The first 18 months of the Alameda Comedy Club, a COVID whirlwind


Alameda Comedy Club founder / owner Patrick Ford describes the history of his fledgling club since early 2020 as a dizzying 18-month time lag.

The revolving door story unfolds according to the all too familiar and dismal COVID-19 timeline: “Originally, we planned to open in the spring of 2020, then it all came to a halt for a few months,” it begins. -he. “Then they allowed the outdoor dining, so with (work and life partner) Lori Theis and Eddie Brill – he worked with me on the club design – we brought in our architect to develop the outdoor patio.

Instead of serving mediocre bar fare like pizza and beer, Alameda Comedy Club patrons enjoy gourmet-level mac and cheese balls, garlic shrimp, brisket sliders, cold cuts and cheese boards, craft cocktails, local craft beers, fresh cookies or that gourmet Loaded Sweet Tots with bacon, green onions, jack cheese, sour cream and maple syrup. (photo courtesy of the Alameda Comedy Club)

“We built integrated walls with heating systems, added an outdoor sound system and organized outdoor shows for two months. Then we had to close in December 2020 due to the state imposed closure. We reopened the outdoor patio in February 2021. We brought propane heaters, ordered logo blankets, added hot toddies to the menu – all to make people feel right at home. People showed up with mittens and hats. They were ready.

Upcoming issues of the Alameda Comedy Club include a third visit September 24-25 by actress, screenwriter, radio host, author, YouTube presence and podcaster Monique Marvez, above. “She’s a great actress who tells stories and does a great job with a crowd. She asks questions that are not only fodder for specific cases, but collects information from people and weaves them into all the time, ”explains Patrick Ford, owner of the club. (photo courtesy of the Alameda Comedy Club)

In April, a year later than expected, the indoor venue finally opened at 50% capacity, with tables generously socially distanced. In June, the indoor capacity rose to 100 seats, or about two-thirds of the actual capacity. “Old-fashioned comedy clubs? You were sitting side by side, but we knew people weren’t ready for it, ”says Ford.

Today, with the delta variant of COVID on the rampage, Ford said, “We’ve reset the one-year schedule and moved everything outside.”

Reflecting recent policies of the Downtown Alameda Business Association and the City of San Francisco, the club (alamedacomedy.com) also requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within the past 72 hours.

“All performers, staff and clients should be vaccinated or tested negative,” Ford said. “Why are artists too? If a guest contracts COVID and cancels, that means I’m losing a table or a $ 25 ticket sale. If an artist is positive, I have to shut down the whole show and lose everything. Most importantly, we need to protect everyone, not just here in the Bay Area but around the world. “

He says the reactions to the requirements have been “overwhelmingly positive, 100% favorable. Ford is a software director with experience on stages in Los Angeles comedy clubs and has produced comedy shows for almost 15 years. Theis brings to the club his expertise in managing the food industry and, together with Chef Arran Burns, has developed an unusual menu for a comedy club. Instead of serving mediocre bar fare like pizza and beer, patrons savor gourmet-level mac and cheese balls, garlic shrimp, brisket sliders, charcuterie and cheese boards. , craft cocktails, local craft beers, fresh cookies and more. The popular Drag Yourself To Brunch Sunday event (featuring a group of drag artists) features a prix fixe menu of $ 48 that includes deluxe waffles, bacon, sausage, salmon and fresh fruit as well a choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary or soft drink.

The popular Drag Yourself To Brunch Sunday event (featuring a group of drag artists) features a prix fixe menu of $ 48 that includes deluxe waffles, bacon, sausage, salmon and fresh fruit as well a choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary or soft drink. (photo courtesy of the Alameda Comedy Club)

Although a slight drop in sales occurred as the Delta variant increased, recent weekend shows with Kabir “Kabeezy” Singh, who scored four “yeses” on NBC’s America’s Got Talent in June, have performed well. sold. Fortunately, the booking talents are solid: “I probably heard 700 actors asking for places and dozens of availability were sent to me by agents. I’m pretty much booked on weekends until the end of the year, ”says Ford.

Among the upcoming acts is a third visit from September 24 to 25 by stand-up actress, screenwriter, radio host, author, YouTube presence and podcaster Monique Marvez.

“She replaced us in an emergency last year,” said Ford. “We opened with Eddie Brill (who along with Ford designed the club but was also the comedy coordinator for the Late Night With David Letterman show). The second week the actress called me and told me she had a cold and couldn’t see getting up on stage coughing and sneezing very well during COVID. Eddie said, ‘Call Monique Marvez.’ I did, and she said she would love to do it, came over from LA on a week’s notice and did some great shows. She loves Valentine’s Day so when we reopened last February we brought her back. She’s a great actress who tells stories and does a great job of crowd work. She asks questions that are not just fodder for one-off cases, but gathers information from people and weaves it into all the hour.

Ford has a strong preference for bold personalities who are adept at interacting with the crowd, offering smart, structured writing, jokes with good punchlines, unique perspectives, and an element of surprise.

“Sure, we want people who are well-known and have a lot of Instagram followers, but not mediocre comics that take the stage and rant and are loud. They get reactions, but their material isn’t a joke; these are crude, throwaway statements. I don’t mind dirty humor, but I don’t want you to go out and be loud and shocking and think you are acting. Good jokes have a turn to left, a surprise for the brain, I want ends that I do not anticipate, to laugh involuntarily.

Marvez, with over 25 years in the business, agrees.

“You can call me a comedian, but I’m a wizard. It is impossible to think a negative thing and laugh at the same time. The ability to bring someone to a higher vibration in just a few words is magical. I keep knowing how blessed I am to be able to do this. “

Marvez is well trained in the art of being flexible after a childhood that saw her attend five different elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools. She learned early on to rely on a philosophy that “life comes for you, not to punish you”. In her act and her podcasts, she “recognizes reality, does it first, does she live it”. This means, for example, that even though she calls the coronavirus “the” rona “, making him look like an ignorable and boring neighbor, she also admits a world changed by the pandemic which means” you can’t escape the pivot “and is called “an army of Latin women” determined to counter the gloom.

Recognizing that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, she says bringing up political topics on stage would be one-sided preaching and would not allow people to choose for themselves what to believe.

“People come and sign up for 45 minutes so they won’t be informed of such serious things,” she said. “I’m happy to engage privately with anyone who wants to have these conversations. On stage, I am there to provide comfort, entertainment and distraction.

Lou Fancher is a freelance writer. Contact her at lou@johnsonandfancher.com.


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