The Scene

By Gene Mahoney

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Hayward modern rock/alternative band Red Horizon have been touring the state. For info visit myspace.com/redhorizon.

This just in from PunkNews.org: Jello Biafra has announced plans to release a new spoken word album sometime this year. And here’s one of the user comments about that from the same site: Oh really?? Great! A new FDA endorsed sleep aid medication!

I got caught making an illegal left hand turn in Palo Alto recently so I had to go to traffic school, but it turned out to be the most fun I’ve had in a while. (That shows you just how boring my life is.) Seriously, though, this was comedy traffic school. Real comedy from a real comedian, Rocky Cologne. (If you’re reading the San Mateo or Silicon Valley edition of the Herald you may have noticed that I talked him into taking out an ad, but I’m still sincere about this.) Does Rocky have any thoughts on why San Francisco was the stand-up comedy capital of America back in the ‘80s (remember Alex Bennett on Live 105?) and why it isn’t anymore? He replied:

In my opinion, I think the comedy scene here in the Bay Area, and really all over the U.S., in the late 80’s and early 90’s got completely watered down.

The comedy explosion at that time became such that everyone was doing comedy. People who shouldn’t have really been onstage to begin with. It’s like rap now. Everyone thinks they’re a rapper or wants to be a rapper. The same thing with comedy at that time. There used to be 25 comedy clubs/bars doing comedy in the Bay Area alone. After awhile paying customers stopped spending their money to see mediocre talent. Next thing you know, clubs started closing for lack of business. Now there are only like a handful of clubs in the Bay Area. The “real, true” comedians lasted and the less talented disappeared like Jimmy Hoffa.  

Powerhouse comedy clubs in San Francisco such as the Punchline and Cobbs, as well as the Improv in San Jose are still around ‘cause they didn’t just hire anyone. They hired “real talent”. When you go to those places you get what you pay for.

It’s a guarantee you’re going to have a great time. During the comedy boom in the early 80’s/90’s if you walked into a place that had a “comedy night” you weren’t sure what you were getting.

I remember playing in Boise, Idaho with this gorgeous woman, total knockout, who was headlining. She played the keyboard and told jokes that weren’t  “set up” correctly, no punch whatsoever. People just stared at her, like she had a set of toes growing out of her forehead. Didn’t get one laugh through the whole 45 minute set. Then to top it off when she told her “jokes”, she would hit the keys on the keyboard, like a rim shot. It was a complete mess. How she got to headline or be on stage is totally beyond me. She had to be either “shtupping” the owner, or her Pops owned the joint. So essentially these people paid $10 to get in and dropped another $40 on drinks and they just stared at a gorgeous girl. You could go to the Hanky Panky Nightclub and get more bang for your buck.

John Cantu, a real popular and well known comedy coach in San Francisco, and a legend who recently died of cancer, once told me, “No matter what you do in life, if your talented, eventually the cream rises and everything else fades away”.

Visit Rocky at ijoke4u.com.

Folk singer/activist Deborah Crooks is back in San Francisco and performs August 5th at Fabuloid (with Back40 and others) and August 20th at Caffe Trieste (with Genevieve). Info at deborahcrooks.com.

Cornerstone Theater Company presents LETHE, a world premiere play which runs for three performances (August 3, 4, and 5) at the University of San Francisco’s Presentation Theater. It’s being presented as part of the 2006 Cornerstone Institute, in partnership with the Performing Arts and Social Justice Program at the University of San Francisco.

Whenever I hear the words “social” and “justice” put together, I run screaming. But if you want to check it out the web site is cornerstonetheater.org.

Barrett Martin, former drummer for 90s grunge band the Screaming Trees, has a world jazz CD out titled Earthspeaker. Check out fasthorserecordings.com.

Austin, Texas-based soul/funk horn band Mingo Fishtrap have a new CD out titled Yesterday. Mingofishtrap.com.

Duluth, Minnesota-based bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles have a new CD out titled Live at Luce. According to their press kit, the group doesn’t fit into the traditional bluegrass scene for three reasons: They don’t wear suits, they use more than one microphone, and they sit down when they play. Actually, this CD really cooks. I’ve spent my life in New York and San Francisco so I’m not very familiar with bluegrass. I thought it was just popular in the South. But man, these guys from way up near the Canadian border sure deliver the goods. I highly recommend this. Thanks to San Francisco’s Elbo Room for sending it. Check out Trampledbyturtles.com.

The 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, “the World’s Most Psychotic Asian American Comedy Troupe” have a DVD coming out on August 25th. Visit 18mmw.com for more info.

Applications are available to artists interested in showing and selling their work at the Fifth Annual Indian Wells Arts Festival. This outdoor judged and juried art show will be held March 30, 31, and April 1, 2007 on the grass plaza of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, located in Indian Wells, a Southern California Palm Springs/Desert Resorts community. Visit Dianne Funk Enterprises at iwaf.net.

We are Scientists sent their CD With Love and Squalor, along with advice on how to announce it: The (laudatory adjective) debut album featuring the (overblown superlative) single “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt”. Visit wearescientists.com.

Ian Copeland

This is a slimmer-than-usual issue, so I didn’t have room to give a big tribute to a great guy (and a friend of mine) who recently passed away. His name was Ian Copeland and he was the booking agent greatly responsible for the success of his brother Stewart’s band The Police, as well as numerous other late seventies/early eighties new wave acts. It’s been driving me nuts that I can’t locate this story he emailed a year or so ago about how he was flying his plane from LA to San Francisco and he ran out of gas over San Luis Obispo. You have to read that. Make sure you get a copy of his lauded autobiography, Wild Thing. We miss you, Ian. The World’s not the same without you.###

All contents © 2006 by Gene Mahoney