Smack dab in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, off route 101, lies a beautiful town called San Luis Obispo (SLO). It’s the kind of place that, as soon as you get there you start figuring out ways to stay forever. Maybe cash in on your 401K or see if the local bike shop is hiring. Visiting SLO is like sitting in first class, one taste and you dread going back to the stuffy coach cabin that is LA or SF. SLO somehow gets perfect weather. It’s not cold like SF, not a glorified desert like LA. In SLO the air is crisper, the birds sing sweeter, and people seem to smile a bit wider. So of course, it’s the perfect place to have a comedy festival.
Bring in some comics to celebrate the city while poking at the status quo. Bring in some comics to push the limits of debauchery. I started for team “Poke status quo.” I came off the bench for team “Celebrate.” Team “Debauchery” cut me but they thanked me profusely for trying out.
The SLO festival is a comic’s festival. A place for comics to convene and put on killer shows without worrying about their sitcom pitch. The only concern is making people laugh. It would be like a professional athlete being allowed to play the game he loves while getting a reprieve from interviewing and product photo shoots. SLO is our reprieve. The winner is the crowd. They get the pure uncut, with enough venues and comedic styles to tickle almost everyone’s fancy, minus the “Hollywood” factor since there’s little industry there to taint the proceedings. It’s like going dancing when hooking up is completely off the table. You really dance like no one is watching because, well, no one is watching.
Comedy for comedy’s sake. What a novel thought. Besides the festival taking place in a postcard the comic camaraderie was palpable. The LA comedy scene is amicable but not exactly supportive. The ever present perceived possibility of “instant” stardom makes it weird. Everyone is smiling while constantly keeping score of who’s in the lead. It’s hard to root for yourself without rooting against your would be competition.
The SLO comedy festival was a cease-fire from the weirdness. A “friendly”, if you will. The best part for me was when I was thrown up on a show I wasn’t booked on. The other comics began to call for me to grace the stage. I think I was the senior comic at the festival. If not by age then probably by comedy years and credits. My fellow comics chanted my name. People shouted out which of my bits they wanted to see. I was a greatest hits comedy karaoke machine. I was really just going to San Luis Obispo for some sunshine and r&r* and ended getting honored by my fellow comics. I kinda knew I had their respect it was warming to feel their admiration. Not a life time achievement award but I’ll take it. I’ll definitely take it.
I’ll save the story about getting propositioned in SLO by a guy in a white pick up truck for another blog. This one is about good vibrations.
Big thanks to Eric Shantz for running one of the best comedy festivals going.
* r&r: rest and relaxation
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