Filling a Void: Anthony Solimini hosting senior comedy contest

Ahwatukee comedian Anthony Solimini has performed around the world. (Dennis Murphy/Contributor)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Anthony Solimini is a longtime comedian and a baby boomer. Lately, he’s noticed clubs and festivals don’t cater to those over 50. 

So, he’s hosting the first 60+ Comedy Competition at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27, at Cactus Jack’s. It’s part of his HaHa ‘Tukee Comedy night. 

“I’ve been doing comedy for a long time,” says Solimini, who just turned 60. 

“A lot of the comedy festivals here and in Asia, they just cater to up-and-coming, young comedians. Some of them had age limits. I decided to do things differently.”

Competing are Chris Cluff, Ira Summer, Bob Howard, Sandra Risser, Arizona Lou and Sherie Hayes. Solimini and Jan Brenner are co-hosting. The winner receives $300; second prize is $200, and third place gets $100.

They will be judged on originality, stage presence and audience participation. The audience will determine the winner by ballot. 

The event is part of a three-part series: 60 and older, all-female, and under 30 competitions. 

“A lot of competitions are all over the place,” he says. “There’s no fun theme to it, just people ranging from 25 to 60. The young kids won because that’s who’s in the audience. We do it by audience participation.

“Having just turned 60 myself, I’ve noticed a lot of great comedians over 60 who weren’t getting booked that much because of their age. I’m not saying it’s a major problem. People want new. They want young. There’s a lot of millennials in the audience. There aren’t a lot of elderly people coming out to these shows.”

Longtime comedian

Solimini regularly hosts HaHa ‘Tukee Comedy at Cactus Jack’s. Prospective comedians send their tapes to Solimini for consideration. The goal is to have “really good comedians.”

Born in Boston, Solimini says he’s been “making people laugh since 1962.” Being the youngest of four, with three older sisters and an Italian grandmother, Solimini adds he had no choice but to enter comedy.

This, along with his travels overseas, has provided plenty of material.

An Ahwatukee resident, the banker by trade lived overseas for 30 years in London, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. His resume includes stints at Groupon, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Societe General.

On the comic side, he’s been featured on Comedy Central Asia and in the movie “I Need You to Kill” with Tom Segura, Chad Daniels and Pete Lee.

“Right before I left the States in 1989, there was a resurgence of comedy in the 1980s in Boston — and even more in New York,” he says.

“I used to go to shows every night during the days of Steve Martin. I’m a huge comedy buff. I used to do community theater.”

When he moved to Asia, he performed at venues like TakeOut Comedy Club Hong Kong, which was founded in 2007 by Jami Gong, a Chinese American stand-up comedian. It’s the first full-time comedy club in Asia, and it fosters local English- and Cantonese-speaking talent.

“I performed at the Comedy Store in London,” he says. “I’ve also performed in China; Singapore; Philippines; Australia; Hong Kong; here at the House of Comedy in Minnesota; and Off the Hook in Naples, Florida.”

Besides HaHa ‘Tukee, Solimini is behind Stand Up and Deliver, a creative course for wannabe jokesters.

“I’m extremely positive about this, not only about the venue but the monthly show as well,” he says. “This has been a drug for me. It gives me energy to get on stage. This is a good market for HaHa ‘Tukee.”

60+ Comedy Competition with Anthony Solimini and Jan Brenner

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27

WHERE: Cactus Jack’s, 4747 E. Elliot Road, Ahwatukee

COST: $6 in advance; $8 at the door