Back With A Bang: Comedian Juan Garcia
Surviving Covid And Ready For The Stage
Silence echoes where laughter once roared. The truth — it’s still unsure which of Los Angeles’ iconic comedy clubs survived COVID-19 or which comedians are left on the scene. Last year, in response to the pandemic, the city’s major comedy clubs, like the Laugh Factory and Hollywood Improv, voluntarily closed. This left dozens upon dozens and dozens of local comedians with no stage.
“We had to get creative on how we could perform,” comedian Juan Garcia said. “We had to adapt from standing up to sitting down, now, because the audience response wasn’t the same.”
Garcia is a regular on the stand-up circuit in LA and considered one of the most popular comedians with over 20 years experience. Before Covid, he said he was booking shows and preparing for a number of auditions for commercials and television roles, but things came to a screeching halt.
When the world shut down, Garcia had to find alternative ways to financially and comedically weather the pandemic.
“I got into ridesharing,” he added. “I know a few other comedians that did too. We had to pay bills. But rideshare gave me freedom to pursue my comedy career without the restraints of the nine to five work load.”
Garcia also took on virtual stand-up, which isn’t perfect, but for months it was all he had. Furthermore, he has also booked a number of private parties.
“Bringing the comedy club to the backyard, there’s no stage, but I’ll perform,” Garcia shared. “As long as I keep everyone laughing, I’m there. We need laughter now more than ever.”
But beyond the pandemic and slim bookings, Garcia, also known as Chepo, said he took the last year to focus on himself and hone on his craft. And it’s not always about the giggles. In real life, particularly when he’s not on stage, he admitted, he’s a bit more serious. But it’s life’s seriousness where he finds inspiration for his jokes, he added.
“When I’m not performing,” he said. “I’m a serious person. I take life seriously. That’s how I gather information on the content and jokes I want to perform. I like to see things happen naturally.”
Influenced by Chris Rock and Eddie Griffin, Garcia said watching their standup shows urged him to share his jokes and perspectives.
“I discovered my passion for comedy when I saw myself evolving as a comedian. I knew it was a high I wanted to keep getting, the more and more I performed.”
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
I got into stand-up comedy during high school. I told my sister I wanted to be a comedian and by chance, her classmate knew of a comedy camp at the Hollywood Laugh Factory. I went to audition for the camp and landed a seven-week course. After, my buddy introduced me to comedians who were already selling out the improvs and other comedy clubs and got to open for them.
Why did you choose comedy?
I chose comedy because I was always funny as a kid. But when, once, I saw Chris Rock and Eddie Griffin — they inspired me to share my opinions.
How did you become successful?
I became successful by taking my comedy seriously and studying it like it was school. I had to do homework and I kept getting funnier because I took my craft seriously. Eventually, I started getting paid and booked more.
What stresses and obstacles have you confronted in comedy?
The only stresses and obstacles I’ve encountered are my procrastination and making excuses for not pursuing everything I ever wanted to accomplish in comedy. Work ethic is very important.
How did you discover your passion for comedy?
I discovered my passion for comedy when I saw myself evolving as a comedian. I knew it was a high I wanted to keep getting, the more and more I performed. The laughs were a big part of the growth of my passion because I created those laughs with my thoughts and observations.
How long have you been in comedy?
Crazy, but true. I’ve been in comedy for 20 years. I started in 2001 at 16, and have been at it ever since.
Where do you hope to go from here and what are your plans for the future?
I’m actively pursuing a variety of opportunities in acting and commercials. Comedy will always be a tool I can use, but acting is something I fell in love with. It changed my outlook on life and how I connected with people.
Is it true that comedians offstage are generally loners and fairly quiet?
Most comedians are loners but some are social, it depends on where comedians feel comfortable. Comedians are more awkward than loners, they use comedy to mask their insecurities.
What type of comedy do you do? Do you observe situations and create comedy or can you create comedy just in your head?
My comedy is mostly observation and personal experience. I observe and report while making sure I add my twist to the situation. There are times where I can create from scratch but I like to listen to my comedy and just add ideas as they come.
What career advice would you share with other comedians transitioning or aspiring to launch into your field?
The best advice I could give is if you want to make it further, you have to be passionate about your craft and take it seriously. It’s no different than studying to be a doctor. Studying is everything. It’s a profession that takes years to master. If you are not willing to put in the work, don’t expect results. Comedy is sacred to us.
Do you crack jokes in real life or are you quiet/serious?
I’m more of a serious person. I take life seriously and that’s how I gather information on the content and jokes I want to perform. I like to see things happen naturally.
How has the pandemic affected your personal life, business, career and family life — Good? Bad? Both?
During the pandemic, I wasn’t getting booked much. But 2020 was a growth year, I had a day job, but felt stuck. Due to Covid, I lost my job and was forced to do rideshare, which gave me the freedom to be open to pursue comedy full-time again and be free for auditions.
What do you hope 2021 will bring to your life and career?
This year, 2021, will allow me to go after everything I ever wanted. The pandemic forced me to see what was important to me and made me happy: comedy and acting is my priority.
What inspires you?
Life inspires me, just being able to relate to people is what makes me passionate about the comedy I create. The fact that people find interest in my creativity on stage is a very fulfilling feeling.
When and at what age did you start using cannabis? CBD products?
Tell us about your first experience with either or both. I started using cannabis at the age of 14, with the local neighborhood kids. The only thing I remember is laughing so much and enjoying myself, that I never wanted that to end.
Which do you prefer — Indica, Sativa or Hybrid?
All of the above. I prefer sativa because I’m an active person. I play a lot of sports and sativa always gives me that extra push when exercising.
How do you integrate cannabis and/or CBD into your routine?
I normally only smoke when I study my material after recording my show. There are instances where I’ll smoke before a show but I learned to microdose, so I won’t forget my jokes or sabotage my show by being too high.
What do you like about cannabis and/or CBD?
I like the fact that it brings out the creative side of me and it allows me to experiment and be creative even in playing basketball or soccer when I do play.
What positive effects does cannabis and/or CBD have on you?
I don’t only use cannabis for recreational purposes but also use it when it’s hard to digest after eating late at night. It helps with abdominal pain.
What are your favorite cannabis strains and/or CBD products? Why?
Jack Herrer is my favorite strand because it’s the strand that my sense of smell connects with and I’ve always felt you get a better high when your nose appreciates the smell of the flower.
Connect With Juan “C.H.E.P.O.” Garcia
RICH SOIL STORIES
Mena Monroe — Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
'He Said She Said' Actress Staying Focused For The Next Big Thing
By RIch Soil | Updated March 11, 2021
Mena Monroe is a writer and actress who recently appeared in “He Said She Said” and “Indictment: Who Is Jonathan Carter?”
“As an actress, I offer a glimpse into various walks of life and human struggles,” she said.
When she’s not on the screen, she’s diligently working on her beauty business.
“Being a beauty industry entrepreneur, I offer women a chance to constantly reinvent themselves to their version of beauty.”
And despite her success, Monroe said she’s still determined to “outwork every damn body.”
What is your profession?
I’m a professional actress, writer, and entrepreneur.
How did you become successful in your field?
Being a beauty industry entrepreneur I offer women a chance to constantly reinvent themselves to their version of beauty. And as an actress, I offer a glimpse into various walks of life and human struggles.
What stresses or obstacles do you have to deal with in your profession?
I wouldn’t call where I am currently a success but I will say I’m extremely dedicated to reaching the next level. And to do so I’m willing to outwork every damn body. My goal is to constantly better myself.
At what age, or when, did you first start using cannabis and CBD products?
There are tons of stresses working in independent films from long work hours, harsh filming conditions, extremely cold weather, you name it. The rewarding part is that the good outweighs the bad and the finished product is worth all stresses.
How often do you integrate cannabis and or CBD into your routine?
I didn’t start using cannabis until 2015. I never even experimented in high school or college. My aunt was battling breast cancer & one of her physicians recommended she try it for her both pain and appetite. So we tried it out together.
What positive effects does cannabis/CBD have on you?
I’m a casual CBD and cannabis user so I only use it when I feel the need, which isn’t every day.
What is your favorite strain of cannabis and why?
Cannabis has a relaxing effect on me. I like indica so I like the more nighttime calming strains.
What is your favorite CBD product and why?
I like body or sleepy highs right now my favorite strain is indica, but I mix it up as well. I also like Big Al Exotics Street Heat is fire, Lil Stupid has some fire, & my favorite is White Cherry Gushers & Cannatique Farms. I like the CDB sleep waters they sell at some dispensaries.
“Stay elevating yourself. Get in those books, take any kind of class that could better your path, and make friends with people who are already where you want to be. You can’t learn from people who are doing worse than you.”
What advice could you give to women that want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice to any young ladies wanting to follow in my footsteps would be to stay elevating yourself. Get in those books, take any kind of class that could better your path, and make friends with people who are already where you want to be. You can’t learn from people who are doing worse than you.
What has 2020 taught you?
COVID caused my brick and mortar business to go to a complete halt for over a year. It was hard. In a true hustler’s fashion that fork in the road was just a detour towards another dream. So in the long run it was for the better. 2020 taught me to control what I consume. I’m not referring to just-food. I guard what I ingest mentally with the same importance. A lot of people allowed the media to dictate their emotional health last year and vowed not to.
What advice can you give a man from a woman’s POV?
Well, I can’t explain what goes through a woman’s head during a day because that indicates, all of us think about the same things. I however spend a bulk of my day practicing affirmations and thinking positive amongst other things. My advice to men regarding relationships both sexual and platonic is to be genuine in their dealings. You’d be surprised how many women will accept the real you, all that lying and living multiple lives is exhausting and causes so much trouble and heartache in the future. So be honest and transparent and if she’s for you, she’ll accept you.
What five songs are in your playlist in the current moment?
My five songs on my playlist currently are
Nipsey & Jay – What It Feels Like,
Doja Cat – Streets,
Money Mu & Moneybagg – Hittin’,
H.E.R – Damage, and
Brent Faiyaz – Clouded.
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A Million Years In Prison For Cannabis
By Nadya Nataly
Blacks and Browns harmed by the war on drugs have spent over a million years in prison for cannabis-related offenses.
A. Million. Years.
“Run the numbers,” cofounder of African American owned, California tech company CampNova, Marvin Wilcher said. “Figure out how many of us have actually gone to jail in the last 80 years. Add three to five years to every conviction. The numbers add up. We are talking millions of years locked up away from our families.”
Marijuana arrests are still widespread across the U.S., a trend that remains the same in an era of decriminalization and legalization. Thousands are ensnared into the criminal justice system and subjected to institutional abuse. Nearly nine in 10 African Americans, along with Latinos, 77 percent of 2016 federal marijuana sentences, are arrested, according to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Meanwhile … across town, likened to the gold rush, the green rush is in the middle of one of the greatest growth periods in history. Cannabis is in a period of transformation to become an annual $100 billion-dollar industry.
Billions. Of. Dollars.
The systemic racial profiling and marijuana criminalization of a generation of African Americans and Latinos, whose lives were subverted by cannabis, is merely the tip of the iceberg. When convicted felons get out of jail, often, there is no home waiting.
“Our families have been dismantled through intergenerational incarceration,” founder of Colorado nonprofit, Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Larisa Bolivar added. “So while the cannabis millionaires are popping champagne and having caviar parties, our people are still in jail.”
The long-term effects of marijuana criminalization confronts — denied public housing, student financial aid, employment opportunities and child custody according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In some instances, immigration statuses are revoked. According to a report by Drug Policy, marijuana possessions were the fourth most common cause of deportation. Furthermore, in some states, ex-offenders are ineligible to engage in cannabis business due to drug criminal record, Drug Policy reports show.
“And with no place to call home, no money or resources,” Bolivar said. “It’s nearly impossible to get ahead.”
So, Who Calls Dibs On The Chips?
As ganja gears up for its legal debut on the world stage, less than 10 percent of cannabis businesses are Black, Latino or minority-owned.
Less. Then. Ten. Percent.
And not for insufficient interest, but primarily the cost of entry.
According to Wilcher, entering the cannabis space requires a hefty amount of cash. For starters, a basic delivery service can cost up-to $200,000. Launching a cannabis distribution business can jump a minimum of $500,000.
A full-blown indoor cultivation operation also comes with an expensive price tag upwards of $2,000,000. And just when cannaprenuers get into a swing of things, to invest in brand development and manufacturing more money is needed — $100,000 to $200,000, easy.
“Our communities are in ruins and our men are in jail,” said Bolivar, from Denver. “The people in our communities can’t come up with $2 million [to get in cannabis] legally. This systematic and economic racism will exclude them from entering this burgeoning marijuana business.”
Blacks own an estimated 4.3 percent of cannabis businesses, meanwhile, Latinos own an estimated 5.7 percent of businesses, data shows. While low numbers in the general business population matter, cannabis becomes much more significant.
“It’s relevant,” Wilcher said. “Due to the hundreds of thousands of families that have paid the exacting costs for the war on drugs, which is essentially a war on families of color.”
Bolivar and Wilcher agree — “minorities should reap profits, too.
As the cannabis industry morphs itself into pharmaceutical, beverage and tobacco-alternative companies, with major delivery and distribution businesses — the diversity, equality and equity of the industry comes into question.
“Without early capture of businesses in the space now,” Wilcher said. “African Americans and other minorities will simply miss these incredible generational opportunities. Unless something is done, hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for our communities will be missed.”
Is MORE Enough?
Cannabis advocates have high hopes that cannabis can completely come off the Controlled Substances Act, CSA. One of the first marijuana reforms was introduced to the new congress on Jan. 21 by the U.S. Representative Greg Steube, a Republican from Florida. The reform reschedules cannabis under federal law but from a Schedule I to Schedule III.
In early February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with two additional Democratic senators, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon said they would push to end federal prohibition on marijuana by proposing measures “that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”
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“Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” they said in a statement issued by Schumer, a Democrat from N.Y.
During the 2020 Election, now, Vice President Kamala Harris vowed there’d be no “half stepping” to decriminalize cannabis. She currently sponsors the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement — MORE Act. President Joe Biden is in favor of decriminalization, but not for full legalization.
Despite marijuana adovacate’s hopes that Harris would help push full legalization, she’s indicated she wouldn’t sway Biden.
But Bolivar and Wilcher don’t think it’s enough.
“The sooner that everyone understands it’s not just about releasing us from jail,” Bolivar said. “It’s about restorative justice and finding pathways to generational wealth in cannabis for our families and communities.”
“If you’re talking about social equity, the first stop is the African American community,” Wilcher said.
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Cannabis Financial Restitution Plan
Taking a seat at Capitol Hill, cannabis deregulation and decriminalization continues to spark debates with no pathway to legalization. But Wilcher has a plan.
He proposes $25 billion dollars be invested into a Cannabis Financial Restitution Plan over a period of five years into African American and minority owned cannabis businesses throughout the country. By investing in cannabis businesses founded by Blacks or Latinos, equally, Wilcher said it would be “a fair start and some restitution for the last 80 years of financial destruction that the federal government has waged on African Americans.”
Wilcher said he is presently working on releasing more specific details of his Cannabis Financial Restitution Plan in March 2021.
“For us to have any chance,” Wilcher said. “We are going to need financial support from the federal government.”
Beware of Culture Bandits
The same community that has carried cannabis on its back is ostracized, while culture bandits appropriate the canna-lifestyle they’ve snubbed.
With a push to decriminalize, legalize and normalize use — anecdotally, the cannabis’ narrative continues to change as more people embrace the positive and medicinal benefits of cannabis.
However, it would be remiss not to point out canna culture’s influence on the music, entertainment, fashion, art, photography and videography industries, which are all ideas taken from Black culture.
“Even if it doesn’t have a black face at the forefront, what is the music played on the back,” cofounder of CampNova, Emery Morrison asked. “They package that with products, and they make millions.”
The truth is, companies are already making millions, while thousands upon thousands remain incarcerated, some in the same states where recreational and medicinal use is legal. Worst of all, Morrison added, Black cannaprenuers are shut out of the space.
“It’s cruel,” he said. “But the irony of it all, cannabis is becoming a big business. The audacity of the hypocrisy is that dispensaries were deemed ‘essential’ operations amid the Covid19 pandemic. But people are still in jail.”
Cannapreunership: Daily Hustlin’
Morrison and Wilcher sit at the helm of a conglomerate of cannabis businesses, including a new platform, CampNova, a technology hub that provides cannabis consumers a one-stop-shop of celebrity and influencer brands and products. But it’s more than retail. Morrison called CampNova, “a specialized technological and lifestyle e-Commerce solution in the cannabis space.”
“CampNova combines all the online shopping experience and technology of Amazon, UberEats and Fashion Nova — in one centralized location,” Morrison said.
CampNova launched into beta testing at the start of 2021. Maintaining a cannabis business, Morrison and Wilcher agree, is like owning other businesses requiring start-up capital, investors and consistent dedication.
Through their cannabis platforms, the CampNova team also has the capability of white labeling cannabis products while providing unique business opportunities and support to novice cannaprenuers entering the space.
“We’re doing the work to diversify our teams and create inclusive workplaces for Blacks, Latinos and women too,” Morrison added.
There’s No Time Like The Present
Corporate America has an eagle-eye on marijuana and presently waiting for full legalization before moving into the space, Morrison predicted. Conversely, Wilcher also predicted full legalization in 24-months, with no time for half-stepping.
“This is our moment,” Wilcher added. “It is our time to help further shape the culture of the cannabis industry for our families and the world.
Cognizant of those who have exploited Black culture, Morrison said the technological and lifestyle features of CampNova are earnest endeavors to properly empower and push forward a new generation of millionaires and heirs.
“We are enfranchising our culture and truthfully,” Morrison said. “In the long run benefiting ourselves, our families and empowering others not used to benefit from their culture. But most importantly, we get to experience the technology and lifestyle, too.”
Standing at the dawn of an industry of unprecedented size and wealth, Morrison said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the narrative and to target revenues to empower communities affected by the War on Drugs.”
“It’s time to end the war on marijuana,” Wilcher said.
Before “big box” picks up an ounce, Wilcher and Morrison are committed, in the subsequent 12-24 months, to establish the necessary business plan and market position to go public.
“It’s about generational wealth,” Morrison said. “It’s about our culture and being in a position to relish our culture and benefit from it too.”
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MORE POSTS FROM CAMPNOVA
Comedian Juan Garcia has been a prominent comedian in the Los Angeles scene for the last 20-years. But when the city’s iconic clubs were just down due to the world wide Covid-19 pandemic, Garcia had to get creative on how to continue sharing laughs with his audience.
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