After the first two nights of the finals, SFCC 37 is still anyone's game. Top contenders Mike Merryfield, Tony Baker, Dave Williamson, The Greg Wilson, and Prashanth Venkataramanujam will duke it out for three more nights to find out who takes the title this year.
The lineup for the finals surprised many of the participating comics and the producers by leaving out some of the expected heavy hitters and past champs. Venkataramanujam barely squeaked past his preliminary round, promoted to the semi-finals only when Kellye Howard had to drop out. He's following in the fateful footsteps of his good friend, San Francisco's Sammy Obeid, who made it all the way to the finals in 2010 after getting a lucky nudge in the prelims.
None of the top five has a national competition win in their credits, raising the stakes far above the $5,000 payout for this group. The competition was steep this year and the talent impressive all month. Each of the top five deserves a win, so these final nights should keep audiences both rolling with laughter and biting their nails in anticipation.
The week kicked off Tuesday night at the legendary Throckmorton theatre in Mill Valley. After the promise from producers that morning of a secret "special guest," Flight of the Conchords' Arj Barker made a surprise appearance to close out the show and offer a bit of encouragement to the competing comics. He wrapped up with, "These guys are all winners," an unoriginal sentiment, but one that very simply sums up this year's competition.
As in the earlier rounds, the comics are ranked from first to fifth place each night based on judges' scoring. The disparity between Tuesday's rank and Wednesday's leaves the title up in the air, but a winner will probably begin to surface more clearly after tonight's show in Sacramento.
Though a crowd or venue should never bear the blame for the outcome of a show, Wednesday's venue inevitably took its toll on some of the performers. Held at the Rossmoor Retirement Community in Walnut Creek for an audience almost entirely of residents, it was the only show of the entire competition that required "clean" comedy. Wisconsin's Mike Merryfield, who is bafflingly lovable to crowds even with a joke that includes a line like, "I'm tired of your stupid vaginas," came in first place Tuesday night at the Throckmorton after a strong week in the semi-finals, but was knocked to fourth at the retirement home. Chicago's Tony Baker, who has dominated throughout the competition, unsurprisingly continues to charm the audience and the judges, holding steady at second place both nights.
Don't miss how this one ends! Come out for the final shows of SFCC 37, and see these up-and-comers on their way up. Stay tuned to Awkward Silence next week for a special one-on-one interview with the champion.
San Francisco Comedy Competition Finals -- Upcoming Shows
Thursday, Oct 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Sacramento State University, Sacramento
Friday, Oct 5 at 8:30 p.m.
Victoria Theatre, San Francisco
Saturday, Oct 6 at 8 p.m. -- Final show and announcement of the winner!
Cache Creek Casino, Brooks
Full schedule and ticket information at sanfranciscocomedycompetition.com
Awkward Silence is a weekly column covering local stand-up comedy in San Francisco.