One of San Francisco's biggest comedy fans is attempting to take the local comedy scene and elevate it to the level of profound. Ameen Belbahri, along with local comic, producer, and fellow "comedy nerd" Jeff Cleary, will put on the first annual San Francisco Comedy and Burrito Festival October 11-13 in the beloved Mission District.
"I knew I needed something to call my own if I were to turn this comedy thing into a career," Belbahri says of his jump from producing local shows to inventing this new festival. "I decided to go big and create my own festival."
The life of the San Francisco Comedy and Burrito Festival (SFCBF) began last spring with a modest Kickstarter campaign that raised thousands of dollars in just three days and ultimately surpassed its goal by more than $1,000.
The three-day festival promises more than 35 events that will showcase more than 100 comedians from around the country, including some of San Francisco's finest acts.
"It isn't hard to get comics to come here -- they love the city and love performing for its crowds," says Belbahri.
Those delicious burritos are certainly worth a cross-country flight too, some might argue. Though an exact definition remains disputed, the world-famous Mission burrito is generally made with a "steamed or grilled tortilla nearly bursting with rice, beans, salsa, meat, sour cream, and avocado tightly wrapped up in foil," the festival producers explained in a press release. They tout the tastiness of this simple treat, which restaurants around the world attempt to replicate.
Two of these sought-after super burritos will be included free, courtesy of local favorites Pancho Villa and El Toro, with tickets to the festival, which are on sale at the early bird special price of $55 until September 15. A burrito may not be the first thing you'd think to pair with a comedy show, but now that it's happening, they seem like an obvious match made in heaven.
"Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," Cleary says. "Everyone who hears the premise immediately and enthusiastically gets on board."
"San Francisco has a wonderful tradition of stand-up and a thriving scene," but needs more outlets, he explains. "Small independently run shows certainly help, but none of these shows have much visibility outside of the local comedy scene."
Before working on the festival, Belbahri produced the weekly SF Comedy Showcase at the Punch Line and volunteered with SF Sketchfest. Cleary has produced shows around the city and runs SF Standup, a resource for Bay Area comedians and fans.
Belbahri believes SFCBF will complement the long-running Sketchfest as well as the rest of the scene, rather than compete for patrons or talent. "I am a firm believer that anything that gets people out seeing comedy is good for all of us," he says.
SFCBF shows will take place at venues across the Mission District, featuring a lineup of local, national, new, and seasoned talent. Chelsea Lately comedians Guy Branum and Renee Gauthier, MadTV alumnus Matt Braunger, and local favorite Chris Garcia are among the highlights, along with Brendon Walsh, who will be recording his debut album for release on AST Records as part of the festival.
Festival passes are available through the SFCBF website.
Awkward Silence is a weekly column covering local stand-up comedy in San Francisco.