Stand-up comedian Shayla Rivera, seen here in Iraq, is looking forward to performing this weekend at the Egyptian Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Funny Rocket
Stand-up comedian Shayla Rivera, seen here in Iraq, is looking forward to performing this weekend at the Egyptian Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Funny Rocket Scientist Inc.)
For 20 years, Shayla Rivera has made people laugh all over the world.

Her resume includes TV appearances on "Extreme Fakeover" and "National Lampoon's Funny Money."

She also worked with Tony Award-winning choreographer Debbie Allen on a one-woman show, "Rocket Science and Salsa," for which Rivera earned a "Best Lead Actress" nomination by the NAACP Theater Awards.

Rivera recently returned from Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

"I've been to Iraq a million times," Rivera said. "Well, not a million times, but many times."

Rivera will make her Park City debut at the Egyptian Theatre on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7.

These dates, she said, will be one of the big highlights of her career.

"I have family here in Park City, and I would love to live here one day," Rivera said. "I keep coming here and I spend a lot of time here at my sister's place and it drives my sister crazy, but I don't care."

For the past four years, Rivera has come for Thanksgiving and has attended some shows at the Egyptian Theatre.

"Ever since I stepped foot inside that place, I wanted to perform there," she said. "I'm finally going to do it."

Still, performing in a town where her sister lives gives the show a whole new dynamic, Rivera said.

"There is a deep level of excitement, but at the same time it's nerve-wracking," she said with a giggle. "Maybe after that weekend of performing, I may not be able to move to Park City. I know I can be funny, but we'll see what happens."

The funny bone runs through Rivera's family and actually started with her father.

"He was a funny guy, and he made people feel comfortable around him," said Rivera who grew up in Puerto Rico. "Laughter was in our house all the time, and at that time, I didn't realize that I was being influenced to make people laugh for a living."

In fact, Rivera wasn't going to be a comedian. After moving to Texas, learning English and getting a degree in engineering, Rivera worked at NASA.

"I started my career as an aerospace engineer and then went into sales," she said. "I actually ended up becoming a public speaker."

Speaking led Rivera to comedy, and her idol was the late George Carlin.

"He appealed to my left brain, because he was a comic technician and really constructed some great stories," she said. "My right brain liked him because he was a great performer and made us laugh."

The courage to delve into comedy was solidified after Rivera's family moved to Texas.

"You need to have thick skin if you're going to move to Texas from Puerto Rico," she said in a faux Texas accent. "Because once you're there, you're not from Puerto Rico. You're Mexican."

Rivera's material is based a lot on her move to Texas.

"It's all based on observation," she said. "I wasn't the kind of person to write a joke, but was keen to notice the inconsistencies and similarities in behaviors.

"We take ourselves very seriously and my material knocks us down a few notches," Rivera said. "To me it's funny. I just talk basically about cultural and gender differences,

When Rivera became a full-time comic in 1993, most people had never been on the Internet.

"Cable TV was the big thing and if you got a show on cable, it was it," she said. "Also, back then you had to move to Los Angeles or New York to get that HBO Special."

After the Internet emerged, Rivera changed her game plan.

"I moved out of California, because I didn't have to be there anymore," she said. "All I had to do was put my picture online and tell some jokes and I would get calls.

"But it was still difficult for me to become an overnight sensation in 20 years, which is what I'm still doing," she laughed. "But now, I'm going to perform in Park City. This is it. This is Mecca."

The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand-up comics Shayla Rivera and Kirk Bogos on Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $32 and are available by visiting www.parkcityshows.com .