Santa Cruz native Joe Sib goes from one-man punk show to stand-up
Since growing up in Santa Cruz, Joe Sib has become something of a punk rock Renaissance man. He flirted with fame in the early ’90s with the L.A. band Wax. In 1994, he co-founded the indie label SideOneDummy, which became a massive success after signing Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello and the Gaslight Anthem. In 2010, he began touring the one-man show “California Calling,” about how skateboard culture and punk music changed his life as a teenager.
As the spoken word show evolved, he was getting so many laughs telling his stories on stage that not only did he think he could do stand-up comedy, he figured he already was.
Mark Flanagan, owner of the L.A. club Largo, set him straight: what he was doing was definitely not stand-up.
Fine, thought Sib. So one night at Largo, he got up and did a 15-20 minute comedy set.
“There you go,” Flanagan told him afterward. “That’s stand-up. It’s not good, but it’s stand-up.”
That was only a couple of years ago, but Sib has seen his comedy chops evolve immensely; it’s obvious even in the difference between his earliest comedy clips on YouTube, and his recent ones.
In that time, Sib—who will combine his newest passion with his Santa Cruz roots on Saturday, Aug. 2, when he performs a free show at the Santa Cruz Boardroom skate shop—has figured out how to play to his strengths.
“I’m not a joke writer, in the sense of the one-liner,” he says. “I was trying to write jokes like that, and it just wasn’t working.”
So he started getting back to what had made “California Calling” a success—the stories about his life. Much of his material comes straight out of his life as a father of two.
“It’s not made up,” says Sib. “The thing that I love is getting up there and talking about literally what’s happening in my life at that moment.”
What’s happening, basically, is that a fortysomething who grew up a teenage delinquent listening to Black Flag and the Clash has realized his very existence now forces him to sell out his anti-authoritarian punk ideals.
“Suddenly, I’m a father, and now I am the authority. I am the Man,” he says, with genuine bewilderment. “The irony of it is insane.”
It hasn’t always been an easy transition. He remembers arguing with his son, who had gotten into the habit of dismissing him by calling him “dude” all the time.
“I’m your father, treat me with respect!” Sib reprimanded him. “Don’t call me dude, bro!”
“I actually said that,” Sib admits.
His daughter has provided some great ironic material too, as when he stresses about all the new ways her generation might improve on the trouble his generation got into.
“I’m like, ‘What’s an emoji? What’s a shoe, a cake, a bat and a wink? What does that mean?’ If you’re a dad like me, you think that means party, sex, drugs.”
The biggest twist on his reality, though, is that “California Calling” was very much about growing up as a child of divorce, and it plugged into the feelings many ’80s teens had that their parents—or at the very least, their parents’ generation—had failed them. After having teens of his own, he can’t remember why he ever thought this was a thing.
“I’ve called my mom and dad and said ‘I don’t know how you guys did it, but I cannot thank you enough,’” he says. “‘I’m so grateful you didn’t strangle me.’”
Sib sees his stand-up career as part of a natural progression in his life. But he’s glad some things never change, and he loves coming back to Santa Cruz to perform.
“It’s such a recharge,” he says of being in Santa Cruz. “A piece of my heart is still there.”
He’s even going to hook up with some of his friends at his old stomping ground, the Scotts Valley Skate Park, the morning of the show.
“It’s going to be a full-on old man skate session,” he says.
Joe Sib performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Santa Cruz Boardroom, 825 41st Ave., Santa Cruz. The 16 and over show is free. There will be tacos.