DEALS & DISCOUNTS--I just finished six weeks of comedy education and finished with a stand up show at the Hollywood Improv. You heard it right – I said the Hollywood Improv. I did a stand up comedy routine at this well-known comedy house along with most of my classmates from Jonathan Solomon’s “School for Stand-Up.” 

You can do it too! Right now, registration is open for the next class. It’s offered through Santa Monica College Bundy campus and it is on offer for the incredibly low price of $99. 

What do you get for that, you might ask? Well, it turns out that you get a class that would normally set you back more than $400! 

I found out about the class when the instructor made the trek up the hill to the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory at AFI to present a workshop on his stand-up class. He told us actors that, at the very least, we would discover what our persona is if we took the class. It took me a couple of years, but I finally enrolled. 

I’m not going to lie. I struggled with the writing and performing. Still, Jonathan and all my classmates were so supportive and the space was open for creativity with no judgment. We had a gas. 

As destiny would have it, I had to miss a couple of classes due to unforeseen circumstances. Wouldn’t you know it? Those were the ones where they covered the persona stuff. Sigh. I guess I’ll never know who I really am - at least not this week. 

Never you mind. 

I got a lot more than I bargained for even though I didn’t even try to bargain. The class is heaps o’ fun the entire six weeks. The students came from diverse backgrounds actors, doctors, teachers, women and men from their twenties to sixties. 

Jonathan starts out deconstructing the joke. He’ll provide descriptions of the various types of jokes. You’ll get to watch tapes of famous and not so famous comedians in action. 

Then, you get to sit around and write jokes with your fellow comedians and try them out in class. The whole shebang ends with a graduation performance and you already know where mine was. You can invite your friends and family for a great evening of laughter. They can order drinks – but there is no minimum. They’ll have an all around great time while supporting you as a comedian. The ticket was only $12 for the grad show. I did stand up to a sold out crowd! 

Our fearless leader, Jonathan, comes with a lot of experience as a funny fella. He’s done it all. He’s been on HBO, David Letterman and Comedy Central. He was a writer on the show “Mad About You” and a gaggle of other comedy and variety shows. It’s obvious that Jonathan really cares about his students and puts a lot into making sure that everyone is supported in writing and performing their bits. 

He also exposed us to comedian culture. It’s pretty cool. He shared about how he learned with other comics, some of them whose names you know, as they would pitch their jokes to each other and help each other with creating the jokes. He made a point to say how he always encourages his students to approach another comic if they have something to contribute. This quote from him gives you a flavor of the experience: 

One of the first things I really found exceptional about being a stand-up was that, because every night you've got a bunch of comics standing before the very same audience trying to get laughs, there's something about that solitary position, and the shared experience of it, that breeds a bond, breeds an equality, among comics. 

After our big night, Jonathan made sure we all enjoyed what he said is the tradition of going to dinner after the show. It’s a lot like theater people do. I got to chat with my fellow comics and meet the guests they brought to the show. We all had a great time eating, drinking and talking about the night. 

My co-host Sue is planning on taking the class that starts in January. If you hurry, maybe you can get in too. The class fills up early and there is often a waiting list so plan ahead! Who knows, maybe I’ll see some of you at one of the open mics around town as we work on our routines. Maybe I’ll take that class again. Looks like the upcoming grads will have their show at the Comedy Store! 

Jonathan also teaches a class on writing funny and he does private consults. 



Here’s a link to sign up for stand up:

Sign up for Stand Up!  

Here’s a link to sign up for writing funny:

How to Write Funny!  

Here’s a link to Jonathan’s website:



(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website:  


DEALS & DISCOUNTS--Are you looking for a fun activity for your young set over the holiday weekend? Look no further than the Kidspace Museum in Pasadena a place where education, nature, exploration all comes together in one great experience. I recently jumped at the chance to take my adorable grandnieces peaking the interests of kids ages 2 and 5 years old, and mine too! Granted our visit was on a Tuesday early afternoon in November, with just a few school groups to share the museum, and a four wonderful hours of fun. 

The adventure began as we entered through a giant kaleidoscope tunnel touching every colorful tile that bubbles out and lights up like a plasma lamp. Out first exhibit hall was the Storyteller Studio where we played dress-up, had puppet shows, drew on the giant white board letting our imagination go wild. 

As we made our way to the Nature Exchange, there was an educator introducing Baldwin the ball python to school kids who learned snake facts and had a chance to touch him. We explored insects encased in acrylic, caterpillars, butterflies, millipedes, scorpions, tarantulas and grasshoppers with magnifying glass. In the reptile area, we meet Baldwin’s neighbors; two fire bellied toads, and a Russian tortoise. There are tables covered with pinecones, fossils, animal skeletons, and pelts of furs. A lot to see and touch. 

Starvation was calling us. We found kid and adult friendly food at the café feasting from a great selection of hamburgers, chicken tenders, tuna sandwiches and fries. There was plenty of seating in the shade. 

After being re-energized, time to venture to the outdoor Physics Forest. Here we experimented with simple pulleys, levers, magnetism, gravity and other wonders of physics. The girls and I won a tug of war against a kindergarten class from a local school; we shot ping-pong balls in a cage, built a giant roller coaster, launched rockets, and raced pulleys on a track. Physics was never so fun.

There is so much more to do, but we ran out of time. One of the biggest attractions is the Water Play area. It is a low creek surrounded by boulders and an overhanging bridge that periodically fills with rainfall while kids learn the valuable lesson of water conservation. 

Besides the exhibits, there are daily art workshops, weekends parenting classes, tours, tricycle race course, fountains, mud and sand area, and special events like a semi-annual butterfly release, petting zoo around Labor Day, Pumpkin Festival in the Fall, and live performances at the amphitheater specifically designed for ages 2 -10.  You can even host a birthday party/group gathering. 

One of the nicest features throughout is a wonderful staff of educators who are very familiar with this age group. They engage kids in learning through investigation, experimentation and creativity, and also help them safe in the process. Our favorite was Erin the educator on the Nature Exchange who answered a barrage of questions and entertained wild thoughts about the reptiles having a party after the museum closes each night. Kudos to Erin! 

Kidspace has been around for 35 years. It started off in the basement of Cal Tech, and has grown into the 2.2 acres on the Arroyo Seco parkland with the efforts of educators from NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, the Art Center College of Design UNOCAL and the Pasadena Unified School District. Here they are with an ever adapting and improving space to enjoy with kids of all ages. 

The regular admission cost for 2 years old and up is $13. There are discount promotions using coupons on, or an AAA or KCET membership. Tuesday Nights are FREE Family Night, from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm. A three-month family membership costs $79 for four people and they offer other membership packages that you might want to check out. 

Regardless of cost, there is enough to do for several visits, and it is museum worth supporting. I just need my little ones to come back to Los Angeles so that we can visit the Kidspace Museum again soon, still so much more to do.





480 N Arroyo Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91103

(626) 449-9144



            MONDAY        Closed during Fall and Winter

            TUESDAY       9:30 am – 5:00 pm, Free Family Night 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm

            WEDNESDAY  9:30 am – 5:00 pm

            THURSDAY     9:30 am – 5:00 pm

            FRIDAY         9:30 am – 5:00 pm

            SATURDAY    10:00 am – 5:00 pm, CHECK OUT LOCAL EVENT SCHEDULE

            SUNDAY       10:00 am – 5:00 pm, CHECK OUT LOCAL EVENT SCHEDULE 


$13 (ages 2 and up)

Family Memberships:      $79 for (3 month membership)

                                    $119 (6 months membership) 




  • There can be multiple school groups on a particular day, check in advance to plan accordingly
  • Closures on days of football games at the Rose Bowl
  • Some Holidays and Mondays are closed. Please consult the website
  • Parking can be challenging on particular days: Rose Bowl float viewing days, flea market Sunday’s, check it out
  • Adjacent to the museum and the parking lot is a lovely park with play structure, Brookside Park.

(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


DEALS AND DISCOUNTS--After visiting The Halal Guys street cart at the original corner of 53rd and 6th Avenue in Manhattan last week, I was excited to lunch at The Halal Guys’ new Koreatown restaurant. 

I got the combo plate: gyros beef (not lamb) sliced off the spit spiced to perfection, minced chicken, turmeric rice, salad, pita bread. What a great value for $9.95 and enough leftovers to bring home to feed my family dinner. I loved the beef gyro so much that I bought a small container of just the meat for $3.95, to be sure to have enough. 

The menu is limited to a few Mediterranean specialties: beef, chicken, falafel as a large for $10 or small platter for $9, or as a wrap. You can either have it with a simple iceberg salad or tabouli. As far as sauces, there’s tahini, their proprietary “white sauce” (mayonnaise, vinegar and dill), babaganoush or very spicy hot sauce, and only one dessert, baklava. What else? 

This place is super convenient. It is opened until 4 am, 7 days a week. You can order online and pick it up; and if that doesn’t work for you, they also deliver. What a great convenience.

Situated on the corner of a strip mall at Wilshire and Mariposa, street parking is abundant even at lunchtime. 

This may sound like a fast food franchise with a Mediterranean flair. But after experiencing the NY scene of the original food cart, the excitement of people standing in line in the cold nippy air, being handed a warm platter of delicious street food, and knowing how this place got its start, it means a lot more to me. 

It all began in 1990, when three Egyptian taxi drivers were not finding halal food for themselves after a long night of driving. Not finding a hot dog to be a satisfying meal, they converted a hot dog stand into a vertical gyros spit, and started cooking halal meat and chicken, serving it over a bed or rice with a homemade white sauce. Their success was wild. After all, where else can you get a warm hearty meal for the same cost as a cup of coffee. Rumor has it there have been people to stand in line for over two hours. 

After 25 years at the food business, The Halal Guys have four prime NYC street cart locations and franchised 200 restaurants in States, Canada, and Asia. If you were to check them out on Yelp, the original location has 8,300 reviews averaging 4 ½ stars. Imagine that, for a street cart to get almost 10K reviews! The most yelped about restaurant ever. 

The question is what has made them so popular?

First and foremost, the food is delicious, for a street cart or as a restaurant. 

Second, there is a market for halal food. Halal means the meat was prepared with the blessings of a Muslim butcher, and the slaughter was done in a ritualistic humane way to the animal with the intention of being eaten. For most of us, it is a good thing since we know that the meat is held to a “higher standard” and most likely costs more than regular meat. For an observant Muslim, it is a great thing making it permissible to eat it. There are copycat food carts that also offer halal food such as the “NY’s Best Halal Food” who park very close with the same yellow and red umbrellas. So be careful and make sure you go to The Halal Guys. 

Third, people like trying food from other countries. In NYC, there are food trucks from every ethnicity such as, Greek souvlaki trucks, Jewish Kosher deli trucks, Italian pizza trucks, Sushi trucks, etc. Middle Eastern food is no exception. 

The Halal Guys offers homelike food, warm and delicious at a great price in NYC, in Los Angeles, and soon almost everywhere else. 



Koreatown Restaurant

3432 Wilshire Blvd. (near Mariposa Street)

Los Angeles, CA 90010 

Other So Cal locations in Cosa Mesa and Long Beach 

Original Street Corner Location in Manhattan

Corner of W. 53rd and 6th Avenue

New York, NY 10019


(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


DEALS & DISCOUNTS--The best deal I had all week was traveling in the beautiful state of Oregon. My parents came from New Mexico and we all headed up north with a fantastic deal from Southwest Vacations. We actually got three days and two nights in Vancouver Washington for just under $200! What a bargain!

Vancouver is right across the border from Portland and a fine place it is. The Goodwill there is particularly wonderful. Since Southwest allows two bags free, you can easily get some easy bargains and pack them up for the check in baggage on your flight home!

Everywhere in Oregon it is green green green – but the prices are easy on the green in your wallet. We at Mothers Bistro and Bar in downtown Portland and it was absolutely amazing. Not only that, the owner, Lisa Schroeder, has won tons of awards for her work in the community. They also have great events in their Velvet Lounge for your entertainment.

Another amazing Portland story is that of the McMenamins. The brothers were the first ones to open up a brewpub back in 1985 up in Portland. They now have something like 65 brewpubs across Oregon and Washington. But that’s not all they do. These guys are experts at renovating buildings and making them into sweet places, to eat, drink, relax and be entertained.

We checked out The Kennedy School, an old elementary school with a hotel, six bars, a theater, a spa and soaking pools. Prices are big time reasonable and the place is fantastic.

We also spend an entire day exploring the Historic Columbia River Highway and the six waterfalls just off of it. The highway itself is a national landmark. After that, we went down to the Mt. Hood scenic area to Parkdale where by Dad worked as a kid. In fact, my Dad has been talking about this area for years and that’s why we came. After laying eyes on it, you can see why he did.

We ended our day at the funky and fabulous former Sunshine flour mill in The Dalles. Yes, they’re the ones who make Cheezits; and the building is not a wine tasting room for Copa Di Vino and Quenett. We had a great guy names Spencer treating us to wine tastings, Cheezits and all the low down on the building and the area. When my Dad was a kid, The Dalles was actually level with the mighty Columbia; but after the Dalles Dam was built, the town literally had to pack up and move to higher ground.

There’s so much to see and do in Oregon that I know I’ve got to take more trips. There’s no deal like clean air, wholesome food and delicious libations. Here’s a tip: Don’t say you’re from California. Apparently Californians moving to Portland are driving the property prices up so high that they have a big housing crisis – not a good deal.

My idea is, let’s be respectful Californians when we visit Oregon –



Southwest Vacations   


Mothers Bistro & Bar

212 SW Stark St., Portland OR 97204


Open 7 am – 9 pm 


Sunshine Mill Winery

901 E. 2nd St., The Dalles, OR 97058



McMenamins Kennedy School

5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland OR 97211 


Historic Columbia River Highway 


(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website:  



More Articles ...