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.

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: 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

My Beloved San Francisco

SOMA

Hello, Friends!

I am pleased to report that we are happily settled in the Bay Area of California.  At last, the sensation of finding home is mine.  The City and I were immediately in love, then I slipped in vomit on the street.  Now I’m playing for keeps.

San Francisco immediately spoiled me with invitations to appear on Full Disclosure with Eric Barry on FCC Free Radio (available on iTunes, listener discretion advised), and again doing stand up on The Eric Show at Milk Bar.  It feels fantastic to be back on stage, especially in a town so liberal with open microphones.

Speaking of microphones, my love of radio has gone off the deep end.  I am learning the trade of voice over in hopes of living out my son’s request that I get a job as an Adventure Time princess.  In the meantime, we have a professional studio at home — you may expect more Crisman Richards enhanced essays in the coming weeks.  We went to see a Prairie Home Companion live at the War Memorial Opera House, further igniting my passion for storytelling.  Watching Garrison Keillor flit about his circus Americana was inspiring beyond measure.  The wheels are turning for the shows we will soon bring to you.

Until then, I have sold my soul to the volunteer corps of SF SketchFest.  I will report back from my enviable foxhole in the comedy trenches, where I will work my fingers to the bone and laugh myself to sleep.

Stay tuned!

 

Interview with Jesse Thorn

Jesse Thorn

Photo by Noe Montes

Today is #MaxFunDay in podcast land, and we are celebrating with this extra-special interview with Maximum Fun creator, Jesse Thorn.  The San Francisco native has carved out a delightful niche of pop culture and unbridled creativity — from podcasts, to blogging, and a summer camp for grown-ups — Maximum Fun delivers.  They’re listener supported: listen and support here.  
How did growing up in San Francisco shape your comic sensibility?
I think that people think San Francisco is a very politically correct place, and it is, but usually in the good way. People can tell if you’re respectful of other people, and if you are, you can really do anything. We got to be peripherally part of the amazing stand-up scene there – folks like Al Madrigal and W. Kamau Bell and Brent Weinbach and Jasper Redd – and I also idolized the SF-based sketch group Culture Clash as a kid. They were (and are) amazingly funny, and also lived in my neighborhood. That meant a lot to me.
What drew you to radio?
It’s cheap and easy to manage, logistically. I loved This American Life as a teenager, and have always loved public radio. I grew up listening to baseball on the radio all the time. When I tried it, it felt right.
Where do you go for a laugh in the Bay Area?
Real answer: We just got back from the San Francisco Comedy & Burrito Festival, and I used to work at SF Sketchfest, and both of those are totally amazing operations. And the Punchline and Cobb’s are as good as mainstream comedy clubs get.Fake answer: Berkeley! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Where should comics new to the Bay go to earn their stripes?
Get your ass to an open mic and meet some other comics. Do as many sets as you can and get good. That’s pretty much all there is to it, from what I understand.
What is your favorite podcast (outside the MaxFun Universe)?
99% Invisible, a show about design by Roman Mars. And Never Not Funny. (I know, that’s two, sue me.)
What is your research process in preparing for an interview?
I watch or listen to or read all of the person’s stuff. Then I read all the articles and especially interviews with them I can find. Then I sort of let it marinate. Usually they suggest things I wonder about, and I try to note that when it happens.
How do your listeners inspire you?
Sensually.
What is the driving force behind MaxFunCon?
We wanted to find a way to bring our community together physically, and reinforce the values we have – basically making stuff and laughing. At first we were going to do a more con-like con, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that good, and then when someone at UCLA suggested the Lake Arrowhead conference center, I knew immediately what it was. Summer camp for grown-ups.
How did Prank the Dean come into existence?
Jordan (Morris) and I invited the brilliant, amazing sketch group Kasper Hauser on our show when we were in college, and they asked us if we had a sketch group. Jordan told them yes (we didn’t), and they offered to book us a show. So we formed a sketch group and did the show. And it was great. We had a great run – lots of festivals around the country, lots of local stuff. It was a blast.
What’s it like to have Marc Maron as your podcast baby?
Marc’s so gracious, it’s been wonderful. He probably gives me more credit than I deserve, because it feeds his origin myth of how incompetent he was. The truth is his producer is a brilliant guy, and Marc is a brilliant guy, and I just helped Marc set up his mics.

Special thanks to Jesse Thorn for inspiration and quick response emailing!