John Cantu & Gang

Comedy Boom - Where it All Started

Somehow after our Laugh Lovers' all-you-desire pizza dinner, the conversation turned to the Coffee Gallery (now the Lost and Found) in North Beach, which is where the 70s/80s comedy boom started.

As I have said elsewhere maybe here I don’t know (My brains were ****ed out years ago in Berkeley), there were seven of us who started performing comedy In San Francisco in 1972 or 1973 as part of Frank Kidder's San Francisco comedy scene:

Besides, Kidder there was, in alphabetical order: Bob Barry (In the 1979 Playboy article about the Holy City Zoo by Craig Vetter, the lead paragraph is an anecdote about Bob Barry), John Cantu, Bill Cologne (I think long out of the biz), Jim Giovanni, “Freaky” Ralph Eno (I think later he might have performed under name “Ral Pheno”. A creative tortured soul who committed suicide by setting himself on fire in the Sunset - on a public street corner - maybe 9th Ave. & Judah), Jeff Ross (murdered in LA.)

Anyway we were chatting about the Coffee Gallery and lines that comedians had used to describe the Sunday night talent show where comedians began to gather like moths all gathering and flittering around the same night light.

In those days you didn’t have comedy clubs. You had talent shows and you’d follow all sorts of acts. At the Coffee Gallery I followed poets, singers, and trained animal acts. I once had to follow a dancer with a wooden leg. For a finish he did a pirouette - and set the stage on fire. (I know, I know - “pirouette” is great as a written word, but a terrible word to use in a spoken act - but hey I was young dumb and inexperienced then okay?)

Tracy Strike: When I first went to the Coffee Gallery, all my girlfriends told me “Tracy, have you seen the bath room? Whatever you do don’t use the toilet seat. VD germs live on those toilet seats.”
I’ve been to the women’s bathroom and that is nonsense. (PAUSE 1-2-3) NOTHING could live on those toilet seats.

Bob Sarlatte (David Letterman’s sidekick on his first talk show): It was as if every nut and fruitcake in San Francisco had a trap door to the Coffee Galley that opened up every Sunday night at 9 and deposited them in the Coffee Gallery’s audience.

Bill Farley: The Coffee Gallery - When we came there to perform, we’d find Hell’s Angels hanging out, outside - - - cause they were afraid to go in.

And my favorite Dan Gremmer’s: The Coffee Gallery was the dreariest, and darkest club I’ve ever played. My first set, there were three people in the audience two drunks down front asleep, and back in the corner a guy developing film.

PS: Did you notice how quickly the “****ed out” expression became stale - - - even tiresome - and yet comics will often simply use the word ‘f**k’ 20/30 times onstage without any context whatsoever in a ten minute set and get offended when people complain about it.

John Cantu