After 20 years in the Navy, Victor Lopez retired and put down roots in Key West.

“I spent a lot of time on watch,” he said, recalling his nights onboard ship. “My mind wandered and it usually went in the direction of funny stuff. I’ve always liked comedy. I’d write my thoughts down later and some of them made me laugh. Some were jokes, others were stories.”

Lopez’s love of comedy inspired him to create Key West Comedy Productions LLC, organizing local clubs to host a small cadre of stand-up local comedians.

“The comedic talent is Key West is as diversified as the residents,” he said. “And the clubs are always looking for fresh, new forms of entertainment. Comedy is a good break from music. It can be done during an hour band break, or it could be a three-hour show. People like to laugh. Some of the drag queens do great stand-up.”

In Key West, Lopez has been a driving force behind stand-up. His troupe of local comedians has played at the Little Jazz Room regularly, and at Hurricane Hole, Hog’s Breath, and the BottleCap Lounge.

“We’ve been working with the owners of the Shameless Lounge to do a regular comedy gig there,” he said. “In my experience, we do better with customers in a dinner setting than in a bar. I think it has to do with dinner being set aside for quiet conversation and bars for a more boisterous time. You have to listen to a comedian’s joke to catch the punch line.”

Lopez is always recruiting local talent. Sometimes people are encouraged by friends to perform. Remembering his first time on stage with a mic, Lopez tries to welcome the new comedian and lower his or her anxiety.

“Most of us, even the seasoned comedian, had a first night,” Lopez said. “For most of us when we hear that first laugh at our joke, we’re hooked.”

Lopez said that eventually he would like to find a single location to call home with weekly shows featuring local comedians and special nights with out-of-town talent.

“There are two things I really enjoy from all this,” he said. “It’s satisfying at the end of the night and the audience’s applause tells you they had a good time. The other is I get to see local talent grow in their trade. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll watch a comedian on TV and be able to say I knew him or her when they first began.”

Lopez is, himself, a talented comedian. After sketching those jokes on the night shift, he tried them live before an audience at the Comedy Zone Club in Jacksonville in 2003. Out of 20 comedians, he was awarded a weeklong gig.

“That’s when I caught the fever,” he said.

More recently, the “Florida’s Southernmost Funniest Comedian” organization from Miami chose Lopez as the funniest man in Key West and when he went to Miami to compete he came in fifth.

“I felt honored to be considered and to win the Key West title was great,” Lopez said. “Coming in fifth was okay with me. I competed against some of the best comedians in South Florida.”

Lopez’s Key West Comedy Productions will perform at the Shameless Lounge on Sept. 25.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.