It used to be that all you needed to launch a comedy revolution was a microphone and brick wall. Of course, that was back in the’80s when a stand-up renaissance swept small clubs across the nation. In the age of YouTube, comedians have new ways of building audiences but there’s a trend back to working live crowds in small rooms. Call it “artisanal comedy.”
Though that’s more laughable than funny, all the open mic nights presenting live comedy in Sonoma County must mean something.
As for the burgeoning Petaluma comedy scene, Jamison’s Roaring Donkey often features comics in its Blue Room on Wednesday nights and The Big Easy offers a standing evening of stand-up every Monday night. Helping book both rooms with comedic talent is Alex Cannon.
The Big Easy’s co-proprietor Roger Tschann spotted Cannon’s act at the Roaring Donkey and invited him to organize a regular programming at his own venue. Monday night, an otherwise quiet weekday for the bustling jazz club, is now Comedy Night – six weeks and running.
Petaluma Comedy Needs Petaluma Comedians
Many of the comedians who perform are culled from San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz, says Cannon, who himself is a fixture in Oakland’s downtown comedy scene after turns at Pixar and LucasArts before pivoting full-time into comedy two years ago. Cannon anticipates more locally-grown comics will eventually find the stage.
“You try to create a scene and also you can create stage time for comics too,” says Cannon who points out that, even in the relatively small North Bay, there are regional variations in what audiences find funny.
“It really takes a sensitivity to the audience and figuring out what they want specifically because all audiences in the North Bay are different. I mean you can go to Sebastopol and they won’t laugh,” says Cannon, wryly. “The North Bay is pretty diverse so it attracts a whole bunch of different people from different backgrounds you don’t really know what you’re dealing with in a certain sense. But at the same time, I feel like the challenge of doing comedy in the North Bay, and in general, is dialing yourself to what your room is that night.”
One recent evening, that meant performers had to contend with a restless crowd with a couple of drunk hecklers and booths full of chatty diners. The comedians were unfazed and dealt with both camps with searing aplomb. In short, don’t mess with comedians unless you want to be mercilessly embarrassed.
“They’re seasoned, they’ve done this and they know what to expect and they’re not intimidated,” Cannon says of his performers. “But I love Petaluma as a venue and as a place to do comedy because the downtown has such a vibrant level of nightlife now.”
Comedy Night resumes Monday, July 18, at The Big Easy, 128 American Alley, Petaluma. Full dinner menu is available from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. No cover. For more information, visit bigeasypetaluma.com.