Former Cabrillo High School nerd — self-described nerd — Jimmy Turner is returning to Lompoc with something to prove.
Saturday at the Lompoc Civic Auditorium, corner of West Cypress Avenue and South L Street, Turner returns as part of the High School Reunion Comedy Tour, which pits nerds against cool kids in a showdown to see who is cooler now.
Call it “Revenge of the Nerds.”
“It’s a theme everyone can relate to,” said Turner, a 1994 CHS graduate. “And at the end, the audience gets to vote on who was funniest.”
Turner performs in the show and is its co-creator. He said the idea for the show came from a conversation he had with his business partner, Erikka Innes, as they drove home from a show.
They agreed that it was hard being a nerd in high school, but it made for good comedy. Then came the joke that became the idea for a comedy tour that has included shows in Pleasanton, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Colorado Springs, Colo.
“My partner said, ‘The only way you would beat a cool kid is in a stand-up comedy routine,’” said Turner.
Though most of the performances are in much larger cities, Turner said he insisted on bringing the show to Lompoc where he still has many friends and family.
“If I was going to do a show about high school reunions, I had to come to Lompoc.”
“I have a real soft spot for Lompoc,” said Turner, recalling his first kiss at the Lompoc Drive-In Theater.
“As a teenager, you just think about how fast you can get out of Lompoc,” he said. “But as an adult and having kids, you start caring about natural beauty and clean air and you realize how awesome Lompoc is.”
Turner said he had his first experience doing stand-up at the South Side Coffee Co.
The experience shaped his future: “Once you do it, it’s like the Borg in ‘Star Trek’: You don’t come back.”
After high school, Turner earned a degree in business management, but he couldn’t get comedy out of his system.
“You get to the point where you know you won’t be happy unless you’re telling jokes,” he said. “It takes bravery and selfishness to follow your dream. It’s a long, harrowing process.”
Turner’s pursuit of comedy has taken him across the country from The San Francisco Comedy Club in San Francisco to The Comedy Zone in Lansing, Mich. He also performed for the Air Force and Marines in Japan.
In 2005, he appeared in the pilot for Bravo’s reality TV show “Situation: Comedy.”
Eventually he and Innes started TazedandConfused Productions and put together the current tour.
“I had the chance to work with some of the biggest names in the business,” Turner said. “But we thought it was time to work for ourselves instead of paying managers 30 percent.”
Turner said that the recession has actually helped the comedy business.
“No one has a day job right now, so there is a good pool of good comics,” he said. “When you don’t have a day job, it’s a good time to chase your dream.”
Turner has added a special guest to the Lompoc show: Fellow CHS alumnus Gabe Lopez, a musician living in Los Angeles, will perform a 30-minute acoustic set during seating.
“Gabe is a friend from high school, and he’s making some real headway in the music business,” said Turner. “His music has been on the Olympics and ‘American Idol.’”
Turner said wanted the community to be able to share in the success of two of its own.
“Why not bring successful Lompoc boys home?” he asked.
“Lompoc made me what I am, so I owe it to Lompoc to come back and to bring the best comics I know with me.”
Lopez said he was nervous about performing in Lompoc, so he didn’t answer Turner’s invitation to perform until the last minute.
“I play at the Roxy and the Viper Room, but so many friends will be in Lompoc that you want to impress them. You want to do well,” Lopez said.
“I think the whole time I knew I’d say yes, but I was nervous,” said Lopez. “But as soon as I said yes, I became very excited.”
Lopez, who graduated in 1995, plays pop-rock music: “My favorites are the Beatles, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder, so my music is a hodge-podge of those.”
Lopez taught himself how to play the piano and guitar: “At about 4 I said I wanted to be a recording artist, but when I was little we didn’t have the money for piano lessons, so I taught myself.”
In high school, then music director Jane Carlton mentored Lopez.
“She was a huge force in my life,” Lopez said. “I still keep in touch with her.”
Lopez got started in the music business by doing studio work, producing other people’s music and writing songs.
“I produced a song for American Idol,” he said. “That helped get my name out there.”
But it was a long process: “You have to be able to hear ‘No’ a lot,” said Lopez. “Every time I heard no, I figured I was closer to a yes.”
Like Turner, Lopez said he was really looking forward to seeing friends while he is in Lompoc, since he doesn’t get here very often.
So the High School Reunion Comedy Tour will truly be a reunion for Lopez and Turner.
“I want to bring more shows to Lompoc,” Turner said. “Bring shows annually.”
Other comics featured in the show are Innes, Hurricane Andrew, Kristen Frisk and Noah Levin. The show is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lompoc Civic Auditorium, 217 South L St. Tickets are $15, available at www.
hsrcomedytour.com or by calling 291-7548. Tickets are $20 at the door. Get the family and friend discount online by typing “Jimmy” for the promotional code.