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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

L.A. Sucks ... Well, Except for the L.A. Things S.F. Likes and Imitates

Posted By on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 2:00 PM

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San Francisco hates L.A., and L.A. has no idea. We up here in The Bay Area love to hate L.A. I've been in many shows when a comic has mentioned L.A. -- either being from there or going there -- and our people will inevitably deliver the S.F. coup de grace, "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSS!" Sometimes the "hiss" even shows up when a comic says they are moving to L.A. I always think this is hilarious. Given the fact that other than Mission burritos and being closer to Humboldt's No. 1 export, L.A. has waaaaaaaaaaaay more of what your average comic wants than S.F. (You know, that whole "chance at fame and/or fortune" thing.) And yet despite all this L.A. hate, L.A. loves San Francisco. Every time I'm down there, people get all dreamy eyed when I mention that I'm from S.F. This is clearly a one-way rivalry. Kinda like The Giants and The A's have going ... for the moment.

Despite all this, there are occasionally cool things going on in L.A. that S.F. will attempt to adopt and reconstitute. One of the biggest, coolest things that L.A. has done that we in the comedy community have tried to redux several times in recent years is Largo. Largo was a nightclub in L.A. that became home to a phenomenon that took off in L.A. in late '90s and still exists in many forms (including at Largo at The Coronet). It's called music and comedy.

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Sound simple? It's not. If you were in the cool people loop back in the '90s, you heard stories of these nights that featured musicians like Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, and Jon Brion, and comedians like Patton Oswalt, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Paul F. Tompkins, Brian Posehn, Greg Proops, Karen Killgariff, and Zach Galifinakis. I remember a tour that came up here to Bimbo's that featured Aimee Mann and Patton Oswalt. Apparently she sang songs and, in between, he told jokes. Sounds like a simple formula, but from what I've seen it is very difficult to capture that lightning in a recycled bottle. (Most of it requires you have comics and musicians of the caliber of Patton and Ms. Mann ... or at least some percentage of their caliber.)

I, myself, have been a part of several shows that tried this music and comedy format. But there are many questions that have to be answered in order to pull this off successfully. What exactly is the mix of music and comedians? Do you just go every other performer? Since the musicians have to set up, do they get more time than the comics? And is the crowd a music crowd or a comedy crowd? Which comic has to follow the folk singer's plaintive wailings about failed suicide attempts? And who fills the stage during the musicians' set-up time? A comedian? Not me. I don't want people distracted by drums getting dragged on and off stage while my precious words are being delivered from my soul.

Well, on Friday, Feb. 18, at 10 p.m., there's a show in San Francisco that has figured it all out. It's called Snob Theater.

When I reluctantly performed on it a few months ago, I quickly realized the "Snobs" know what they're doing. I don't know how they know, but the show --- and the flow of show between musicians and comedians -- is Tony the Tiger quality grrrrrrrrrrrreat! It doesn't really matter who's on the show, it's just a cool mix. The whole is greater than the sum of it's blah blah blah. You get it. It's like Voltron. (Although as far as the comics on the 18th, I do know that one is 14 years old, one half-Cuban, one all-lesbian, and another a regular old gay guy.) 

And since the show is in the Mission, afterwards you can go across the street and get one of them burritos. Last time I did the show it was a blast onstage and off stage. The only bad spot was a comic from L.A. who was supposed to do 10 minutes and instead did 30. But what can you expect? L.A. sucks!

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W. Kamau Bell

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