Keeping Santa Cruz funny
You might think that Santa Cruz is off the beaten-track for humor—located on the outermost spoke of the Bay Area comedy hub—but you would be mistaken. For 30 years the Crow’s Nest, on East Cliff Drive in the Santa Cruz harbor, has been presenting four comics on Sunday nights to a mostly sold-out crowd—which means Santa Cruz has one of the longest running comedy rooms in all of California. Locals and tourists jam pack the upstairs area and through the din, clamor and, at times, extremely rowdy environment, road weary stand-up comics and newbies attempt to tickle strangers’ funny bones.
For the last two weekends at the Crow’s Nest, Sept. 19 and 26, the final preliminary rounds for the 35th Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition took place. Thirty comics from around the globe (hence the competition’s mascot—Globie the globe) have been jockeying for position against each other and galloping towards the finish line. With past winners including Dane Cook, Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres and that guy from Reno 911—it’s one of the most desired competitions for stand–up comics and also one of the most nerve-wracking.
Bringing all of this funny business to Santa Cruz is Jonathan Fox, founder of the SF International Comedy Competition and the man behind booking the Crow’s Nest (and originally The Albatross) for a third of a century. Fox might well be best known for starting one of the most famous comedy clubs in America—the SF Punchline in 1978. He’s a one-of-a-kind trendsetter with a sharp wit and volumes of stories who is responsible for keeping Santa Cruz funny.
On Sunday, Sept. 26, the comics congregated nervously outside the Crow’s Nest, smoking, joking and sweating bullets as the room upstairs filled with a loud, large unruly crowd. Unbeknownst to me or the audience, a special guest had arrived to be the MC.
From appearing on the Daily Show to Saturday Night Live, A. Whitney Brown has been a big player on a big stage, so I was pretty surprised that he was in our little beach town to host the evening. As previously noted, while the audience was enthusiastic for the string of new contestants, they were not so kind to Mr. Brown. I must interject that I had seen Brown perform the week before at the illustrious free Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park—and amidst many heavy hitters, including Sir Robin Williams, Brown’s voice was strong.
All-in-all, this year’s competition is thick with talent and a breakaway star may be waiting to be born. The competition moves around Northern and Central California with the closest next round set for Oct. 3 in Half Moon Bay, and Oct. 5 at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. Ticket prices average $20 to 25 and are well worth the opportunity to catch some seriously funny people.
Follow the competition online at http://sanfranciscocomedycompetition.com. For more information about the Crow’s Nest, go to http://www.crowsnest-santacruz.com.