Go See Some Comedy: Mission Position at The Punchline and More

This week, I want you to go to the Punchline. There are a handful of comedy clubs in the country that comedians talk about among themselves as among the best: Comedy Works in Denver, Acme in Minneapolis, the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Cap City in Austin, and the Punchline are usually the top of the list.

A lot of times, comedy clubs can be brainless hellholes where the comedy itself is a condiment for the “house special cosmo” or chicken fingers. If you live in a city with one of the best comedy clubs, you should go to that club.

For three years, the Mission Position has been producing great shows on Thursdays at Lost Weekend Video. Tonight, they relocate to the Punchline for a Very Special Show. Like everything in San Francisco comedy, people develop here until they either quit or launch to greater triumph or greater failure in LA or New York. All the Mission Position alumni come home for one night only. In addition to their current regular (excellent) crew of Kate Willett, Matt Lieb, Jessica Sele, and Torio van Grol, they also welcome back long-lost friends Matt Louv, Trevor Hill, and Casey Ley.

Here’s a taste of Casey Ley. (NSFW.)

On Wednesday, Ngaio Bealum headlines the Punchline. Ngaio is a San Francisco native who lives in Sacramento now. A lot of comics like weed and talk about it, but Ngaio is so funny that his pot humor is funny to people like me who do not and never have smoked it.

Here is a clip of Ngaio on the last show at the legendary Purple Onion in North Beach, before it closed in 2012. (I was also on this show.)

Listen to public radio-sounding versions of these recommendations on KALW 91.7FM every Tuesday at 4:45pm during All Things Considered, or archived online here, or by subscribing on Soundcloud.

Or come see me stand-upping every Saturday with all the cool kids on the greatest alternative comedy show in a video store, The Cynic Cave at Lost Weekend Video.

Whatever it is, go see some comedy.

Nato Green is a standup comedian, columnist in The San Francisco Examiner, and, according to his lifelong friends and family, a “civic treasure.”

[Photo: Mission Position]

Drinks & Laughs

Go See Some Comedy: Myq Kaplan at Cynic Cave and More

From time to time, a week comes to pass where everyone I would want to see live comes to town all at once. This is that week. Clear your calendar and follow my instructions to the letter or you will rue the day. Yes it’s a cavalcade of white dudes, but they’re so good they’ll give you hope for the redemption of an otherwise dying and irrelevant demographic.

First, Sean Patton is at the Punchline on Tuesday & Wednesday. He’s not there for the weekend, because Sean and I will be performing together on Friday in New Orleans for the Hell Yes Fest. Sean is a great comic, and his performance has so much energy and intensity and commitment that seeing him live is a whole other deal.

He’s from New Orleans originally, and helped rebuild the comedy scene there after Hurricane Katrina. As he said once, “if there is ever a time you’re gonna be a comedian, this is when you be a goddamn comedian.”

Then stay at the Punchline Thursday to Saturday to see Dana Gould. Dana is one of the greats. He started in Boston, lived in San Francisco for awhile, and wrote for the Simpsons. He’s one of those comics who makes me want to quit and/or work harder because he’s got it all going on: a point of view, intelligence, a prolific work ethic, darkness, stories, one-liners, characters, act-outs, absurd twists.

This year, Dana gave the keynote speech at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. Every comic I know was moved and inspired by this:

Also my friend Myq Kaplan is in town this week. On Thursday, he’s at Doc’s Lab and Friday at Cynic Cave. Myq is so funny and so smart. He has a blistering-pace of delivery with jokes nested in jokes nested in wordplay and bizarre ideas. I love to watch him and you should too:

On Sunday, Mike Lawrence is at The Independent. He just did my show Iron Comic at the Nerdist Showroom at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles and crushed it. He’s great.

Finally, wrap your week up back at Cynic Cave on Monday to see David Huntsberger. David is most known from the late Professor Blastoff Podcast he hosted with Tig Notaro and Kyle Dunnigan, but we’ve worked together a lot of times. Not a lot of people make science as funny as David:

To recap: Tuesday or Wednesday: Sean Patton. Thursday and Friday: Myq Kaplan. Saturday: Dana Gould (or Thursday or Friday when you’re not watching Kaplan). Sunday: Mike Lawrence. Monday: David Huntsberger.

After that, you can scale back your comedy watching for a few weeks. But this week, your time is spoken for, by dick jokes.

Nato Green is also a comedian who recommends comedy on KALW public radio, writes a column for the San Francisco Examiner, and performs regularly at the Cynic Cave.

[Photo: Anya Kaplan]

Bikes & Bikes & Bikes

Mayor Promises Veto of SF's Idaho Bicycle Stop Law, Putting its Future in Flux

It was good while it lasted. For a brief moment this past week, it seemed that the voices of reason might prevail over the all-too-common hysteria that frequently accompanies anything related to issues of cycling in San Francisco. But no, of course not. It was reported this morning by the San Francisco Chronicle that Mayor Lee has promised to veto an ordinance introduced last week by Supervisor John Avalos that would make ticketing cyclists who safely treat stop signs as yield signs the lowest priority for SFPD.

From the Chronicle:

Mayor Ed Lee has pledged to veto any such legislation, a preemptive strike against an ordinance Supervisor John Avalos introduced at the Board of Supervisors last week. It would permit bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign and ride through without stopping if they decide it is safe.

“I’m not willing to trade away safety for convenience, and any new law that reaches my desk has to enhance public safety, not create potential conflicts that can harm our residents,” Lee told The Chronicle.

Avalos was unavailable for comment, but he has said cyclists should follow the Golden Rule and argued that the proposed ordinance would not discourage officers from citing bicyclists who don’t slow down at stop signs.

On Tuesday, September 22nd Supervisor John Avalos introduced what is being called the “Bike Yield Law” to the Board of Supervisors. With the support of five other Supervisors, the legislation looked as if it would pass and become law.

At present, the six supervisors do not have the required eight votes to override a mayor’s veto.

The proposed “bike yield law” was loosely inspired by what is commonly called the “Idaho Stop,” which refers to the law in the state of Idaho that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

When reached for comment this morning Morgan Fitzgibbons, founder of community organization The Wigg Party (the organization behind last July’s “Wiggle Stop-In”), expressed frustration at the Mayor’s promised veto.

Once again, the Mayor fails to understand the basic facts of what’s on the table. This isn’t about trading safety for convenience, but simply making our streets more safe. It will create more predictable behavior at intersections and will allow the police to ticket the unsafe behavior of the small minority of cyclists who don’t properly yield the right of way—behavior that has nothing to do with whether they obeyed a stop sign that has always been designed specifically for the automobile.

There’s a reason the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee has unanimously adopted a resolution in support of this proposed law—it will make our streets safer. Period. Idaho saw a 14.5% reduction in collisions the year following their adoption of a similar law. Mayor Lee should listen to the pedestrian safety experts who know that this is about safety, not convenience.

When reached for comment last week, Fitzgibbons seemed hesitant to celebrate, and was by no means certain of the bill becoming law. Fitzgibbons told Uptown Almanac that The Wigg Party was “certainly excited but we’re not going to celebrate until it officially passes and is signed by Mayor Lee.”

It turns out his skepticism was well founded.

However, according to Fitzgibbons, with Supervisors Farrell, Tang, Cohen and Christensen not having officially announced a position on the proposal, supporters of the law may be able to garner the votes needed to override the Mayor’s veto after all.


Celebrate Bi Visibility Day Tonight at El Rio

Today is Bi Visibility Day, and the wonderful people at El Rio want to celebrate with you. They have an evening of live music, belly dance, burlesque, poetry, comedy, and spoken word planned. You know, a variety show. From the event page:

Join us from 6 till 9pm, on El Rio’s lovely back patio. Featuring live music from Nina Jo Smith and The Buds, beautiful moves by Isis Starr and Three Sisters Belly Dance, award-winning poetry and spoken word from Jan Steckel, Lani Ka’ahumanu, and Carol Queen, and comedy by Ginorma Desmond/Nick Leonard. Wonderful raffle prizes. Happy hour at the bar until 8pm. Food available from the Voodoo Van.

The event is a fundraiser for Bay Area Bisexual Network, and as such there is a requested donation at the door. However, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The fun starts at 6pm.

[Photo: Rebecca Olarte]

Drinks & Laughs

Go See Some Comedy: DJ Real at PianoFight and More

It’s New Venue Week for my comedy recommendations.

To record more comedians to play during my FSFSF segment on KALW 91.7 public radio, I’ve booked a bunch of my favorite local comics for a showcase at PianoFight this Wednesday, September 23. PianoFight is a new venue and a welcome addition to the scene. We’ll have standup from Kaseem Bentley, Karinda Dobbins, DJ Real, Mary Van Note, George Chen, Drew Platt, Irene Tu, and me. That’s a great show.

For a taste, here’s a clip of Karinda Dobbins:

This Friday, head to Doc’s Lab in the old Purple Onion space in North Beach for Picture This. Picture This is a show in LA that has traveled and migrated where comedians perform while animators and artists illustrate their routine on a screen behind them in real time.

Among the gang of great comedians, Picture This features Sean Keane. He’s in LA now, but he’ll always be the prodigal son of San Francisco comedy.

Also Doc’s has great cocktails and a great selection of bourbon.

You can listen to these recommendations on KALW 91.7 FM public radio during my segment FSFSF, which airs every Tuesday during All Things Considered. FSFSF shines on spotlight on great Bay Area comedians past and present.

Go see some comedy.

Nato Green is a comedian and writer who loves It’s-It’s and pork buns. Send gift certificates to @natogreen.

[Photo: PianoFight]

Wait What?

McCoppin Plaza Is Not For The Poor, and Will Be Fenced Off In A Bid to Keep Them Out

McCoppin Hub Plaza, the public space on Valencia just before Market Street, will be fenced off by the city in a bid to prevent the homeless from making use of the public resource. It seems that the homeless, who, lest we all forget, are guilty of the horrible sin of not having homes, were congregating in the plaza. And we can’t have that, can we? Especially in a spot like McCoppin Plaza, whose seemingly only good use was to provide a gathering space for some of the city’s less fortunate.

Mission Local reports:

Though it will likely take six months or more to put up the fences  – the designs have not yet been finalized – Supervisor Jane Kim said at a community meeting Tuesday night that her office had heard loud and clear from neighbors. While the city works to address its homelessness problem, she said, fencing the plaza makes sense to keep homeless people from loitering and littering there and vandals from causing damage. […]

Prospective plans include an eight-foot fence and a variety of gate configurations, with either swinging gates and a roll-up barrier, for the two wide slanted driveways. […]

Several neighbors had long wanted a fence, and were growing impatient with the fact that none had yet been erected.

Thankfully those wonderful people at city hall have heard the anguished cries of their (housed) constituents and rushed in to save us from the horrible specter of poor people hanging out.

And once that gate is closed, it’s likely to stay closed. Again, from Mission Local:

Unless new programming steps in, there’s a good chance McCoppin Hub will stand empty, and therefore fenced, most of the day. Events in public spaces tend to dwindle in the winter months, said [Robin Havens of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development]. 

Glad that’s been taken care of.

But how did we get here in the first place? McCoppin Plaza was previously just little old McCoppin cul-de-sac, and, according to SocketSite, was rezoned early last year with the goal of turning the space into “the mixed-use McCoppin Hub Plaza, with pads for food trucks, farmers markets, or other community events.” However, after the renovated plaza was unveiled, the much-hyped food trucks never showed up, and the homeless returned almost immediately. The space was then fenced off and padlocked in April of this year. 

Mission Local explained how (the lack of) food trucks failed to provide the necessary energy to transform the space:

Part of the vision for the plaza as a public space was to have food trucks from Off The Grid set up shop there like they used to on some weekends.  The trucks were so highly anticipated that Robin Havens, from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the design of the park was amended to better accommodate them.

But the food trucks aren’t showing up. Ken Rich, also from Haven’s office, said repeated requests for Off the Grid to send some trucks to McCoppin have been unsuccessful because the trucks can simply make more money at other locations.

If the new plaza isn’t perfectly suited for food trucks, maybe the city can spend more money to turn it into a space that is. I hear parking lots are popular.

[Photo: San Francisco Public Works via Mission Local]

Beers & Bullshit

Get Drunk with Tom Ammiano at The Roxie's Republican Debate Watch Party

Tonight is the second Republican presidential debate, and the Roxie is doing us all a favor by co-hosting a debate watch party with the League of Pissed Off Voters. If the last debate was any indication, tonight’s gathering of presidential hopefuls will make for entertaining television. With former San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano (of “kiss my gay ass!” fame) introducing the debate, and the Roxie making full use of its beer and wine license, it should be a lively evening.

From the event page:

With 17 Contenders, so far, 7 of which no one knows what to do with, the Republican Primary has turned into tawdry, top-rated, Reality TV from which it is impossible to turn away. […]

Tom Ammiano, LGBT rights activist, former member of the California State Assembly, and former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, sets the stage in a way that only a long-standing progressive politician with a background in stand up comedy could.

Come watch the fireworks while swilling beer and venting with your fellow pissed off voters.

The fun starts at 4:30pm, and you can buy your $10 tickets here.

[Photo: Thomas Hawk]

Local Laughs

Go See Some Comedy: Comedy Day at Sharon Meadow and More

This Sunday is Comedy Day at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park from noon to 5pm. Comedy Day has been running for forty years. When I was in high school, it was still in the Polo Fields and drew tens of thousands of people. Part of its legend was that Robin Williams was always the unannounced guest who closed the show.

Every year, I’d arrive early to get a good patch of lawn. The Chronicle, back when it still cared about local comedy, would print the schedule in the Pink Section. Watching five hours of comedy is a good way to check in on the zeitgeist. (“I guess the witness relocation program is a thing this year.”) When I saw someone new and awesome, I would note their name so I could go see them live at Cobbs or the Punchline or the Other Café.

Now that I have performed at Comedy Day, I’ve learned that performing outside under a beautiful San Francisco fog, for an audience of people who are lying down, is not the optimal conditions for the enjoyment of comedy. But it’s like the company picnic for our community, so we love it.

To see comedy indoors at night, as the #GoodLord intended, go the Punchline on Tuesday or Wednesday to catch Ryan Stout. Ryan was one of the hot kids of the local comedy scene when I first started. He wore a suit, which is a bold choice in this hoodie-jeans epoch we’re living through.

I’ve always loved Ryan’s standup. He manages to make jokes about appalling topics without being mean-spirited or insulting, because the jokes are completely logical:

On Thursday, head to Lost Weekend Video for the Mission Position. Mission Position goes down every Thursday, and is produced by a crew of killer local (for now) comics.

Or later that same night at Lost Weekend, check out Jesse Elias. Jesse rocketed out of the San Francisco scene in the last couple of years.

A few years ago he opened for me and people asked me afterwards, “Is he ok? Is he disabled? Does he have mental disorder of some sort?” Don’t be fooled. Jesse is unique and smart and hilarious.

You can listen to these recommendations on KALW 91.7 FM public radio during my segment FSFSF, which airs every Tuesday during All Things Considered. FSFSF shines on spotlight on great Bay Area comedians past and present.

On Wednesday, September 23, I’ve put together a showcase of my favorite Bay Area comedians at our newest comedy venue, Pianofight. KALW is taping it for future FSFSF segments. Plan ahead not to miss it.

Go see some comedy.

Nato Green is a comedian and writer and activist and dad and native and Jew and . Send grievances to @natogreen.

[Photo: duluoz cats]