John Cantu doing the door at the Zoo John doing the door at the Holy City Zoo

Stories about Tom Finnigan, Paul Giles, Mike Bizarro, and Robin Williams

by John Cantu ©

There were three regular comics who hung out together and became known as the as The Comedy Trinity: Tom Finnigan, Paul Giles, and Mike Bizarro.

Finnigan went on to become a staff writer for the Tonight Show and he did what back then was considered impossible - getting hired without moving to Los Angeles. He was working for me as a bartender at the time and he was the worst in the world. People were constantly sending drinks back - and it was a beer and wine club.

But he had a wife and two kids to support and I didn't have the heart to fire him. Finnigan was actually hired by Carson twice - first in 1980 and for the last 18 months Carson was on the air. And also as a writer for a variety of shows in between including Hee Haw, The Flip Wilson Show, the David Brenner Show, and many others.

Paul Giles toured the country as a stand-up, wrote for Leno and Maher along the way, and settled in Cleveland. For several years he was a staff editor writing greeting cards for American Greetings and edited the jokes for Cantu Jokes.   (Now Free Jokes Weekly edited by Cerce.   Jokes you can use without fear of copyright infringement.)

For Giles' web sites:

And Mike Bizzaro, no slouch of a writer himself, wrote A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Boardroom: Using Humor in Business Speaking which he was kind enough to dedicate it to: "John Cantu the unsung guru of comedy."

And a Few More Robin Williams Stories

One time the Last Day Saloon's band's music was bleeding through the wall of the Zoo and in frustration Robin ran across the club to the opposite side of the stage and pounded on the wall and yelled, "Hey quiet down - I'm trying to do comedy over here!"

And at that exact moment the band took a break and the music stopped - - - and Robin smiled and slowly and majestically strutted back to the stage generating one of the biggest and longest laughs ever heard at the Zoo.

Once it was ten before 2:00 am and I was rushing the wait staff to get all the drinks off the tables since we had to close by 2:00 am and there was a $1000 fine if you were open after 2:00 am - bigger if you were open after 2:00 am with open drinks on the tables.

Robin turned and looked at me and I could see his maniacal mind thinking. He turned back to the crowd and said conspiratorially, "Hey let's see if we can get Cantu busted."

We had a legal capacity of 75 and we had 190 people in there belly to belly. Talk about mixed emotions. At that time he was at the height of his Mork & Mindy fame - literally the best known comic in America and he was performing on my stage for free.

And I was petrified that an officer in a police squad car would drive by and bust me for being open after hours - in those days a thousand dollar fine was three weeks profit.

Minute by minute I held my breath. Every audience member was having the time of their life. Me - I didn't know how long Robin was gonna stay on stage - each minute of joy for the audience seemed like an hour of agony for me.

Robin performed for another full sixty minutes until 3 am. Fortunately, we didn't get busted.

After Robin Williams hit with Mork & Mindy he would often come back to San Francisco and hang out at the Holy City Zoo comedy club. The club was always packed. Sardine-stuffed together packed! You could hardly get breathing room.

Although he never asked for special consideration, we'd let Robin hang-out behind the bar to be out of the crush of people. People would come up to the bar to order a beer. Since Robin was often standing there doing nothing he'd often pitch in and just pull a draft and hand it to the people, take their money, and give them change.

After a couple of weeks we had to say, "Robin you can't serve anybody any more drinks. You're costing us too much money."

He said, "What are you talking about? You guys aren't paying me."

We said, "No, but Robin, when you hand a customer a mug of beer, they go back to their seat and brag to the others at the table. 'Robin Williams handed me this mug of beer.' " And then they STEAL the mug for a souvenir.

"Those mugs cost a buck a pop. We're losing forty or fifty dollars a night."

"Sometimes that's 10% of our gross on a slow night. It's too much inventory loss."

NEXT: Saturday Night Dead