I am proud to say I think I have just been blessed with one of the most key elements.
First, here’s the list of things that you need to accomplish if you want to be considered a San Francisco comic. (And yes, I made this list up, but I stand by it, although feel free to suggest other things.)
In NO particular order...
1. Open for Will Durst. (check)
2. Drive yourself --- or get driven... thanks to Jim Short. --- all over the hinterlands of California (and/or Nevada and/or Oregon) doing the San Francisco International (but not Intentional) Comedy Competition. (Sadly check. Cotati?)
3. See your name on the back of the Punch Line t-shirt several times. (check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check...)
4. Get bumped from a show that you were booked in advance to be on at Cobb’s. (check, check, check, and yes check! I even got bumped from a show on fucking New Year’s Eve. My wife is still mad at you, Joe Rogan.) When Cobb’s was a smaller club, number 4 used to be “Be House MC at Cobb’s but those days are goooooooooone.
5. Bomb at The Brainwash. / Have Tony Sparks tell you that he loves you. (check on both counts more times than I could ever remember.)
6. Perform at a benefit at The Punch Line. Bonus points if it is Troy’s YMCA benefit. You lose points if it is the REDACTED benefit or the REDACTED benefit. Both of them suck. They suck and the people who come out to support them suck. And that sucks, because you think I’d like to perform in front of REDACTED people.
7. Hear about how great the old days were from a comic who came before you. (At this point the old days could be the Holy City Zoo, Cobb’s in The Marina, The Walnut Creek Punch Line, The One World Cafe, or even (YIKES!) The Comedy College. (check. Doug Ferrari is good for this one if you need to get this one done soon. Actually, I’m getting pretty good at this one, too.)
8. Hear YOURSELF talk about how Comedy Day in The Park used to be a much bigger deal. (check)
9. Play whatever is the current hell gig of the time while you are still on your way up in the local scene. During my time it was Modesto. It probably still is. Let’s just say that you know a gig is bad when Vanilla Ice is playing the same place as you the week AFTER you are there.
10. Open for Dave Chappelle at The Punch Line. It sounds like an honor, until you see the rabid audience look at you like the parsley on top of the steak. (You can also get credit for this if you open for him at The New Parish in Oakland.)
11. Miss your opening set at The Sacramento Punch Line because TRAFFIC IS SO FREAKING BAD THAT WHAT SHOULD TAKE AN HOUR AND A HALF TAKES THREE HOURS SOMETIMES!!! WHY? WHY? WHY?
12A. Be in a city other than SF, and have a comic in that city give you some measure of respect when they find out that you are from San Francisco.
12B. Also, know that our audiences aren’t as smart as people outside of SF, think they are.
13. And finally, lucky 13, I just got it recently. One of the most important pieces of the San Francisco comic puzzle was found last week. See, last week, I performed on an AWESOME benefit for Glide Memorial Church (not that...) and I was on a show with Johnny Steele (not that... although he is apt to tell you about the old days.) and Selene Luna (not that...) and also on the show was Robin Williams (not even that... at least not quite...) The "IT" is that Robin watched my set ANNNNNND thought I was funny. And he shared some thoughts about me that he is allowing me to share with YOU!
"W. Kamau Bell is ferociously funny.” - Robin Williams
Yup, he said that about me. Pretty cool. Actually VERY cool. I have definitely seen him give the nod to other SF comedians: Jim Short, Colin Mahan... And certainly non SF comedians who have spent time in SF: Eddie Izzard and recently Jamie Kilstein.
But I feel like I have finally completed my fair share of the SF comedy scene Merit Badges. I’ve been bona fide funny by Mr. San Francisco Comedy, himself: Robin Williams. And yes, there are certainly more SF Comedy Scene Merit Badges than these out there. Hell, fifteen alone deal with weed, and 11 of those involve N’Gaio Bealum --- who people still confuse me with, but nothing is perfect. But this feels like a pretty good place to be at. Now, I got to nail down some LA and NYC Comedy Scene Merit Badges.