What Makes You Laugh, Paul Wilborn?

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Editor’s Note: For the 2021 edition of duPont Registry Tampa Bay’s Health & Happiness Issue, we asked an assortment of funny people “What makes you laugh?” Paul Wilborn has been making people laugh, listen, think and applaud in all of his many roles, from writer to arts czar to cabaret artist to his main gig, bringing stellar entertainment to the stages of The Palladium in St. Pete. In answer to the question at hand, he dipped back into memories of a funny man who first made his mark in 1980s Tampa, a time and place Paul wrote about to prize-winning effect in his short story collection, Cigar City: Tales from a 1980s Creative Ghetto.

Paul Wilborn, Executive Director, Palladium at SPC 

In the 1980s I loved a Tampa sketch comedy/improv group called School of Night. Lots of future stars were involved, including Lisa Powers (Tricomi), but the funniest character, who never failed to make me laugh, was John Huls. Lanky, wildly gay, willing to say or do just about anything he thought was funny. That was John. Picture a raunchy, cross-dressing Lucille Ball in her Vitameatavegamine phase – that’s John.

After School of Night disbanded and we all grew up a bit, John became a much-loved acting teacher at a private school, and he kind of kept his funny in check.

But since leaving the school and moving to St. Pete with his husband, Jay Hoff, John has rediscovered his comic persona. His TikTok Videos, his “Peanut” ads for the downtown gift shop ZaZoo’d, his Instagram feed, his “Dirty John” shows at the Studio at 620, his Wigstock parties, are all edgy and hilarious. I remember a night in our living room when John, and our funny friend Sher Sibucao, started riffing and the rest of us laughed so hard we couldn’t move.

So it is not what makes me laugh, it’s who, and that is John Huls. He kept me and lots of other people laughing throughout the pandemic.