Left to right: Dave Williamson, Justin Lucas, Prashanth Venkataramanujam, The Greg Wilson and Mo Alexander are five of the 10 stand-up comics that will compete in the San Francisco Stand-up Comedy Competition to be held at the Craterian Theater. - Photos courtesy of Jonathan Fox

Who's the biggest hoot of them all?

Each year, the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition showcases a lineup of fresh, new comics from around the country.

"It's an unprecedented cross section of talent from all over North America," says Jonathan Fox, who has coordinated the event for 37 years. "It's great that we draw stand-ups from so far and wide every year."

Past winners of the international competition have hailed from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.

The 10 semifinalists in this year's contest will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

They are Mo Alexander (Memphis, Tenn.), Justin Lucas (San Francisco), The Greg Wilson (Dallas), Dave Williamson (Miami), Prashanth Venkataramanujam (southeast Missouri), Tony Baker (Chicago), Kortney Shane Williams (Seattle), Mike Merryfield (Wisconsin), Dome Pare (Toronto) and Tanyalee Davis (Las Vegas).

The semifinalists will present shows in Redwood City and Pacifica, Calif., before the Medford appearance, and five finalists will be announced at a show in the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The five finalists will perform at California venues in Mill Valley, Walnut Creek, Sacramento and San Francisco, with the winner named at a show in Brooks' Cache Creek Casino.

"Our talent director, Peter Greyy, looked at more than 700 applications before choosing 32 stand-ups to compete in the event. It's a prestigious award. Winning it opens a lot of doors and turns a lot of heads."

Two recent alumni of the competition have made breakthroughs in television: Louie C.K. writes, directs and stars in "Louie," an award-winning series on FX that began airing in 2010, and W. Kamau Bell appears in Chris Rock's "Totally Biased," which premiered in early August on FX.

Others have become household names, such as Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and Dane Cook. Last year's competition saw Sean Kent take the title.

The event began as a small contest based in the City by the Bay.

"I'll never forget the first time we screened comedians," Fox says. "It was in the basement of a church. As the contestants filed down the stairs, we worried whether or not enough would show up.

"The first year, Williams showed up, and the second year Dana Carvey showed up, so it's worked out rather well," he says.

The finals of the first competition were held at Joe Nobriga's Showcase on Turk and Franklin streets in San Francisco. Later, organizers used a place in Sausalito called Gatsby's.

"I remember selling 200 tickets one night at the door at Gatsby's," Fox says. "Many years later, I dropped by the tiny place and couldn't believe we had crammed that many people in there. There was such a resurgence of interest in stand-up comedy at the time. I'm glad we could be part of it."

After 37 years, Fox says he's seen every comedian bomb except Carvey.

"He is a superb comic. He's the one that can always pull things out and get the audience on his side no matter what the circumstances. He's gone from playing small, folk clubs in Berkeley to six-figure shows at the San Francisco City Hall."

Tickets for the show at the Craterian can be purchased at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. Adult tickets are $28 for section A, $25 for section B and $22 for section C. Youth (0-18) tickets are $21 for section A, $18 for section B and $15 for section C.

Share This Story