Thursday, July 24, 2008

Funny in Vegas- The Power of Tanyalee Davis

It's Las Vegas. Sin City. The land where prostitutes converse with Mormons on bicycles, and sometimes they're one and the same. Women here work twice as hard, horizontally, vertically, and even on poles. They work twice as hard for a third of the pay, and when they hit stages- they take on super powers to keep the tourists coming back. Over the next few weeks I'll introduce you to several of these women. Some have names you are probably familiar with- like Roseanne, or Rita Rudner. Others, you really need to know about because when the women come into YOUR town, you want to be the first in line to see them.

If you look over the horizon, then direct your attention lower, towards maybe the hip bone of your best will be eye to eye with Tanyalee Davis. At three feet, six inches tall, the woman is sexy, sassy, and will fill a room with laughter for hours. Not polite to laugh at Little People? Not P. C.? If you're worried about that, you probably have no sense of humor, anyhow. But, if you get past the fact that she's wrapped up in a small package, and most people do within moments, then you can get one of the funniest women on the planet happens to be a dwarf.

It takes a few moments for Tanyalee to get onto a stage. Usually working that fact to her advantage, she uses that time that the audience is discovering a comfort zone to play with the mic stand, bounce up from a bar chair, or even remark at the skills of the emcee. Without missing a beat, she will pounce on that discomfort and tear it to shreds. Whether it be by pulling the stockings she is wearing up over her head, proclaiming, "One size fits all? My ass!", or attempting to create a mic stand that is workable for her- the crowd shakes off concerns in roaring laughs.

For years her humor dallied with issues relating to her love life, or the plain fact that people ARE uncomfortable with her height. Her marriage to a man literally twice her size brought her to the attention of Murray Povitch, who has her on as a frequent guest. And, the marriage makes for great material- for obvious visual reasons. Marty is almost twenty years older.

Earlier this decade, whilst making her way across a street in her pint-sized scooter, a car pummeled into her. The driver told the policeman writing the report, "I don't know where she came from- she fell from the sky!" This was the beginning of an onset of medical issues, which exacerbated the genetic spinal stenosis. It was also the start of a new form of writing. Her focus is on a one woman show that has garnished rave reviews in the UK, significantly so in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Starting with that very same accident, audiences and critics are left in tears from the hysterical presentation, and the poignancy of this woman's life.

Born in Canada, now living in Las Vegas, Davis appears to be finding greater success overseas where the stigma of size, and the annoyance of Political Correctness isn't a barrier. The people who see comedy in the United Kingdom are transfixed by her humor. Tanyalee even worked with Liz Carr, a Britain based comedienne who is wheelchair bound, in a show called "Abnormally Funny People" and again in "The Brave Tarts of Comedy". The British audiences love her so much that a BBC crew followed her around as she toured there, then came here to the States to shoot the surgery for correction of part of her spinal stenosis.

At Saint John's Medical Center in Santa Monica, the cameras whir around as she underwent two critical spinal surgeries. The crew focused on the impact of certain illnesses which seem to affect only those of small stature. There are at least two hours of television to air in the fall, with a possible run in this country. For several weeks following, Davis relearned how to walk, and taught doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, just how resilient and determined she is. When she makes up her mind to do something- whether it be appear before hundreds of people on a stage in Scotland, or walk 40 yards in order to leave a rehabilitation hospital- she makes it happen.

Now Tanyalee is healing quite well, and ready to take on a showroom of her own in the town known for entertainment. With Rita Rudner and Roseanne Barr each headlining major casinos, the time is prime for the woman with eighteen years of stage experience to show the corporate moguls that this comic is a force worthy of any theater. Although she doesn't have the household name factor, this seems to be just an inconvenience. Crowds flock to her shows again and again, partly for the curiosity, and mostly because she keeps the laughter going.

Recently, Dat Phan, a winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing, invited Tanyalee to open for him at the Palace Station Casino and the crowds were so eager to know her, she ended up with many of the audience members attending the second show- which is almost unheard of in a town that lures audiences into the casino floor to gamble after any event. At this very show, The Discovery Channel taped Little People, Big World, as her friend program's star, Matt Roloff visited Las Vegas for a conference. These producers were greatly impressed by her performance, spending less time chatting with NBC's find, and more time talking business with her.

Her MySpace page boasts dozens of photos with family, friends, and well-known stars of comedy, stage, TV, and screen. There are listings of her upcoming shows- all booked during and prior to her recovery from life changing surgery. But most importantly, there are clips of her shows that will leave you in stitches. You can visit her at page, comment, or add her as a friend.

Once you find a reflection of yourself in Tanyalee's work, and words, it becomes very difficult to see her as a small person. Her heart is huge, her talent is gigantic, and her charisma is awe inspiring. Nothing will ever stop her from being anything other than a household name. And, whether it be on stage in Sin City, or in a festival in the United Kingdom, no one forgets her performances.

Cathe Jones is the author of "I'm Just As Screwed Up as You Are- the Anti-Dr. Phil book", and "Godless Grief". She was a regular at Los Angeles Second City, the Comedy Store, and currently is a Short Bus Comic, while her husband, jazz pianist Mike Jones, opens and is musical director for the Penn & Teller show. They reside in Las Vegas with their 50 rats, 5 chinchillas and 3 cats. Kids not included.

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