California is crazy big and insanely spoiled. We used to just have gold, now we have the Internet, which is like printing your own gold. We are smaller than Texas yet we have more sports teams. Our fucking flag has a bear on it. Most importantly, we have at least five distinct comedy scenes, and two (or more?) major alt-comedy festivals (both occurring in the month of January).
I’m currently in between rest stops. Apparently Congress created this Dust Bowl surrounding the car with decay, the perfect backdrop for writing about frivolous abundance. Riot LA is a day away/the second display of emphatic array/with podcasts, talk shows and stand-up galore/legends, upstarts, food trucks and more!
San Francisco and Los Angeles has a curious co-existence that is completely one-sided. All the budding entertainers, drug mules and contention float downstream. As a comedian, it’s a very specific Rapture to lose your friends to SoCal’s gaping maw; their growth sheds the rich Bay Area identity while the underclassmen grasp at the remains. Hey Los Angeles, thanks for stealing our best and brightest! Oh, you’re completely unaware? How typical.
Riot LA’s performer list boasts 129 uniquely funny people, 13 of which have a direct connection to the Bay Area (there could be more, I’m excited to find out). 10% is pretty cool sample. I’m not officially covering the festival — too late and lazy to be professional about my “job”, man — but writing makes time fly and the Internet connects us all. Here is a guide to the Riot LA Comedy Festival if you’ll BE in town with BEAT LA in your heart.
The “Hella Bay Area” Show
Super Serious Show Presents The Imaginary Radio. Drennon Davis has become perennial favorite since resurfacing in the City by the Bay about a year ago, teaming up with fellow musicman DJ REAL, and cultivating his goofy earworms into a solid hour+ show. At Riot LA he’s backed by the highly reputable Super Serious Show and flanked by an all-star supporting cast that includes Karen Kilgariff (Petaluma native turned SF prodigy turned LA royalty), Jesse Elias (lightspeed wunderkind) and Nick Stargu (the aforementioned DJ REAL, aka the best kept secret).
Emily Heller. There are four opportunities to see Ms. Heller in action. When planning to see Alameda’s shiny ruby you have to account for time and temperament: Emily Heller is at her best with a lot of time on her hands and leg room to riff/roam. The safe bet is to see her open for Greg “Fitzdog” Fitzsimmons or get hopped up on Pixy Stix, Saturday’s all-female showcase (though this might overflow because “womyn be laughin’.”) Mr. Potato Head with Kurt Braunohler is the festival’s dark horse — last day, late show, eclectic line-up — where “experimentation is encouraged”, which is perfect for the candid, conversational Norcal Kid.
The “Marlo Stanfield” Performer
Chris Garcia. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Chris Garcia migrated south and subsequently blew the fuck up all over the LA scene. Chris Garcia made his name for over a decade in SF and it all paid of with television deals and acclaim. Two marquee performances — The Rodney Dangerfield Award Showcase and UnFictional LIVE — proves that Garcia’s name is ringing out right now, adding to his “must see” rise as an LA King. (photo via Sam Varela)
Not Your Normal Song and Dance
Persona (A Comedy Show With Character(s). Courting Comedy loves subversion. We eat it for breakfast, even it’s dinner. Persona is jam-packed with talent credited to The Simpsons, Conan O’Brien and Louis C.K. Ron Lynch (a #SF90s mad scientist), Emily Maya Mills (a SF #Native hat rack of talent), and Dana Gould ((above)#SF80s living legend) all bring a clear-burning energy to ingenious writing, cutting loose through a festival thick with non-fiction and impromptu friction.
The Don’t Wait Up Show
Midnight Run with Andy Hayes. A blurry, red-eyed late-night showcase for atypical reasons, Midnight Run is the best reason to lose sleep this year at Riot LA. The premise is everyone’s really high, which could be misconstrued as a “lazy novelty” but I prefer to see it as “awesome Speakeasy homage”. It’s like the Purple Onion, or the hungry i, or the Holy City Zoo, half the fun is that it’s against the rules, not just of society, but of comedy’s false importance. Break down some walls, lower some inhibitions, be friendly, chill out and support.
The Hang Over Cure Show
Guy Branum Presents: Talk Show: The Game Show. Saturday afternoon, when your head is humming, get the juices flowing with a play of a play of a play. I’ve never seen #SF00s’ Guy Branum’s brand of irreverent show business but his work on G4, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and The Factuary is proof positive that he can host/write/produce his ass off. Also, everybody on deck is pleasant, delightful, and funny (most importantly).