Tonight: Open Mic Comedy @ 800 Larkin. SF. 7 PM. Organized by Chris Schiappacasse.

[This is interesting for a number of reasons. One, it’s the return to comedy for 800 Larkin which was previously hosted by Tony Sparks and organized by Travis Curry until an unfortunate upheaval. Two, the host/organizer is Chris Schiappacasse, comedy guerrilla. He’s been kicked out of more places than remembered, so it’ll be interesting to see him in an administrative role. Three, Saturday Open Mic. San Francisco Bay Area is known for a lot of stage time but the weekends are usually dead for open microphoners. It’s certainly time to for tenderhearted to get some comedy down in the Tenderloin with one of the best rooms in the City.]

Tonight: Open Mic Comedy @ 800 Larkin. SF. 7 PM. Organized by Chris Schiappacasse.

[This is interesting for a number of reasons. One, it’s the return to comedy for 800 Larkin which was previously hosted by Tony Sparks and organized by Travis Curry until an unfortunate upheaval. Two, the host/organizer is Chris Schiappacasse, comedy guerrilla. He’s been kicked out of more places than remembered, so it’ll be interesting to see him in an administrative role. Three, Saturday Open Mic. San Francisco Bay Area is known for a lot of stage time but the weekends are usually dead for open microphoners. It’s certainly time to for tenderhearted to get some comedy down in the Tenderloin with one of the best rooms in the City.]

Room Review: Life and Times of 800 Larkin

800 Larkin is a bar located on 800 Larkin. Up there the ghosts of blowjobs whisper through in the air disguised as fog. It is located in the Tenderloin, crossed with O’Farrell, neighbored by crackheads, pizza parlors, playgrounds, and strip clubs. Moving pass the curtain that took away Sirius Black, the club opens to a romantic, mahogany Hamburg log cabin. It is furnished by well-worn love seats, arm chairs and stained, wooden drink tables. Alma, a low-lid, long raven-haired bartender serves dim drinks in the low lights as a DJ burrows in and out of the cramped booth in the corner. The lounge gives way to the pool table, which gives way to a smoking room of various aromas and flavors. Overlooking the sultry affair are bare breasted beauties, sitting suggestively behind glass; they were captured in a flash a long time ago. For a time this perverted Elks Lounge hosted an open microphone and while laughs have subsided in the Playboy bomb shelter, the ghosts of blowjobs still linger.

Tall, Black, Crackabetic

Travis Curry organized open-mics at 800 Larkin. Travis is a bit of an enigma on the scene. He’s a standard ‘set-up-punch’ comedian who speaks about crack cocaine and misconceived linguistic practices (Black eyes aren’t black: they’re yellow, they’re purple, but never black”) all in a voice tinged with heavy, sarcastic, reverse racism. Currently Travis runs two rooms, and is very self-reliant. He believes that comedians are born and exudes a class clown mentality.

The Proceedings

-At an undisclosed hour, persons of authority would bring up the two platforms that made the stage, up a rickety set of (people under the) stairs from the stage’s initial home: a condemned wine cellar.

-6:30to7:00 : The list would drop. Ravenous, hungry, Romeroesque comedians would scramble to scrawl the thin outline of their name. Crows fly out of the ensuing mosh pit.

- 7:30 : Newcomers enter a ghost town to find a long list of names all ready signed up. (SFStandup.com listed sign ups at 7:30). Stragglers either place a star next to their name to express a desire to go up early despite arrive late or decide to skip the whole ordeal all together.

- 7:45 : Travis flies into the building on his bike to do sound check and lighting.

- 7:55 : The Godfather of Bay Area Comedy, Tony Sparks, strolls in to help prep and gets ready to host.

- 8:00to8:12 : Show starts as comedians start to trickle back in.

- First Hour: Middlers and sporadically paid comedians work it out. Response is apathetic or mildly amused. Talent and potential are grand. Drinking begins.

-Second Hour: Up-and-Comers, hobbyist, bumpers, well-traveled open microphoners, and sideshows. Either eerily quiet or distractingly drunk. Earlier comics hang out where they can smoke or make motions toward home.

- Third/Final Hour:  Masochistically patient open mic green horns and passing through established workers. Energy near nil. People talking. Stretching out the night on hopes and dreams and hops and barley.

Inner Workings (Dynamics)

The paradox of each 800 Larkin opening came from an empty room with a list of people committed to perform. The source of this paradox was the Deco Lounge on Larkin Street, three blocks down from 800. At the time both 800 and Deco had open-door policies, the shows running concurrently with an hour difference. In theory and practice this allowed comics to parasitically touch two mics in a three-block distance. Twas a priceless scenario for many comedians (especially the cheap ones, you know who you are).

800 Larkin lacked a permanent disc-jockey, meaning Travis Curry had to run the sound boards. This gave Mr. Curry a microphone in concurrence with Super Host Tony Sparks. The result was some of the most hilariously antagonizing banter I’ve ever heard. The experience is akin to taking the old man Muppets (Statler and Waldorf), turning them African-American and making them fight. Audience members slumped in seats as “milk dud” and “pregnant” jokes flew overhead. “Ima kick yo ass” was delivered with such lovingly bitter repetition. Two aging brothers slap fighting each other between acts. The most common source of discontent came from Trevor.

Trevor is a puppeteer with frightening sensibilities. His act consisted of grotesque, malformed, (usually black) puppets dancing in a deviant scene, performing lewd sexual acts while old jazz songs play in the nether recess of a boombox. The whole production seeped weirdness, bordered on disturbing, and with enough squinting could only be considered ironically entertaining. (As entertaining as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room). It also took more than 5 minutes to complete due to its set up time, it took energy away from the crowd, and sometimes would occur more than once a show.

Trevor was Travis’ friend, Travis liked it, Tony tolerated it but eventually the matter of sideshow distractions and stand up status quo came to blows. These blows manifested in verbal jousting and everything: the insults, the weary well drinks, the giggling on couches and the disturbia all collaborated to the uniqueness of 800 Larkin.

The room was my first taste of real late night open-mic shows. Tony always encourages the comedians at the Brainwash to go to other open-mics: “Because not every place is like this… most places don’t give a shit about you jack!” The 800 atmosphere was very junkyard Neil Perth: There’s a pulse but a general sense of apathy. It was the medium room between the Brainwash and showcases at Bruno’s or Medrone. The time spent at open-mics like 800 are priceless, much like bench-pressing over your max. It feels impossible but it’s building through destruction. The crushing nature of the typical open-mic can be seen in lines: lines on paper, lines on faces, lines on mirrors, lines through jokes, lines, lines, lines.

It was also my introduction to the deep talent pool in SF Comedy. 800 didn’t even have all the headliners or East Bay residents stopping through but regardless, the talent on any given night was immense: Greg Edwards, Conrad Roth, Donny Divanian, Cameron Edmonson, Nicole Calasich, Colleen Watson, David Wiswell, Will Hatcher, Mimi Vilmenay, Melanie O’Brien and others. Legitimately funny people who daily hone their craft in front of dead or invisible crowds. Very deserving talent without a shred of appreciation.

Well I say fuck that! I’m going to laugh!

I have a reputation for having too much energy and over-laughing at comedy shows. Questions arise frequently about the legitimacy of my fan faire. I’ve been to shut up due to laughing too hard. I’ve been accused of using laughter enhancement drugs. It has severely ruined my reputation as a sourkraut.

To set the record straight: I love comedy. I listen intently to every performer and respond to what I hear according to my sense of humor, psychology, and experience. If I get a reference, have had a similar experience, or see the cleverness, I will laugh. My aural appreciation has a gauge based on freshness, threads of intelligence, design, delivery, and variance. I will snicker to be involuntarily polite, chuckle if I like the idea, louder if I love the punchline, spit-take laugh if the joke sideswipes with an unexpected conclusion, belly laugh is the joke is golden and tear-up/asphyxiate if the joke speaks to me intimately.

Trainwrecks are enjoyable as well. 800 Larkin had a few of those. The carnage was quaint.

800 Larkin also started the tradition of “comedy pals”; individuals with the same amount of experience that felt the need to band together. Josh Orr, Steven Lebeau, David Cairns, Andrew Moore and Roman Leo all stood out as the time as individuals with tons of potential but still developing their voice and technique. We were all trying to find how to fit in the paradigm of comedy, struggling to get validation of progress from nearly empty rooms in the 3rd hour. Those were fun times to watch and to experience first hand.

Then there were others who blew smoke in the face of comic convention, and were lovely in their disregard. Two usual suspects in this regard: Sammy Franco and Darien Black. Sammy is guttural, intellectual ejaculate and Darien is sloshed cunning. Both represent a segment of scratching, spitting, sexual, snarling, raw, ugly, beautiful comedy. Take the anime film, Akira and fry it on the brain of a performance artist covered in glitter and you might get what these guys are saying. They’re demolition comedians, in the same vein of Chris Schiappacasse and Ricky Luna. A deadly, deadly brand

This triangle of performers created the eye of a hurricane as the winds of chaos whipped around 800 Larkin. Crackheads literally reeking havoc. Fights breaking out on a regular basis. A Jeffrey Dahmer look-alike attempting to attack Anton Inara over a sheep joke only to be dragged out by Travis while confusedly saying “Where are you taking me?” Sex on the brain, and on the fingers, friends, free drinks, crew work and suganasties.

Nobody was there that final night, just a few hap(less)hazard comedians and a slew of new staff inside the bar. A whispering voice beckons me outside: it’s Travis Curry. He informs me that there had been a coup detat. The manager of the bar canned Travis and hi-jacked the show. She brought in a new M.C. and DJ on the still rotting corpse of Travis’ baby. Mr. Curry asked me to not perform and I complied on ethical grounds. Open microphones in the city are as much about supporting as performing. 800 Larkin had a special blend of personalities that enriched the scene. It had soul and you can’t get rid of the heart and expect the body to survive. And that was the night that comedy died at that establishment’ the scene moved on and new rooms emerged. On my way to such other venues (like Nick’s Crispy Taco/Rouge, Mondays @ 9 PM) I see the shell of 800 Larkin and feel a little wistful as the ghosts of blowjobs pass by.

Thank you for reading

-OJ

Product Review: The Abraham Linkin Mixtape

Abraham Linkin is a renegade hip-hop group. Two dope boys in a Cadillac slinging comedy. In the hip-hop realm of mouthpiece and bathing apes, they rapped about being broke and masturbation. In the politically correct wasteland of Bay Area comedy, they made the word “bitch” fashionable again. They wielded social networks like guns and axes. They hit up every worthwhile open microphone and showcase. They made shirts, catchphrases, tell-all videologs, music videos, press materials, and most importantly, great music rife with clever, crisp, absurd, offensive, endearing, relatable comedy. They generated a buzz in the one place you’re not allowed to. From the muck of Bay Area supercoolness, the light of Abraham Linkin rose to the clouds of record deals and sponsorships. And then, with a sharp pang of microphone feedback, it was gone.

I can’t tell you why the two broke up because I don’t know. I can express my sincere despondency about the rise and demise of Abraham Linkin.

Abraham Linkin, composed of Larrell Tyler and Will Hatcher, resonated for a few reasons. Musically they were smart, polished, stylish, and socially conscious without being pretentious or disingenuous. The group had the dope factor. Every successful hip-hop act has the dope factor: some genuine, some fabricated, some long-lasting, some fleeting, some eternal, some flavor-of-the-month. It’s what separates the corny hobbyist stringing words together through a plastic microphone from the rhyme marshal spitting through a condenser microphone in the booth with a movement on their back.

Comically the group took two forms of comedy and created their own voice. Within the constructs of satire (lampooning hip-hop swaggerists) and musical comedy Abraham Linkin were able to take everyday things and drill them into the minds as catchphrases and hooks. Facebook, homeless people, fat black women, and a slew of other topics are definitively illuminated within the group’s repertoire.

Finding Abraham Linkin was finding a new favorite band; the ones you’ll take your friends to go see, the ones you buy their self-release EP from the source, the ones you write blogs about and cover songs of. The ones you know each member on a first name basis, or go road tripping to their first tour gig. The ones whom you demand acceptance of from your significant other or the ones you claim in elitist musical conversations. The ones you’ll dislike as they become popular and say “they peaked with their second album”. The ones you tell whoever will listen that you knew them from the beginning, the ones you reminisce about when you’re forty. Could Abraham Linkin have become that cult-crossover band like Metallica or Modest Mouse? We’ll never know; they left too soon.

Before they left, the group dropped a promotional mixtape. For a mere $5 I received the Abraham Linkin infused compact-disc from an extremely high Larrell at the Brainwash. Thusly, I present a review for “Abraham Linkin: Bitch What Ya Thinkin Vol. 1”

Note: this product is ghetto approved. ID3 Tags are ghostly. Names/information herein are either from deductions or assumptions. I reserve the right to be wrong.

Track One

The jawn opens fittingly with “Swine Flu”, the initial track performed at 800 Larkin that brought Abe Linkin to my attention. Originally the song contained a section of discussion upon the origins of a friend’s swine flu infection. The official version of this “Miss You” hood ballad maintains a high pork diet as the culprit for swine flu. That’s right, Porky Pig is not to be trusted. Master P’s “I Miss My Homies” or Bone Thug’s “Crossroads” are outmatched in sentimentally: “When you died it really hurt/ [be]cause they buried you… in my favorite t-shirt!” Damn you swine flu.

Get Lower Than Your Self Esteem

The C.D. includes other Abraham Linkin originals: “Facebook”, “Homeless and Sexy”, “Spend the Night” and “Go Precious”. These sultry sexified jams are more Teddy than Riley, more Jagged than Edge, more Black than street. The kind of music you massage feet to (perhaps even rub amputee nubs if you’re into that). These songs stand out as charmingly ironic and passively raunchy while speaking on the frustrations of being single.

"I met her on Facebook and I invited her to my place

But when she showed up, man you should have seen my face

When I looked at her face, I could believe it

Cause she looked like my nigga

I said ‘Devin?’

She said ‘Who?’

'Nevermind, come on in'”

“Spend the Night” features hilarious off-meter rhyme schemes as it speaks of the ultimate male safety net with confidence and gusto. “Why you bust in my room, I told you I was sleeping/ and then they would reply/ If you were sleeping, what were you doing with your hand?” It’s a devilish disappointment when others get in the middle of the business of pleasure.

“Homeless and Sexy” is a smorgasbord of street living references pandering to panhandlers without a secretion of sadness. It’s certainly noble to want to fuck bottom feeders. It makes me wonder if Camilla Belle sat in the Tenderloin with smudges of ash on her face and fingerless gloves, would she receive more money due to America’s affair with vanity. And would she cheat on me with crack head Tony? And would the actress-turned-hoba (female bum = hoba) be a “freak in the sheets [while] she sleeps in the street [?]” Great syntactic line.

“Go Precious”, while not the best song based on the movie based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire (that honor belongs to Garfunkle and Oates), the song raises an interesting debate. Is it time to lose the obsession of thin start coveting curvaceous women? As proven by Gabourey Sidibe, Susan Boyle, and those Dove ads: big girls are on the rise. Kaseem Bentley once instructed: “Get with these big girls while the premium is low”. Mr. Bentley can make these claims, as he is one of the premier pussy stockbrokers in the country.

The hallmark calling card for Abraham Linkin is undeniably “Got it @ Ross”. A perfect anthem for the recession, the group spit braggadocios rhymes about jeans, wicker chairs, yoga DVDs, and Christmas CDs. To see a bunch of people hyped and chanting about being bargain shoppers is a ridiculously beautiful scene. Video is better than words.

Zero Balance Flips (The Parodies)

Abe Linkin takes being starving artists seriously. Of the five parody songs on the mixtape, three explicitly deal with the turmoil of being poor. Migraines, water-vodka (wakka wakka), maternity cases, Dutch dating and gas prices are contrastingly augmented by instrumentals from flashy rappers like T.I. and 50 Cent. While other rappers of the poverty position would lyrically aim at future revenue, A.L. stay grounded in the present. The general theme of these zero balance flips is “I’m poor, that’s normal, don’t gas yourself up, and deal with it.” I wonder what happens when Will or Larrell receive the riches they’re due? Will the content of their musical production differ? Future blog I guess.

Dogs, Dookie, and Pubics

The mixtape is rounded out by crank calls and Indian accents. While not the greatest highlights of the group’s abilities, the sketches do provide moderation and range. In fact, at the risk of contradiction, the first prank may provide the C.D.’s collection’s largest reactions and loudest laughs. Larrell gets his Jerky Boys on in a phone call to an undisclosed fried chicken restaurant chain claiming pubic hair in his mashed potatoes. The skit spirals out of control like “Alice in Dixieland” with Larrell playing “The Mad Hooder”. In one burst of anguish Larrell screams, “A nigger killed my mother!” with such gusto that one could imagine the origin of a racist superhero (The Inkredible Klansman perhaps). Depending on who you are that’s either hilarious or horrifying, my paradigm rests on the former.

The mixtape has fluctuating quality. Some songs resolutions and bit rates are lower than others. Likewise certain topics seem oversaturated. For instance, the songs “Go Precious” and “Addicted to Food” are both odes to overweight girls. Arguably “Addicted to Food” is a reprise of “Go Precious”, containing the same lyrical content towards the end of the song. This isn’t necessarily a problem besides the fact they’re only a song away from each other on the set list. And some songs, like “Becky”, lack the same Abraham Linkin flair for winking and nudging expressed in instant classics like “Ross” and “Baby By Me”. The song is fun and laughs are continually had but fails in the pursuit of the group’s mission statement: to emancipate minds.

Criticisms aside, the mixtape is still amazing. The talent featured is immense and glaring. I deeply cherish supporting artists like Will Hatcher and Larrell Tyler, and I’m still mad that my friend lost my CD to his ex-girlfriend.

Abraham Linkin. Bitch What Ya Thinkin. Emancipating Minds from Mainstream Bullshit. 2009-2010.

Thank You For Reading

-O.J.