I’m Your Lobster

Gilda Doll

Being a part of the San Francisco sketch comedy community is an electrifying experience. Joyous energy surges through laughter. We’re getting better by the year.

I recently had the honour of appearing on Killing My Lobster‘s sensational podcast, The Alphabet. You can hear me on Episode B as multiple, well-written, perfectly-edited characters. I feel like Gilda Radner in her Lampoon’s Radio Hour Days. J’adore KML.

Come see Killing My Lobster live at SF Sketchfest on Tuesday, January 27th. The Lobsters are crushing it with stylish, witty pincers.

Of course, I’ll be flitting about Sketchfest again this year with enthusiastic abandon. Come see a show or three. The lineup is absolutely to die for.

xoxo
Your Friendly Giggle Wonk

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Mark Twain’s Lasting Message to San Francisco.

Mark Twain came to San Francisco to "be a butterfly."

Mark Twain came to San Francisco to “be a butterfly.”

I was on the tail end of two homeless years when I tattooed Mark Twain across the inside of my arm. I temporarily became another casualty of capitalism, made well-aware of my corporate worth and relegated to the service industry where I could only earn $2.13 an hour slinging beer. Though the economy no longer recognized my intrinsic value, I knuckled down and worked smarter than ever before. I would clock in as many hours as I could get and spend every other waking moment scratching my way out of hell with my pencil. It was the dawn of my prolific Thirties.

I wrote my way home to San Francisco, the same city where Samuel Clements spent two painfully broke years subsequently becoming Mark Twain. “All things that go to make life happy, are present in San Francisco to-day, just as they are all days in the year,” Mark Twain wrote shortly after moving to the city in May 1864. While I thankfully have stabilized my way to the coveted middle-class bracket, there are approximately 7,350 homeless souls in San Francisco and another estimated 633,782 across this willfully-blind nation of ours. During my rooftop-challenged months, I was fortunate enough to have a carousel of hospitable couches to sleep on and only had to spend a couple of cold nights in my mini-van.

As I read Ben Tarnoff’s new book, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, I am reminded of how the dark nights illuminated the world to me and forever altered my empathic perspective. Mark Twain circulated city hotels until his pockets were emptied, scraping together a meager living as a freelance writer during San Francisco’s post-civil war literary boom, then later chronicling his Bohemian mis-adventures in his book Roughing It. As Tarnoff details, the Bohemians “shared a single purpose: to wage all-out war on mediocrity, materialism, and the middlebrow.” In America, “Bohemian” was once referred to a working writer. 19th Century San Francisco sustained more professional scribblers in proportion to its total population than any other American city, and gave writers plenty of opportunities to ply their trade. San Francisco provides a steady stream of suitable material for any artist. Creativity saved my sanity and now I am beginning to understand the transformative power of storytelling. In moments of despair, head in hand, I see the words of Mark Twain eternally imprinted beneath my skin: “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Like Twain, I mine my misfortunes for material, and play them for laughs. What would he have to say about the sad state of affairs in our Beloved San Francisco today?

Mark Twain wrote “that while New Yorkers are burdened with banks and drifts of snow, Californians are burdened with banks and drifts of flowers, if they only keep their hands off and let them grow.” Twain reveled in the blend of Old and New World culture blooming in California and understood firsthand that the West offered a promising path forward for himself personally, and on a larger scope, for the war-torn nation ripped brutally along the Mason-Dixon line. Alternatively, Twain reflected the cultural divide between East and West. San Francisco deepened Mark Twain. Daily journalism gave him a swift education in this cosmopolitan social world, and plenty to stir his moral outrage. He met crooked officials and lazy, brutal cops, and watched society reward the strong and the shameless. As such, his work at The Californian marked a new stage in the evolution of the literary West. If Mark Twain had given up in the depths of 1864, history would have quickly forgotten him along with the other minor-league wits who enlivened the era’s newspapers. But Mark Twain stayed in San Francisco and more importantly, he kept writing. Tarnoff notes “the city humbled him often. It pushed him to the brink of bankruptcy and suicide, and inspired moments of difficult soul-searching. But in the process he grew more profound, more perceptive. His satire became more socially astute. His humor developed a lacerating moral edge.” We have much to learn from his immortal words, and even more from emulating his active creativity in these dire times. Pick up your pen.

As Twain boldly took on the Establishment, the moral dimension of his work began to mature. He told small, funny lies meant to illuminate large, unfunny ones. Fictions in pursuit of the truth enabled Twain to bridge the gap between how America saw itself and what it actually looked like. Twain hated hypocrites, snobs, and bullies. He would be the first to throw a rock at the Google Bus. Tarnoff explains the longer Mark Twain spent in San Francisco, the shrewder his analysis became. He criticized not just people but institutions; not just isolated cases of bad behavior but broader patterns of injustice. Twain gave voice to the conscience of the individual against the crowd. Twain was mischievous as ever, San Francisco gave him a discerning edge. At the end of Twain’s two year residency in San Francisco, he concluded with a sincere farewell lecture to the city he loved. He praised our generosity, our ‘good-fellowship.’ The country he once knew had become an ‘unknown land,’ wasted by war, dotted with premature graves. Channeling the rhetoric of legions of local boosters, Twain waxed lyrical about California’s prospects. “She stands in the center of the grand highway of nations,” he declared, adding “[s]he stands midway between the Old World and the New, and both shall pay her tribute. Has any other State so brilliant a future? Has any other city a future like San Francisco?” That frontier, anti-Establishment spirit still cries out from the streets. If you listen carefully, you can still hear Mark Twain’s echo for justice. Raise your voice, San Francisco.

Jazz Bear Nest

Jazz Bear Nest

Comedian Keith Lowell Jensen and Crisman Richards discuss atheism, jazz, and multiple arrests. Featuring music by Snarky Puppy (courtesy of Ropeadope Records).

Listen to episode: http://bit.ly/1cCpj4Z

See Keith‘s jazz/comedy experiment, Session at Punchline SF on May 7th.

Produced by Crisman Richards. Theme Music, Engineering, and photography by Graham Richards.

The Smartest Conversation in the World

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Sensai Greg Proops and I sat down at the Punchline in San Francisco before he recorded the Buzzers episode of his Smartest Man in the World podcast — imagine my delight when he quotes me on the air. I prepared three years for this interview. Notice how I don’t so much as look at my carefully constructed question cards. Here we bond over old radio, Southern oppression, and then casually debunk Christianity.

Read my essay, The Gospel of Greg Proops.

Stay tuned to Laughspin.com for more fantastic conversations betwixt yours truly and the intellectual voices of comedy.

Killing My Lobster

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Discussing sketch, satire, and Winter Follies with San Francisco sketch group Killing My Lobster’s Head Writer Ken Grobe and Managing Director Claire Slattery.

Tweet @CrismanRichards your favorite holiday coping mechanism using the hashtag #LobsterFestivus for a chance to win two free tickets to KML’s Winter Follies, December 12-15 at Z Below in San Francisco.

For $15 tickets, use the discount code CRISMAN at killingmylobster.com.

Produced by Crisman Richards. Theme music and Engineering by Graham Richards (BMI). Music by G Koop & O-man (RM Moods & Colors, BMI) with guest appearances by Lauren Avery, Dave Richards, and Foreign Legion.

Download this episode.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Add us to your Stitcher Favorites Playlist.

Download G Koop & O-man Mixtape.

The Committee

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Celebrating activism through improvisation and the secret history of American comedy with The Committee documentarian, Jamie Wright (thecommitteemovie.com).  Produced by Crisman Richards.  Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards.  Music by G Koop & O-man featuring Markese from the East and Willie Joe.

Direct Download.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Add us to your Stitcher Favorites Playlist.

Download G Koop & O-man Mixtape.

Want to grease the wheels on our mini-van?  Check out our IndieGoGo campaign for jingles, essay collections, merchandise, and production credits.  We don’t need Hollywood.  We need you.

The Crisman Show Tiny Documentary (NSFW)

Presenting four years of work in under 14 minutes. The story of our indie variety show.

Directed by Graham Richards. Written by Crisman Richards. Music by Graham Richards with G Koop & O-man. Animated by Grant Pennington.

Thanks to all of you out in the aether, laughing along or at the very least, listening in a silent panic.

Fascination of Plants

Dr Rajnish Khanna.  Photograph by Graham Richards.

Dr Rajnish Khanna and Sarah Crisman. Photograph by Graham Richards.

Art and science collide as Dr Rajnish Khanna joins us on the program to discuss the International Fascination of Plants Day celebration in Livermore, California (May 18, 2013).

Music by G Koop and O-man.  Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards.

Direct Download.

Subscribe on iTunes.

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Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Crisman Show Podcast: Petionnaire

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We’ve evolved to a properly written program.  Inspired by these new surroundings and my voracious news-addiction, I am putting my writing chops to the test to bring you a fresh, thoughtful program every week.  Graham is by my side with G Koop & O-man providing musical accompaniment to rival The Roots.  As always, I promise to make every episode better than the last.  Thank you for listening.  Here is this week’s audio essay for your eyeball reading pleasure.

 

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Nerd Lady Awry: SF Sketchfest 2013

Every laugh lead to this moment.  For 12 years, the deepest nerds in the comedy industry have gathered in San Francisco for the mother of comedy festivals, SF Sketchfest — a triumph of talent and endearing crowds standing in applause for days on end.  Three weeks into my new life in the promised land, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a troupe of enthusiastic volunteers, smiling maniacally as Kenneth on 30 Rock.  I just love comedy so much.

SF Sketchfest welcomes seasoned veterans and bright-eyed rubes like myself in a playful bond united by the joy of laughter — Pure laughter filling 26 venues across our Beloved San Francisco.  Between green room hospitality and directing fan traffic, my own laughter laced into a fraction of these programs.  I stepped into my element in service to my heroes.

My first assignment:  Drew Carey Presents The Midnight Show at Eureka Theater.  When given the chance I believe it important to communicate a champion’s influence over one’s life in the least sociopathic way possible.  I have personally thanked President Obama for inspiring me to great things and Stevie Wonder for existing.  Drew Carey is no exception.  When Drew Carey first appeared on Johnny Carson, his stand up set made me laugh until Orange Fanta came out my nose.  The other girls at the slumber party found this hilarious.  They weren’t even paying attention to the television.  I made them laugh because Drew Carey made me laugh.  In that moment I experienced the surprising cycle of being tickled and getting a laugh.  Simultaneous horror and delight.  I was hooked.  21 years later I stood over a box of empty beer bottles thanking Drew Carey for sparking me into life in comedy.  He thanked me earnestly and told me the toilet in the green room wasn’t flushing.

The California Academy of Sciences proved to be an overwhelming rush of energy as hundreds of Nerdists descended upon Golden Gate Park in a swirling mass of Tig enthusiasts and Proop Kittens.  I confess I find it a challenge keeping my shit together around Greg Proops.  His esoterism is as close to religion as I care venture.  Though we met last year in Hollywood, I still broke into a full-on, immediate ass sweat the moment he appeared vampire-like at my side.  Serendipitously, I was in the middle of a wildly animated discussion with SF Sketchfest founder, Janet Varney, when the Smartest Man in the World popped up out of nowhere.  When I told Janet my story, she said they built Sketchfest for me.  Our kindred passion and determination born of a deep commitment to the art of live comedy had lead us to this very moment.  It was this precise moment that Greg Proops materialized at my side.  Flop sweat.  Startling hug.  Comics, in general, are not a huggy-bunch.  But there I was enveloped in Greg Proops.  He remembered me from numerous fan Tweets, my email two days earlier, and excessive reminders detailing the first time we met.  Poor Mr Proops labored graciously under the tyranny of my affection as I stood in silent panic until he asked me the way to the Green Room.  Follow Janet, I said.

The remainder of my evening was a roving blur of jellyfish and happy fans attending podcast tapings and all star stand up sets in various corners of the world class museum.  I carried one other thank you note tucked into my lady business jacket.  A fart joke on fancy paper scrawled addressed to Chris Hardwick, the leader of the Nerdist world himself.  After fulfilling my volunteer responsibilities and wandering star-eyed through the aquarium, I caught his stand up set in the Piazza then nipped to the Green Room to say goodnight to my Lovely Lady Crush, Janet.  As I passed through the security checkpoint I saw Mr Hardwick in nearby conversation and immediately pretended to check my phone.  Really I was curving the alarming spike in my heart rate, wiping my clammy palms against my skirt and ironing out the fine stationery now subtly shaped by my breasts.  As he broke in my direction, I slipped right into his line of sight.

“I wrote you a fan letter.”  I said, presenting the ivory card in the least creepy way I could muster.

“You did?” He said with a satisfying amount of genuine surprise.

“Yes, well, your work has shaped my career; so, thanks.”

“I’m going to read the shit out of this!”

I introduced myself and took no more of his time.

“I’ll see you around.”  I said and fucked off into the night, thus marking myself as a wee blip on the Nerdist radar.

“Yes,” he said.  “I will see you around.”

Two days later I was at Cobb’s Comedy Club.  The next message to deliver was simple:  “Pete Holmes, you bring such joy to my life!”  That was it.  I will be happy to one day get lost in hours of bawdy enlightenment with the host of You Made It Weird — but not today.  Today, he must simply know he brings me joy, specifically.  Pete was my favorite 2012 discovery thanks to Comedy Central shows like TJ Miller’s Mash Up and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up.  The hours I spent listening to his podcast inspired my New Year Resolution: Be playful, be joyful.  I also meditate a lot more than I did before I became a bonafide Weirdo.  It works.  I am playful.  I am joyful.  And Pete Holmes gave me a hug.

Nothing short of Conan O’Brien himself could have improved my final night of Sketchfest.   Armed with coffee and a jar of fresh lavender from my “Calm the Fuck Down” garden, I returned to the Eureka to serve the current regime of my ultimate comedy dream job: Conan’s Writers.  Josh Comers and Laurie Kilmartin joined Write Now! with Jimmy Pardo — a panel game show hosted by gentleman responsible for warming up Conan’s studio audience and one of the most influential podcasts drifting through the ether.  Simply meeting Pardo and super producer Matt Belknap would have left me with enough revenge bliss to make my ex-boyfriend wild with a lifetime of professional jealousy (at least in my imagination).  Instead, I left elated.  I had not anticipated so much face time with Mr Pardo, nor did I shirk my responsibility at quick-witted banter.  Never Not Funny taught me how to handle party conversation — and boy, was our conversation a party!  His was the first podcast I followed in earnest.  I thanked them for teaching me the importance of Yes, And-ing in repartee.  I surprised myself.  I made them laugh.

The Crisman Show: Bay Area Blanket Fort

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We’re back!  Reporting from our new Blanket Fort studio in the East Bay of San Francisco, California.  Crisman and sidekick producer Graham Richards discuss SF Sketchfest, Nichols and May, and the importance of pestering public officials.

Written by Sarah Crisman
Original Music by Graham Richards (BMI) and G Koop & O-man (RM Moods, BMI).
Featuring Marc Stretch (“Bulletproof”); DB tha General and Indu$treet AV (“My Turn”).
Contact Rob@gkoop.com for licensing information.

For more mad beats, check GKoopandOman.com