soto:

My blueprint is basically I want to do a variety style show, something that you would think of if you think back to, like Dean's house or the Dean Martin Rose, where different people would come up and they would do different things, and we're looking to book all kinds of stuff. I mean, the stand up comedy stuff we do right now is two nights a week and the rest of the shows are all based on stuff that people are familiar with in this area Right and we do have a improv club show coming up on January 10th.

Dr. Craig Curtis:

Can't wait.

Mike Roth:

Yeah, that's going to be a dinner show and, the way I understand it, you have a cover charge of $20 for which people get two drinks and dinner, and dinner $20 a person.

Alex Soto:

It's probably the worst business decision ever, but my wife hates it when I talk about how little I'm interested in making money. But I'm just trying to check all the boxes In a senior citizen community working in the villages. As long as I have, I've been hearing people talk about being on a air quote fixed income, which I've come to figure out. That what that means is the average villager or person in this area wants to do two or three things a week. It doesn't matter if they're going to go see a small show in a room, they just want to have access to things. So one of those options from the week I would like them to consider my place and it being affordably priced, excellent, top tier entertainment, dinners included, drinks are affordable and they're cold. The staff is wonderful because it's just my wife and I and we're just very, very motivated to keep people satisfied.

Mike Roth:

We do have another group here in the villages that might be interested in working at your place. It's called let's Explore Comedy. The difference between the improv club and them is let's Explore Comedy Scripted Comedy. We started out probably four or five years ago. One of the bits that we were working on was who's On First by Abboit and Costello.

Mike Roth:

And it was always funny, even when we made a mistake. But then we realized that she had scripted and it didn't really fit in the improv mode. Because in the improv mode, because in the improv mode we use a format that is kind of like who's Line Is it Anyway, where the average bit is three and a half minutes, five minutes is a long bit. We don't do long form improv, but when we're doing scripted comedy at let's Explore Comedy, a single bit can run 10 minutes. Some of them actually are longer than that and they're funny bits but they don't really fit in the improv show. Where, actually, in our November show, going to have a couple of the shorter let's Explore Comedy bits included, but we can't include everything. We have people who are okay with memorizing lines. Improvers don't want to memorize lines. A lot of them tell me that's why they're there, because they used to be in theater and they had to memorize lines and they hated it. So, alex, what time does a show typically start?

Alex Soto:

Typically, as of right now, on Wednesday and Thursday night, shows average between six and seven PM, depending on who's booking. Because the karaoke acts prefer three hours, most of our shows are two hours. And then on the weekends we have an eight PM show on Friday and Saturday night, and then we have a four PM show on Sunday and usually a seven PM show after.

Mike Roth:

So during the winter season you're going to have two shows that they Right.

Alex Soto:

So whenever my intention is to have a one to three show, a four to six show, a seven to nine or an eight to 10, depending on what night of the week, and then a four o'clock and a seven o'clock show on Wednesday, but as well as a one o'clock show every day, five days a week is my hope.

Mike Roth:

Okay, and do people need to make reservations?

Alex Soto:

Because we are only ADC. We live and die, and I jokingly say we tap into the ways, the old ways, meaning we do free reservations, no hassle, just give us the name and number of people you want. We'll have the table reserved for you. That way we have an idea of how many people are going to be there and then we can assimilate those people. The last thing I want is to have 120 people show up for a show that has 80 seats. So if you're beyond that, I can tell you I'm sorry, at this time we're sold out, but that'll give you a chance to book the next one.

Mike Roth:

Great, that's a good system. And what is the number they have to call to make a reservation?

Alex Soto:

Our number is 352-871-0909.

Mike Roth:

Let's take a break and listen to Dr Craig Curtis. Give us an Alzheimer's tip. Dr Curtis. We've heard a lot about alternative treatments, holistic care. Does that work for Alzheimer's?

Dr. Craig Curtis:

Well, certain things do work for Alzheimer's disease, for example, following a proper nutrition plan, if you consider that to be holistic, but also reducing stress, for example through meditation. And there are other ways that you can use non-traditional ways of improving your overall lifestyle which might help your Alzheimer's disease symptoms. With over 20 years of experience studying brain health, Dr. Curtis's goal is to educate the village's community on how to live a longer, healthier life. To learn more, visit his website, craigcurtismd. com or call 352-500-5252 to attend a free seminar.

Mike Roth:

Okay, this is Mike Roth on Open Forum in the villages. I'm back with Alex Soto. Alex, you said that you were a stand-up comedian. You've been doing that for six years. How do you decide to become a stand-up comedian?

Alex Soto:

It's a great story. So I used to be a department manager for Pope locally in the Villages, florida. I was considered a bit of a lunchbox here . Let's say I was the Vince Papali of the Village comes to entertaining. I would just talk to the people while they're waiting in line to get their slice meat and cheese. So my youngest daughter was starting her 11th grade year and I started seeing the timeline because both of my daughters graduated from the villages charter school. So I knew that by the time my youngest daughter graduated I may have completely fulfilled my commitment to the villages due to the fact that I wanted my daughters to attend that school.

Alex Soto:

So when my daughter was scheduled to graduate in August, I had a plan in place a year prior to where I was going to figure out if I could viably get out from underneath the management umbrella of Publix. Because Publix is a great place to work and they pay very well. So when you're in a state that doesn't do that very often, you want to double check your thoughts before you leave. A good thing, but I felt like I could do more for myself than I could for them. So I retired and for one year I was driving Uber and doing a chauffeur business, and while doing that I was listening to podcasts that were like Joe Rogan Experience and the Fighter and the Kid, and they talked about doing stand-up comedy. So on a whim, I decided to go and do an open mic. And I talk about this often that if you are doing well, your family is good, your kids are great, your money is being made, your bills are getting paid, and year after year that happens, you end up kind of becoming numb to what's going on around you. So the second that I got up on that stage, it was so out of my wheelhouse it felt like I was walking through Jell-O and I felt this certain kind of way that I had not felt in so long that I became addicted to it.

Alex Soto:

And then the silly curveball that in 2016, I won Marion County's got talent. It was a production that was being done at the Ocala Fairgrounds and we were doing a show and I entered. I got a call back months later that says congratulations, you won Marion County's got talent because I submitted a tape with my bits on it and I told him. I said well, I really don't know what you guys are about, but next year you all need to book me, to help book the talent, because I could not have been the most talented person in Ocala and she goes. Well, it just so happens You're the only one who entered. So because I ended up becoming the winner of the Marion County's Got Talent 2016,.

Alex Soto:

They asked me to perform because they had the stage set up, because it was supposed to be the competition. So I get there the week before the show and it looks like Katy Perry is going to perform there. There was a thousand seats, no-transcript, pyro and all this incredible stage stuff. So I took my little podcast camcorder and I set it up in the back of the room and about a hundred people came out and I performed the worst comedy show you could have ever heard, because I'd only been doing it six months, but I filmed it and I filmed it from the stage up. So it looks like I'm performing in this big place.

Alex Soto:

Fast forward, six years later, bookers from all over the country have gotten that film, which you can look at on YouTube, and the joke is bookers are notorious for not going past 60 seconds. So when you open up my video, it's got pyro, it's got lighting, it's got dragon. So when they see it, they book me because they think I'm some kind of big deal. And what ended up happening was for the last six years I have been growing my reputation as this horrible comedian but who can put on great shows. So I ended up coming to the conclusion that it would be easier for me to produce the show and be the opener than to actually be a headliner. That's going to be a successful comedian. So I ended up getting into the promotion business and then from there I went from renting a spot for the night to now I opened my own place.

Mike Roth:

That's a good idea. I think that the villagers need some entertainment venues that are independent. Thank you, Alex. Why don't you tell our listeners a short joke or story?

Alex Soto:

Sure, I'll tell you the story about my sister. I have a sister very successful lady. She loves it when I talk about her because she hates it when I talk about her. But she's way better looking and a lot of times I can look at people and I can deduce whether or not they can relate to having a way better looking or way uglier sibling.

Alex Soto:

Some years back it was 4th of July weekend and my sister decided to come up to check on my parents, which means you visit for a little while and then you need to go get a drink because my parents will stress you out. I was at a 4th of July party, had a bonfire in the back of my neighborhood. When I got the call, I already have the bottle, just tell me the address. So she pulls up in her Mercedes Benz to the dirt road because I was in the back of what I like to consider my beautiful neighborhood, which is, today's standards, a mobile home development. But when I was young we called it the trailer part. So the further back you go into the trailer part, the smaller the houses get. Eventually they have taillights and I'm back here having a blast in one of these bonfires. My sister pulls up. She has a seat. We're chatting for a few minutes. She has a drink or two. Can't get crazy because she has to get to the hotel, because she has breakfast with mother in the morning. Give her a big hug and kiss goodbye, because I love my sister.

Alex Soto:

And as she's leaving to go to the car with no warning, she makes a beeline for the bonfire where there stood a young man, tall, good looking, puerto Rican. She took him by the elbow and spun him around without warning, gave him a huge kiss. He was 17 years old. My sister looked at him and said young man, I've been watching you from across the room. You're beautiful, you've got a future in front of you. Get your head out of your butt and get on with your life. Turn around and walk away. Years later I was at the place where shopping might be a pleasure, but working sometimes was a drag, and I was sitting in the department. I look up and in the produce department stood that same good looking, tall, Puerto Rican man. He came up and gave me a hug. Now, folks listen, anybody who's ever met me, who's met my sister for the very first time, has always looked at her, looked at me, looked at her looked at me and asked me the same question every time what in the world happened to?

Emily:

you.

Alex Soto:

So the guy comes, we shake hands, we give each other a hug and he tells me your sister, that kid. He says I woke up the next morning, went to Burger King, quit my job. He says I went to Ocala, signed up at the college and I became an EMT, I got married, I go to church, I have two daughters and a retirement. Because of your sister, because of that kid. And I called my sister and I told her exactly what I just told you. And would you believe that she's so bad. She was just like, of course doesn't pay for anything anywhere she goes.

Alex Soto:

So the thing is is at the end we give one more hug, goodbye, shake hands and he says hey, man, before I go, I got to ask you a question and I said, sure what? I figured he was going to ask me for my sister's name or phone number. He could call her and thank her. He looked me square in the face and, would you believe, he asked me what in the world happened to you. And I laughed and shook his hand one more time and I said you know what, man, I don't know, I never made out with my sister.

Mike Roth:

So there you go. Okay, that was a good story. That was a good story. Now, in most of the shows that you're playing the joke joint, you're the opening act.

Alex Soto:

I am. I'm the opening act, and what I like to say is I'm the curator of the evening's exhibit, and when I'm on stage it's not funny, it's there for me.

Mike Roth:

Well, good, good. And when are you going to start this tonight?

Alex Soto:

Dial late-night show we're shooting to be up and running professionally by December. We're ordering the cameras, we're getting everything in place and, yeah, we're shooting to start, maybe soft opening it in November and then crushing it come December.

Mike Roth:

That's good. That's good. We have a few people in the improv group that definitely would be a good guest.

Dr. Craig Curtis:

Can't wait.

Mike Roth:

I. You'll meet John case Okay, he's got one of the supporting roles in the grumpy old man, okay. And you'll meet Wayne Richards, mm-hmm. He's a phenomenal keyboard artist and singer and we're having him do it.

Alex Soto:

support for the Improv show in November one of my favorite things about the village the stories that, the history that all these different people have that you just Rattled off for people that would probably be once in a lifetime relationships if you were lucky enough to cross it. And now you know, for that's what I like.

Mike Roth:

Yeah, wayne's written the movie scores for three or four movies, right, written a couple of shows himself and and it is a heck of a performer, amazing, yeah, I mean, there was just some really great people that you get interview.

Alex Soto:

Cruise wship, that never leaves right right. The line is right in front of the door passes by right, have you?

Mike Roth:

ever met Dean Corbett I think so he's oh he's not a short guy, okay, he's a New York SAG SAG actor, okay, and for ten years he taught the actors workshop in the villages and now he's teaching at the Enrichment Academy. And I said, but he's, he's a, he might be good one to have on because he can tell you stories about Some famous actors that he worked with. Can't wait, yeah, and, and you're gonna do that between what hours of the day?

Alex Soto:

Wednesdays to Sunday were basically open, currently from 5 pm To 10. Dash question mark Mm-hmm. And then by November will be opening by 3 o'clock and by December will be opening at 1 o'clock.

Mike Roth:

Mm-hmm, I meant one, were you gonna tape or shoot the my?

Alex Soto:

apologies. The second and fourth Sunday 7 to 9 pm Will be the shows and that will be starting. We're shooting to have it ready by November.

Mike Roth:

Mm-hmm. So you know, like put a desk right, a couch on your stage.

Alex Soto:

We well, it'll be three chairs on one side the desk, on the other the TV screen. We'll have the videos playing for my next guest, you know, and my hope and prayer is that, not only just performing with or talking to entertainers, but like I would hope that it would grow so big that the sheriff running for the next election will want to come through and talk to Me. You know, I'm a big fan of seeing where we can take it.

Alex Soto:

But the biggest thing right now is I'm really shooting to try to find things that are Nostalgically positive memories. You know, small local television style stuff where the anchor was somebody you would see at the coffee shop in Ocala back in the day. That kind of stuff is what I'm shooting to do, so that locally people see me and they're like oh man, I saw your show last. Yeah, that's just what I want to do. My world tour consists of Ocala to Leesburg and everything in the middle. That's it, that's all I want.

Alex Soto:

Yeah, you include Wildwood and that's what I'm saying, the whole circle, that basically everything, that's the villages and everything just north and south of it. So by the time you know, within a few years it'll be from remote Cala to Miami, because the way the villages is growing, you know.

Mike Roth:

The villages will never get to Miami and probably won't get to Orlando. There's too much developed land in between. That's true, that's true but, alex, I want to again Thank you for being on the show with me today and Remind everyone that in January, on January 10th, the village is. Improv will be there. I think we're gonna do a six six PM show. Can't wait, it's gonna be amazing. Yeah, that'll be. It'll be an amazing group and we're talking about doing some Additional shows at the joke joint can't wait.

Alex Soto:

and, ladies and gentlemen, I can't stress this enough at the joke joint we're healing the world with laughter. It is a lot easier less muscles to smile than it is to frown, and we like to call ourselves a pleasant distraction for a couple of hours right, right again.

Mike Roth:

Tell our listeners what the telephone number is to call to make reservations 3, 5, 2, 8, 7, 1 0, 9 0 9.

Alex Soto:

Alex, thanks for joining us today. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Emily:

Remember our next episode will be released next Friday at 9 am. Should you want to become a major supporter of the show or have questions, please contact us at mike at Roth voice comm. This is a shout out for supporters Greg Panjian, weak weet Coleman, dan Dan Kappellan appellan Ed Williams, Alvin Stenzel and major supporter Dr Craig Curtis at K2 in the villages. We will be hearing more from Dr Curtis with short Alzheimer's tips each week. If you know someone who should be on the show, contact us at mike voice com. We thank everyone for listening to the show. The content of the show is copyrighted by Roth voice Voice oice All rights reserved.

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