Xazmin Garza understands, better than most, both the intoxicating allure and the potential consequences of just coming right out and saying whatever’s on your mind.
After working for 11 years as a newspaper journalist, including most recently as a general-interest columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the West Valley City native and her employer suddenly “parted ways” — the fallout of a reader complaint over her use of the unforgivably crass word “freakin’,” and Garza’s apparently unhelpful suggestion that the complainant “Freakin’ get over it.”
But then, upon relocating to Boston and plotting her next move, a radical idea began to take root — a path that has precious little in common with the newspaper industry, but which would provide tons more opportunity to speak her piece.
She started doing stand-up comedy. And she quickly became aware that she not only had a voice, but a unique one at that.
“So much of my comedy at first [was] just me watching other female comics and getting pissed off by what they were saying. I was like, ‘What the [expletive] is she talking about? That’s not how things are,’” Garza said. “And then it inspired me to write something down and basically go up there with a retort. Of course, my angle, as a [then-]37-year-old, Mexican-American, bisexual woman [was] going to be much different than these young, white girls who were going to Emerson College.”
Now, Garza is bringing her angles, her sharp tongue, and her foul mouth back to the Beehive State for her first-ever headlining, homecoming show, to take place on Friday, Nov. 29 at Wiseguys in West Jordan.
Following several years of working her way up the club scene in Boston, Garza decided to take the plunge and move to New York about a year and a half ago. She’s been doing stand-up on an almost nightly basis there, earning her way onto the bills of several prestigious festivals.
COMIC XAZMIN GARZA
When • Friday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m.
Where • Wiseguys, 3763 W. Center Park Drive, West Jordan
Tickets • $15, wiseguyscomedy.com
Note • Show is Rated R and 21+.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the ball got rolling when a series of personal setbacks emboldened her to sign up for an open-mic event one night.
While Garza concedes there is nothing inherently special about open-mic nights (“It is open to anyone. A homeless dude off the street can walk in, sign up, and tomorrow call himself a comedian, you know?”), she also recognizes the significance of her starting point.
“It was already kind of brewing. I just got the guts because I moved to Boston and I was anonymous there. And I was like, ‘I’ll make an ass of myself in front of strangers; I don’t care,’” Garza said. “... And my very first open mic, I knew that was it. I knew I found the thing.”
Even as she recognized the difficulty inherent in pursuing a career in comedy as a relatively older novice, Garza ultimately allowed herself to succumb to the idea that the simple rush of doing it could help fill a void in her life.
“I got the balls when I was 37 years old, and that is so late in life to start stand-up comedy. I was kind of pushing it down until then,” she said. “And I reached a point where I was really being honest with myself about what I wanted in life. I got a divorce at that time. I switched careers. And I started doing comedy. That was just my having-some-balls moment and just trying to be my — forgive the cheesiness — my authentic self.”
Ironically, being an authentic self did not necessarily entail having authentic material early on. The most common trap for newbie comedians, she believes, is devising sets around what they think audiences might find funny but which has no special significance for the performer. Having fallen victim to that herself, Garza reflects that her “first two years were kind of just trash.
“It took me a minute to kind of grab hold of who I wanted to be on stage,” she added. “And really, if you’re doing it right, it’s just going to be who you are. I’m not doing a character.”
Since then, Garza has only grown more confident. She decided to make the move from Boston to New York upon realizing “I didn’t feel any sort of competitive nature with the other female comics there.” These days, her mantra is “just keep going.” Sometimes that means working toward being able to quit her day job as a copy writer for an ad agency and doing comedy full-time. Other times, it means envisioning the possibility of one day getting a special.
More immediately, it represents finally performing a set in the state she called home from the age of 4 until she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in mass communication.
While it ultimately took Garza some time to accede to friends’ requests for her to perform a hometown show; while she maintains she’s generally more comfortable performing for total strangers than for “the girl who I played softball with in the eighth grade”; and while she has some concerns about how her R-rated act will go over with Utahns (she noted that if you’re the type to debate about your Friday night activity, “‘Hmmm, should I go to the craft fair or to that comedy show?’ Definitely go to the craft fair”), she has nothing but good memories of where she grew up.
“Total West Valley girl,” she said, rattling off that she attended Robert Frost Elementary, Valley Junior High and Granger High School. “You should see the picture I posted yesterday with my [1990s] high hair.”
“I love West Valley, and I’m really proud of being from there,” Garza (who can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StartsWithanX) added in a follow-up email. “My first journalism job out of college was in Evanston, Wyoming. The people in that town would hear I grew up in WVC and ask me if it ‘was hard.’ LOL! That [expletive] still cracks me up, ’cuz anywhere outside that region, they wanna know how many sister wives my friends have.”