Category Archives: Television

Meet Comedian Stephen Smith

On a chilly Saturday night in Albuquerque, I head out to a comedy show. Being that Albuquerque’s only comedy club closed years ago, I’m not sure what to expect. Will there be nice tables and drink minimums or smoke filled rooms? I find when I get there a small bar in the front of Sandia Bowl. The room is dimly lit and should be smoke filled, but it isn’t. In the far corner from the bar, there is a single spotlight shining on a corner with a small PA system. Tonight, there will be a number of comedians preforming tonight. My interest is in the headliner, Stephen “Smitty” Smith.

An ex-air force man, Stephen began his career in comedy entertaining his friends and co-workers in Iraq. After a long difficult deployment to the middle-east, Stephen returned to New Mexico without giving comedy another thought. Luckily, his wife at the time had given it another thought and signed him up for a comedy competition here in Albuquerque. With no idea that he was headed to a competition, Stephen took his first baby steps into professional comedy.

Coming in third was a boost to the comedian fighting his way out. Stephen credits the close-knit comedy community in being so welcoming and helpful to him in the beginning. In his first performance, two of the seasoned comedians took him out for a late night dinner and gave him a laundry list of open mic nights and hints for making it in comedy. This turned out to be the second best advice that Stephen had received in his life so far.

Growing up in Riverdale, Georgia, Stephen raised his younger brother and sister while he was in high school. The responsibility kept the young man on the straight and narrow, until he moved out on his own. He adopted a partying lifestyle soon after getting out into the real world. Trouble followed him around, until a police officer told him, “Get the hell out of Georgia or you will spend the rest of your life in jail.” Stephen took the suggestion to heart. Being a broke teenage with no prospect for college at the time, he joined the Air Force, where he was sent off to New Mexico to start a new period of his life.

Like the lives of many stand-up comics before him, Stephen’s life was full of ups and downs. From PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), from going to war in Iraq, to his marriage dissolving due to issue resulting from his condition. During this time, he was going it alone, trying to control his symptoms. In the end, he ended up leaving the Air Force, being jobless and almost homeless. He got help for his PTSD and decided he would go full force into the world of stand-up comedy.

Stephen has been headlining all over town with his eye on The Stage, which has introduced a Thursday Comedy Night at Santa Ana Star Casino. He is also planning a Southwest comedy tour with a few of his close friends in the industry for the summer. When asked what he would say to young talent starting out, he has two pieces of advice.

“First own your jokes,” he says. “No matter how rude or crude or proper. Own, believe, and hang on to it, even if it bombs the first second or third time you deliver it. Keep it written down. You never know when it will work with your crowd. Second, hone your skill at open MIC nights. Here in Albuquerque, you can find one at Nexus Brewery on Tuesday nights at 7:30 or Broken Bottle Brewery on the Westside on Wednesday nights at 7:30. You will see new and seasoned comics alike working on their acts, get to know the community they are a great source of inspiration.”!

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From Battlestar to Lone Star – Tricia Helfer

The latest in what is proving to be a long line of hit television shows filmed here in Albuquerque, NM is Killer Women. It stars Tricia Helfer as Molly Parker, a beautiful but tough Texas Ranger. Tricia Helfer has had a long and diverse career in the entertainment industry. She was discovered at a young age in Canada by a modeling scout. By her own admission, “I was on my way to university to study psychology, but thought I would see what a career in modeling would be like.”


Modeling allowed her to travel the world and to do things she had only dreamed about, but after eight years she was ready for a change. An intellectual at heart, she began looking at going back to the university. Modeling was a great adventure, but it came with an expiration date. Initially, she thought about returning to university and pursuing a career in broadcasting journalism. She went out on a couple of assignments, but decided she wanted to try acting and signed up for a class. It was love at first scene.  Now looking back on what drew her to acting she says, “It was the psychology aspect.” Having studied psychology before, she added, “there is such a deep psychological component to acting and delving into the character’s psyche.”

She finished out two more years of modeling while taking acting classes at night. On her tenth anniversary of modeling, she quit and headed out to Los Angeles to begin a new career. It took her a year to land her first major role in Battlestar Galactica. It was an amazing role where she worked with a great cast and crew to produce the well-loved show. Although the show ended in 2008, the cast are still great friends who stay in contact and have yearly gatherings.

Having worked in so many different genres, Helfer says it’s hard to pick a favorite. She feels it would be boring to stick to one kind of acting. To grow in your skills and ability you need to have a lot of experiences. “Everyone acts to some level.  Everyone has skills and uses them in their everyday life”. She admits she likes the challenge to always do different things set in different places. The most important part of choosing the roles, she says, is to make sure you have fun.


One advantage or disadvantage depending on the day, for Helfer, is the fact that people have a hard time recognizing her. Even with her character, Number 6, being iconic in the sci-fi world, she says people don’t really recognize her on the street. Even people she knows very well will walk right past her. Some days that’s a great thing as it allows her to live a normal life. Sometimes, however, when she was trying to get recognized and get her name out there, she would find it frustrating that no one would recognize her. “I would ask my husband, what is it? If I add a highlight to my hair I’m suddenly another person.” She admits that when people do approach her on the street for an autograph, it’s usually because of her voice.


Fresh off a Canadian sitcom, Spun Out, where she played an over-the-top, flamboyant, well-off woman, Helfer comes to US drama Killer Women shot here in New Mexico.  The main character of the story is Molly Parker – the only woman in the Texas Rangers. In 1993, Texas decided to allow women into their ranks, but even today there are only a few women that serve on the Rangers. Marrie Aldridge, who was the first female Texas Ranger, is the technical advisor on the show and lends the show some authenticity. She comes in periodically to help with episodes and make sure the writers illustrate how difficult and rewarding being a female in a male-dominated profession could be. Helfer notes, “Some of the old Rangers quit as a statement when women were allowed to join.”


Helfer’s character, Molly Parker, is not new to the world of law enforcement by any means. Her father was in law enforcement and inspired her to follow in his footsteps. After many years as a state trooper, she was moved to the Texas Rangers where she is the only woman in her district. This makes her smart enough to know when to let things slide and when to fight for her rights. For Helfer, playing this role is as physically demanding as it is psychologically. She loves doing her own stunts as much as possible except where insurance won’t allow her. “It’s part of the fun,” she says. Collaboration on the stunts is very important and she works closely with her stunt double when needed and always takes their advice when doing the stunt on her own.


Helfer admits to being technologically challenged.  Even though she does voice a lot of video games, she doesn’t play them. She insists computers simply don’t get along with her. So how does a geek icon get her ‘geek on’ and avoid computers? She says all she needs is an animal. She is a huge animal rights activist and an outdoor enthusiast with interests in motorbikes and hiking. Those are the things she has a love for even if they aren’t what people think of when using the phrase “geeking out.”  A popular fan question for Helfer on our survey was to ask if there was another Mass Effect game, would she return to voice Eddie.  She says she would love to but to her current knowledge, the game is done.  She credits Battlestar Galactica for her start in voiceover work in both video games and cartoons. She was selected to voice the character Black Cat from Spiderman twice – once for a Saturday morning cartoon and once for the video game version.


Helfer founded a small foundation, Acting Outlaw, with Katee Sackhoff, her Battlestar Galactica co-star. Their first event after funding themselves was riding their motorcycles, loaned to them by BMW, from LA to New Orleans to raise awareness of what still needed to be done in the Gulf. Their ‘text to donate’ campaign was plastered all over the bikes as they rode. In 2013, the pair did a calendar and donated the funds to charity and has since participated in numerous charity rides.


With the variety of different acting engagements Helfer has done over her career, she reaches a broad and diverse audience of people. Killer Women is poised to increase her reach and make her a household name before the end of the first season. The new drama, along with Acting Outlaw’s new 2014 calendar, will not only increase her audience but it will help her increase her charitable goals. Be sure to watch for Tricia Helfer in her new show, or at a motorcycle rally, for a great cause near you.

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Filed under Albuquerque, Entertainment, Television