Interview: Bryant Hicks

Courting Comedy is proud to present its first interview; our subject is Bay Area comedian, Bryant Hicks. Hicks is a figurehead of the Be Funny 365 comedy collective based out of Oakland’s New Parish and an associate of Jabari Davis and Associates. He will be headlining this upcoming Friday (3/25. 10 PM. 18+) at the Historic Purple Onion (140 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA). Tickets are available: here.

Courting Comedy: Who came up with the name Be Funny 365?

Bryant Hicks: Be Funny was a name that Chris [Riggins] came up with. 365, that was from me and my crew being called 365 and about getting fucked up all year round. We took now to being funny all year round.

CC: You’re originally from San Diego right?

BH: I’m from all over. I was born in Sacramento… then we moved to Virginia…then we moved to England, then San Diego, then Oregon (Beaverton), then back to San Diego.

CC: What did all that moving do to you culturally?

BH: I think, where I’m at right now, it’s definitely helped me become who I am because I had to go into places and get people to like me from the giddy-up… There was one point I moved every year for three years.

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Product Review: Kevin Camia’s “Kindness”

“Kindness”, the stand-up comedy album by Kevin Camia, is Red Velvet Devil’s Food Cake. The humor is rich, dark, moist, sweet, satisfying and presented in a leveled, circular form. Even if every shameful thought while consuming the album is “I shouldn’t be doing this,” the audience is compelled to continue the gluttonous decadence all the way to the water closet. “Kindness” reveals the truth that everything we eat ultimately conveys: the world is shit. At least Kevin Camia allows you to laugh at that fact with his smooth, satirical tones.

Camia is a Bay Area comedian with a gentle shell enveloping a dark, frustrated core. He lulls the audience with comforting pats on the head before yanking their hair with a jolting punchline. Camia has mastered the art of turning everything horrifying and lewd into assured, absurd “kidding” that never takes away from his overall likeability. It’s the ultimate juggle of juxtaposition: the varying intensities of voice and substance.

“Kindness” marks a continual transition present in Camia’s career: escaping the horrid hills of empty employment while contending in the low rewards arena of stand-up comedy. The comic mines his past in anecdotes about grocery stories and high school counseling. He also delves into socially conscious self-awareness by highlighting the rise of neodouchebaggery and office racism. Camia is especially skilled at taking Asian stereotypes, recontextualizing them to make generalizations sensible or twisting them to reveal ugly truths.

The comedian also takes flight into chaotic cognitions, walking along a funny and odd stream of consciousness. The best example of this comedy style is his musings on having a temporary vagina; an in depth analysis (wink, wink) on the inherent pros, cons and Camia’s own reservations. One could imagine Kevin in a Charlie Kaufman film as he cries, “Get off me!” (Buy this album and “Synecdonche, New York” to understand what I mean).

Kevin Camia is self-defined as a San Francisco born, Santa Rosa raised, progressive Filipino-American vegetarian. In “Kindness”, these are all superseded by Camia’s identity as a comedian. He takes a classic comic standpoint: enjoying the comforts of life whilst curmudgeonly mocking the surrounding societal constructs. Camia doesn’t pander, nor omit any group as he takes aim at items he loves (quinoa), hates (intolerance) or is indifferent to (interracial dating). And just as he goes top speed on a straight forward, cleverly cranky point the comedian can make a right turn onto Creepy Blvd. or Strange Ln., which creates a versatile comedy experience.

The official album set concludes with a tender moment where Camia expresses his desire to marry his longtime girlfriend. It’s a charming finale filled with hallmark lampooning, “Unchained Melody”, and a punchline that would make Louis Sachar smile. With these last laughs, “Kindness” subversively lives up to its name.

Thank You for Reading

P.S. Shakira as you’ve never seen her before: Reading Courting Comedy in footie pajamas.

Comedian Highlight: Nina (Key of G)

The misunderstanding of Miss Understanding

Great, grand, gracious

Mind sharp, heart spacious

Truth holding defender

against the ignorant and racists

Nina from Alameda

An inspiration and a leader

Whose brain requires her to be a syllable repeater

Whose mouth becomes a heater

to roast ye hacky cheaters

Who mockingly repeat her

But surely can’t defeat her

As she speaks ether through the speakers

Changing the grey matter of all receivers

Turning unknowing to true believers

The miseducation of Miss Education

Truth be told, she would hold

Dreams of bounding boards since eleven years old

Martin, Radner, Pryor inspired

Nina to speak through wires

but internal fire met a world quite cold

And her special speech turned to fear

That kept her growth in stunted control

Her voice silent for years

til an epiphany told her need to be bold

And weave back breaking straws into comedy gold

In demand from Vegas to Sacramento

Her art to create, destiny to take hold

The misadventures of Miss Adventure

And now she stands bookended by bookers

Trying to book her or trying to “book” her

A minority within a minority within a minority

A fresh commodity for the majority

Quickly rising despising conformity

A crusader smuggling social justice in sex jokes

Satire in words spoke

of where she’s been and where she’s going

All the while enjoying

Sharing in the artform of Bruce and Carlin

The daring darling

Nina with two “N”s

Double birds til the end

For cocksuckers and friends

whilst in a key of “G”. 

Nina. Photo by. Imran G (no relation). 

Show Review: Alex Koll CD Release Party

Alex Koll is a long time staple of San Francisco Bay Area comedy. He performed “Boomtime” with Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach, co-produces “The Business” at the Dark Room Theater, won multiple regional air guitar championships, directs, hosts, and headlines while cultivating amazing, abstract absurdity. Recently Koll released his debut album, “Wizard Hello” on Rooftop Comedy’s label and on January 17, 2010, he threw party at the San Francisco Punchline to commemorate the milestone.

Emily Heller opened the show as well as commanded hosting duties. For the uniformed, Heller is a premier comic, Bay Area Laugh Leader finalist and resident Punchline performer. She warmed the crowd with confident self-degradation, well-placed wit, and casually cynical social commentary. She also started the night’s theme of discussing the San Francisco Giants by screaming expletives at the state of Texas. Heller created a soothing, sarcastic rhythm as she dissected bumper stickers and feminism recruiting folly all before a crescendo of comedy and compliments to Mr. Alex Koll.

Next performer: DJ Real. DJ Real is an intricate performance artist who blends props, acoustic musicianship, flashy dance moves and boombox background singers. The set included a number of songs off Real’s latest release, Personal Growth, as well as classics from his back catalog. Combating technical issues and performance gaffes (one of his fairies went rogue), DJ Real remained poised and endearing with his winning whimsy and careful corniness. The curly-haired virtuoso left the stage without his shoes but not before leaving an impression.

After a brief Heller-lude a bombastic baby faced man bounded the boards. Sean Keane brought the show’s second helping of stand-up comedy, a steaming dish of embarrassing stories and regional humor. Keane poked fun at adult and adolescent awkwardness in a fun, relatable manner. He also broke down the Giants in relationship to the City’s neighborhoods and took jabs at Oakland’s sports fans. The West Bay crowd was very receptive to Keane’s metered, polished, gabbing. The Raider fans shook their heads forlornly as they chuckled.

Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits proceeded to the penultimate performance position. The subversive, indie-folkish, duo of Dan Abbott and Corbett Radford, acoustically peddled catchy, Zappaesque, tunes dripping in irony. Most of the group’s songs boasted a dark subject manner, juxtaposed with jovial chords and cheerful harmonies. In the middle of their set Radford expressed sincere commendations to his long time friend, Alex Koll and his career accomplishments. Then, immediately thereafter, the band sprung into a rousing melodious tale of going postal at work. Both gestures were extremely heartfelt.

The man of the hour closed the show to conclude the night’s festivities. Alex Koll began with gratitude, thanking the audience before addressing the absence of his previously characteristic beard. The comedian’s routine not only reflected his physical change but also a stylistic shift as he performed new material excluded from his album. “Wizard Hello” is rife with surreal set ups and side swiping punchlines. This performance featured anecdotal material of Koll’s hell gigs, previous day jobs, and his Jewish ancestry. The bridge between the two Alex’s is Koll’s skilled wordplay and heavily detailed delivery. The show concluded with a hilarious tale of a baseball game in relation to a chubby childhood and insane summer crickets.

The term “release party” was a bit of a misnomer. There was no cake, few cone hats and absolutely no piñata. “Party” translated that night to an oddball, innovative, nerdy variety show featuring harmonious artists, best friends, and brilliant minds all residing in the house of Alex Koll.

Update: I should have wrote “… brilliant minds all residing in the Alex Kollection”.

Product Review: DJ REAL’s “Personal Growth”

This review, anxiously awaited by the people of the People’s Republic of China, is wholly inaccurate. The mere fact that it exists is a farce upon good talent and you should stop reading immediately. It is the psychobabblic drone of a large man with a silly head. It pains my metaphoric, metaphysical spine to know that you continue. May you suffer dearly for your insolence!

Welcome to the Courting Comedy review of the album “Personal Growth” by. DJ REAL.

A collection of clever compositions, released in the dreary year of two thousand and eight, Personal Growth serves as the most recent DJ REAL recording to date. All lyrics written, all songs arranged, all songs composed and all instruments played on all twenty tracks are by Mr. Nick Stargu. Nick Stargu is a frequent collaborator of DJ REAL and they share the same face. The album is available for streaming, digital and compact disk consumption HERE

Note: DJ REAL, by design, is not for everyone. If you fail to enjoy the work of DJ REAL there is nothing wrong with you. Personal Growth appeals to fans of whimsy, heartbreak, outcasts, puns; Sifl and Olly, Monty Python and Don Hertzfeldt are of similar comedic ilk. Make no mistakes, DJ REAL is 100% DJ REAL; kitschy for the sake of kitschy, more so humor songs than musical comedy. If you dislike stop-motion clay animation, read no further.

Personal Growth encapsulates DJ REAL’s style concisely: elaborately clever, humorously charming, determinately different and pervasive. It’s extremely difficult to pinpoint what gears and springs are at work in the production: the machinery is too interwoven. To focus entirely on the funny phrases and concepts does disservice to the broad, catchy instrumental themes. To make note of the secret synths overlooks DJ REAL’s ambitious on-stage performances.

DJ REAL crafts rich world with lyrical botany and musical gravity. He boxes them in copper cubes and provides a glance through a single, small porthole. Every song is a self contained, condensed idea with a specific musical genre as its cornerstone; each is vaguely familiar (usually for irony’s sake) but never plagiarized. A number of highlights emerge on Personal Growth: “Moustache”, “Agnus”, “Forsaken”, “Tiny Cheeseburger”, “Gettin’ Out at Two”; a strong balance of catchy, infectious, impressive, expressive, material. Uh oh, here comes the “Evil Paper Bag”.

The following portion of this review has been processed through the Evil Paper Bag. For those unfamiliar with the Evil Paper Bag, it’s a mythological bag that when good thing go in, bad things come out.

 

Original Artwork by: Dale Weiss

Personal Growth provides justice for the bullied, be adversity from tiny men in fingers or shampoo thieves. The angst of being an outcast continues post-educational-systems and Personal Growth is a stress reliever for quirk-inspired anxiety. It’s okay to be misunderstood.

The album also speaks for the unrequited romantics. Unattainable museum-on-Monday hearts that beg for attention spring traps on young DJ REAL. Hi-five-inspiring women infest the mind and create agony and destruction in thy soul. Mr. REAL can be the lighthearted lighthouse that can’t see any loving life on the face of the ocean; love is a friend of the frown, especially on the face of the ocean. At times hope springs from six strings like on “Gettin’ Out at Two.” Then, at times, giving up is the only option for the forsaken. In many ways Personal Growth is  about the duality of desire and seeming malicious dating damnation, all painted in masterful wordplay, ludicrous imagery and euphonic acrylics.

Please listen to the album. There’s a lot contained in DJ REAL’s Personal Growth and of the twenty tracks I’m sure you’ll find the one for you.

Favorite Things of Last Night: Bo Burnham

image

(Bo Burnham by. Dan Dion)

Last night instead of my typical open-mic festivities or even Tony Spark’s comedy class (which I’m sore that I missed) I went to see Bo Burnham. To give context, I know of Bo, have heard a few songs, knew of his popularity but my knowledge of his work is extremely limited. My friend Brandon Robinson is a big fan and sprung surprise tickets on me, so as an intrigued plus-1 I went along. 

The show happened at the Regency Ballroom on Van Ness. Also for the ride was another friend, Chris Erickson. It was good to see both Brandon and Chris because adulthood has decided that I see as little of my friends as possible. We’re all adults; early 20s. So when we walked into a ballroom filled with teenagers, all white and steaming with privilege, I’m sure we looked out of place. None the less we sat next to some bespeckled boppers and watched Bo. 

Bo is immediately impressive, extremely clever and challenging. His references are flying at a mile-a-minute and the air is filled with teenage lust mist that distracts from what’s going on stage. What’s crazy is that while he attracts a “heartthrob” crowd, his subject manner is extremely dense. Self-reference, self-conscious, world-conscious, subversive, up-lifting, down-talking, and all together uncompromising. It’s rare to see somebody who gets to do exactly what they want, and Bo is one of those few fortunate individuals. Check him out live, he thrives on stage. 

Room Review: Tin Reverbating Comedy (McGrath’s Pub)

Alameda (“Didn’t they shoot episodes of Scooby Doo here?” – Roman Leo)

Alameda has an interesting place in the Bay Area balance. Not quite Oakland, not quite Berkeley, not quite Orinda, not quite Richmond, it’s a rustic island of wood, steel, glass and street lights. With its well kept patios and eclectic collection of white people (and minorities who keep it real), Alameda is deceptive. What could this ghost-naval-island-town offer to the world at large besides a franchise of La Pinata, a community college, two adjacent dance studios, and creepy dilapidated buildings? Well, on Wednesday nights at McGrath’s Pub, the East Bay middle child offers comedy.

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Comedian Highlight: Chris Schiappacasse

Chris Schiappacasse is San Francisco Bay Area comedy personified: persistent, weathered, overlooked, underrated, unpredictable, unfiltered, endearing, revolting underdog. Chris garners immediate assumption and judgment. People discard him, discourage him and dismally view his constant presence. Pale skin and black clothes (so his dandruff shows), Chris is a reverse zebra. Overweight, fringed haircut and a hook nosed, Chris is Marlo Brando playing Julius Caesar. Reflective black aviator glasses, shining like fresh obsidian, hide steely-fierce dark eyes. His appearance is hard to decipher. Then Schiappacasse opens his mouth to unleash rusty-razor blade, grating pig-English glittering with chauvinism and aggression. This is also off-putting and alarming to the outside perspective. The one universal fear of most human beings is that of the unknown and when you look into the abyss, Chris Schiappacasse stares back.

Christopher Fernando Schiappacasse was born to Chilean aristocrats from a once royal family with many silver spoons. He breast-fed on a number of peasant girls until the age of seven when he had his first marijuana cigarette. It prompted an enjoyable nap.

Schiappacasse is a formidable figure in the Bay Area comedy scene. He’s hit a lot of stages, made a few friends, and made a few enemies. He’s been crippled, criticized and championed. He’s the comical equivalent of Daniel Johnston

and 2 Live Crew

combined together surgically. Alongside Vahe Hova, Chris co-hosts “Hanging Out With”, which continues to be the premier video series for the Bay Area comedy community.

Chris believes that comedy is war. He believes that every show is a boxing match between him and the audience. This holds true in the sense that Chris comes out George-Forman-clubbing regardless if the bludgeoning is deserved; be the audience polar bears or seals. Chris is out for blood (and Coca Cola from the bears).

By the age of ten, Chris had punched twelve homeless people in cold blood. He was well liked by the demon dogs of the Chilean underworld, but other wise, he was quite the hellion. A hellion with an ascot. He spent his time on picturesque beaches wondering of far away lands.

Inflated by delusions of grandeur, Chris throws his weight around. He’s been known to use seniority and support to justify absurd claims like the ownership of a 13-inch penis. If a young comic asks Chris for advice or criticism they’ll usually be greeted with such: “What about you? Nobody gives a fuck about you man. What about Chris? What about me man,” said the Bizarro Dangerfieldesque comedy bully.

Chris F. Schiappacasse is an avid listener. He once held a twenty-minute conversation with a former reformed woman of the clergy. Chris concluded the quaint conversation with the “c-word”… (cunnilingus)

Women typically hate Chris Schiappacasse. His act is crude, chauvinistic, racist, offensive and grotesque. Some nights it sounds like ear-rape in a whale’s stomach: the “p’s”, “c’s”, and “s’s” of “Schiappacasse reverberating loudly off the rib cage hall walls.

On holiday at the age of 25, Chris sailed the world on the S.S. Santa Cruise. There he met a beautiful Japanese woman holding an umbrella. They made love in the moonlight on a bed of cherry blossoms and pupusas

Men typically love Chris Schiappacasse (behind grimacing smiles). Chris represents the balls lost in emasculating relationships. Schiappacasse is an oddity in the politically correct Bay Area thunderdome: his machismo comes with no charm filter or cunning additives. Chris’ 13-inches of comedy hits with blunt force trauma and is swung with absolutely no mercy. Thusly males can live vicariously through the thrashing asshole that is Chris Schiappacasse who counters the charming assholes that bed women in bulk.

On a bamboo raft, Chris won a pistol duel. The opponent flipped into a school of piranhas.

On the train home it all melts away. With his sunglasses tucked in his shirt and nobody around, Chris becomes human. He goes back to Walnut Creek as a near-middle-aged man, a protagonist in an independent film directed by Larry Clark and written by Mike White that’s rife with comedy of errors. He walks home from BART still loving hip-hop and still feeling disjointed in the youth-obsessed culture that threatens to smother him. Very rarely does the more endearing Chris show up on stage, the down on his luck divorcee on disability: these are signs of weakness and Chris don’t need your pity man.

Tragedy befell Chris when his French bulldog insulted the Prince of Zimbabwe. Chris had to give up his dukedom that he won on the barge “The Lady Luck” and suffer exile to America

What Chris Schiappacasse does need is comedy. It’s frightening to imagine Chris without the warm bosom of the microphone. Strip away the persona, the filth and personal opinion and you’ll recognize that Chris is an undeniable funny being. All day he thinks of funny things to say. Every conversation is a set up for his punchline. Every ticket, every mile, every pair of sunglasses, every black Los Angeles Angels hat, every list, every thought, every ounce of Schiappacasse’s energy all goes into the comic cosmos. Look up at the comic cosmos where Groucho lights cigars on supernovas and Carlin tells seven dirty words to Taurus. Comedy is undeniable, unmistakable, inescapable and as Chris has once said: “It’s my life.”

Product Review: Kris Tinkle [Almost Awesome]

Kris Tinkle – Almost Awesome – Rooftop Comedy – 2009 – 24 Tracks

Kris Tinkle is a blistered-hand coal miner posing for a traveling photographer circa 1885: holding a shovel, head cocked to the side with a smirk on his grimy face. He’s firmly entrenched in his backbreaking, ball busting labor and doesn’t mind that his only reward is eating, drinking, smoking and fucking. He doesn’t want to change minds, he doesn’t want to swing his book-reading dick in your face; he merely wants to tell funny stories by the fire.

This would all describe Kris Tinkle had he been a migrant worker. Tinkle is comic and that’s close enough.

Almost Awesome, Kris Tinkle’s debut, is a largely anecdotal album covering his time as a substitute teacher, being a phone operator for the hearing impaired, former relationships, sex, drugs, and other mishaps. The spirit of the album is best conveyed by Kris’ allegory of the Special Olympics. According to Kris, the first week of training for the Special Olympics involves a rigorous amount of celebrating. After twirling through the air, regardless of the outcome, the special needs athlete (dubbed “Handies” by Tinkle) stand up and raise one fist (“I did it!”) Think Tommie Smith but with a helmet.

This image resonates with Tinkle’s comedy because it represents Tinkle’s proud depreciation. Kris Tinkle calls out every flaw, fluke, and flunk evident or prevalent, jostled in stories that start strong but end “meh” (on the grand scale of goodness). Kris Tinkle operates under the mantra: to name it is to claim it. Kris calling himself a caveman takes away from the power of the insult. Kris informing the audience of a lack of money or waning sexual prowess allows him to become grand. Kris understands that in the end it doesn’t really matter what you have, you will not be denied the human experience.

“See that story and a couple of other ones, I realize that most of my stories are almost awesome. Like they start off good but they end up shitty.”

My Favorite Track: (Dog with a Pierced Tongue) 

Kris Tinkle has a number of comedic constructs at his disposal as he talks of body-mod-dogs and porn practices. Aurally, he commands an unique register and cadence: a weird blend of medium rasp and strained accents dictates a rhythm peppered by “like”s, “um”s, and “dude”s. Analogies provide cover fire for granadesque, clever turns of phrase (like “speed trials” and “[assholes] turning pro”). Kris possesses an eye for audience temperament and enlists their natural reaction to continue the joke, tripping their sentimental hair-trigger to play with the strings like an energetic gato. He can also leave a “bookmark” in accordance to uber-depravity or a joke’s conclusion with a cascading laugh or a sidebar. The supreme weapon in Tinkle’s arsenal is his theatrics: accentuating bits with humorous dramatizations in silly voices. Only drawback to this practice is that some reenactments involve a visual element that is lost to the listener. I don’t know what a “Hurricane of Dicks” or Kris Tinkle dancing looks like but I wish I did. It’d aid in the understanding process. Comedy albums should have a Youtube link or a .gif file attached; code it in flash, make it an extra feature… (MARKETING!)

The release of Almost Awesome marks an interesting point in modern comedy. The album, released through a boutique comedy brand, is like an establishing shot on Mr. Stanton (aka Tinkle) and the rest is to be determined. Live stand-up comedy is a niche, specialty release and even more so if the comedian isn’t nationally known. It’s like 7-inch releases from local-unknown punk/hardcore bands because the proliferation of underground comedy albums cater to a small group of chuckle-heads and fellow comedians. That’s not a bad thing; it continues the recent influx of comedic audio that is charging up a movement. Such releases help present fresh and polished comedians to people outside of their region or tour schedule while adding an actual ware for the comedians to sell at shows. Almost Awesome serves that purpose: fun, vibrant, obscure comedy that you should check out.

Thank you for reading.

-OJ

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