Within the national comedy scene, San Francisco has always been viewed as a remarkable and unique incubator for innovative humor. Since the first wave in the 1950s, with Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and others, through the 1980s comedy renaissance, and continuing today, the City by the Bay has been an epicenter of comedy talent -- partly because of its reputation for tolerance, diversity and progressive ideas. This has made for smart audiences that support creativity and innovation, and have an appreciation for topical and cerebral humor. In some ways, ground zero for that brand of comedy was a tiny club I owned in the Haight-Ashbury district called The Other Cafe. I was very lucky.
The Haight is a unique place on planet Earth -- politically progressive and host to a diverse selection of humanity. Plate glass windows on The Other's stage offered comedians unusual improvisational opportunities as neighborhood characters passed by. Audiences were hip, politically savvy, Haight denizens who eschewed put-down humor, understood conceptual comedy and tolerated all kinds of experimentation.
During the 1980s there was an explosion of comedy clubs throughout the country, fueled by many San Francisco-based comedians including: Robin Williams, Ellen Degeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Dana Carvey, and Paula Poundstone, among others.
After the wild popularity of Robin Williams's television character "Mork" caused interest in stand-up comedy to soar, the San Francisco scene exploded. Wannabe funny people saw stand-up as a path to Hollywood, and audiences hoped they might catch one of Robin's legendary drop-in sets at the local clubs.
On Sept 25, 2010, The Other Cafe held a 30th reunion show for the club's stars at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, as a benefit for KQED. During the performance, KQED, with the assistance of Frank Zamacona, was able to conduct a few backstage interviews with Dana Carvey, Marga Gomez, Kevin Pollak, and Paula Poundstone, among others. Clips of those interviews conducted by famed author and journalist Ben Fong-Torres are posted below. More to be posted soon... Enjoy!