The Guadalajara Grill, the home of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Mexican menu, also plays host to singer and comedian Braden “Woody” Wood who performs there nightly.
Wood, a senior from St. George Utah majoring in cultural anthropology, said he started playing at the Guadalajara Grill after his friend told him to go and ask them if he could play. Wood said, “One day I took my guitar, walked in, sat there and started playing. No one told me to leave so I stayed. Next time, I bought a tip jar with me.”
Wood said after a month he had begun to draw in a crowd and was approached by the Grill to play every night. “They came to me one day and told me if I come play every night, I could have whatever I wanted on the menu.”
A fan of both the grill and Wood, Zaylie Evans, a sophomore from Washington majoring in biology, said, “I love Mexican food, so I always go to the Guadalajara Grill. It’s always fun when Woody’s there, he’s just honestly so funny. His jokes are all kind of like dad jokes, but they make the experience a lot more fun.”
Lizette Padilla, wife of Gio Padilla, owner of the Guadalajara Grill, said, “It’s so great having Woody here. He does so well, and the customers love him.” She said, “Woody brings a positive energy and we love having him here.”
Lizette Padilla said the grill gives him a meal after he performs, “... whether he gets a lot of tips or not, he’s always happy to get some food.”
When Wood started performing more, he found he was not the only performer at the Guadalajara Grill. Wood said he would often go to the grill and watch the other performers to see how he could improve.
After a few nights of watching the other performers, Wood noticed that they did not interact with the audience. He said, “[They] just went up there, did their thing for an hour or two, thanked the audience, then packed up and left.
“So, I had the idea of telling jokes to connect with the audience, so I started building up a list of jokes so I could connect with them.”
He also said they help him stand out from the crowd, “It’s hard to compete with a bunch of other singers, so I had to make myself standout somehow. So, I did jokes.”
Wood said the jokes not only help him connect with the audience, it helps to keep his performances from feeling stale. “When I tell jokes, it helps me out a lot, so I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing every night.
“Since I pretty much just take requests, I found that most people have a pretty similar taste in music.”
Wood said his most requested songs are “Old Town Road,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Sweet Caroline.”
Wood also gives back to the community by performing at the Oceanside Assisted Living every Wednesday morning. Wood said, “That’s my favorite show to do. They all get really into it. I guess because they don’t get many visitors, so they really love when I come play for them, and it’s so much fun.
“I went and I played ‘Twist and Shout’ by the Beatles, and it was so funny watching them stand up and dance. They were literally twisting and shouting.”
Wood called his weekly performances at Oceanside Assisted Living “a highlight” of his week, and said, “Those performances are always worth it, it’s great to feel like you’re making a difference, even if it’s just a small one.”