ewhightower

Comedy at The Caravan Lounge

In Comedy, Open Mic, Standup on February 12, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Last night I didn’t have enough money to take BART to SF for my (now) usual Wednesday night Open Mic. I was searching for options that are closer to home, and it’s interesting to note that the further out one goes from the largest local metropolis, the fewer comedy open mics are thriving — if any can be found at all. Are there open mics for music? Yes. Oodles. They seem to be everywhere. Is this because fewer people are unhappy enough outside of the big cities, negating the need to get up in front of strangers and talk about how fucked up they are? I don’t think so. I think it’s because open mics for comedy are a dicey choice: you’re literally gambling on the willingness of your clientele to tolerate jokes about rape and racism.

I’m of the If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come philosophy. And when I found that there was a comedy show at The Caravan Lounge in San Jose, I headed in that direction. It was a night celebrating their one-year anniversary — and their bartender, the very funny Rachel Warner, is getting back into comedy after a five-year hiatus. I’d never been to The Caravan before last night, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.

When I arrived, I saw a knot of comedians I recognized from other venues. I’m pretty sure none of them know me, as I’m relatively virginal in the comedy scene. Nearby was a door with a bouncer. There was another door around the corner, with some people outside of it. I wasn’t sure which was the entrance and which was not. Had I stood and watched more before walking in, I would have figured it out. The bouncer disappeared inside the first door, and I went in that direction. Turns out I had walked through what was, essentially, the stage door. I figured it out quickly and exited, but not before accidentally pissing in an ornate fountain where everyone could see me. That’s a lie. There are no fountains at The Caravan other than the taps of wholesome goodness and moral fervor tended by bartender / comedy goddess Rachel. The bouncer pointed me in the right direction and I found the right hole at last.

Even with just the tip in, there was a roaring mass of humanity, drunk off its collective ass, competing to be heard. I was the only person in the room wearing wool, thrice-cursed in coat, hat and my not-like-the-others Gryffindor scarf. Three people from separate groups did double-takes at that. At one end of the room was a man on a mic with the sound cranked up to eleven, with some purple christmas lights overhead and a banner behind him that said, THE CARAVAN. This guy was shouting and I couldn’t hear him. Imagine doing standup in a corner of the Thunderdome. There was nowhere to sit, there was hardly anywhere to stand. The entirety of my stay was spent accidentally bumping into strangers as I apologized and made way for someone else. (Do not be mislead by the word Lounge. Unless you’re reclining on the pool table, if Rachel’s doing a set there’s not enough room to fart.) Until Rachel went on, the only people listening to the comedians were the comedians — although I noted that Jimmy Gunn’s clear tenor voice carried perfectly, cutting through all the noise and getting their attention. So: note to self, take the Teddy Roosevelt approach to The Caravan. (Rough Riders, charge!)

The only time the crowd really quieted down was when Rachel went on, and it was well worth it. Clearly one can gain devotees by serving them alcohol on a regular basis (note to self…), but as you can see from her set, the lady has skills. According to Jimmy Gunn, it’s not usually that challenging in The Caravan — but I kind of hope that it is when I go, because what I’ve experienced thus far are sparse rooms where everyone is listening, and it would be instructive to do standup to a full room where nobody is listening. If I can get a laugh — any laugh — in that situation, it’s a win.

The host of this event and all of their Caravan Lounge Comedy Shows is the astounding Mr. Walker — funny guy, gregarious fellow. Per his invitation, I’ll be in contact.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to host an open mic in Livermore. Venue? No idea. While I lean more heavily toward comedy, I recognize that music will balance things out a bit, so I’m open — at the moment — to more. We’ll see. Knocking wood, crossing fingers. Meanwhile, it would seem that the only viable source of income for me will be to form a cult. Applications accepted via comments below.

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