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    • I've previously written about the critically acclaimed History of Standup podcast here on Cake.

      In season 1, the show explored the history of stand-up comedy from 1800s Vaudeville all the way up to the late-night shows and going viral online.

      Now, our hosts are back for a season 2: "Wayne Federman and Andrew Steven are back for Season 2 of The History of Standup — taking a closer looking at the rooms, scenes, and places
      where standup happens, and the people who were there. "

      Episode 1 of season 2 is out now, and entitled "Holy City Zoo." It delves into the history of standup in San Francisco.

      Named after the "The Holy City Zoo, which called itself "the comedian's clubhouse" and "was a small but influential comedy club in San Francisco that operated from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s."

    • And why are we starting with this location? As per the podcast, the Holy City Zoo was "the first of the big four comedy clubs that were the foundation of this burgeoning San Francisco Comedy Club scene, and right out of the gate came a meteor of comic invention, named Robin Williams."

      What made Robin Williams' comedy so unique and connected to his Bay Area roots? "One of the things he was known for early on was going out into the crowd and weaving his way amongst the people, because he had this amazingly powerful voice, and then he'd pretend to be a hairdresser or he'd put on someone's coat or take a picture or go through their purse, and it was a great showcase for his improvisational skills."

      The Holy City Zoo became "legendary" by 1978 thanks to the comedy prowess and performances of Robin according to Kevin Pollak on this episode of his chat show.

      But Kevin was a bit disappointed by the sheer size of the Holy City Zoo: "It was really tight, too tight, too small, and HUGE compression."

      The show delves into a comedy competition around that time: Dana Carvey talks about seeing an ad for "live stand up" in Berkeley, going to see this show, and he started making notes, then doing an open mic, and then coming back and becoming the MC of the show in 2 weeks. Being hired at his first time doing comedy - playing the Old Spaghetti Factory, the Holy City Zoo, and then finally moving on to compete in The Second Annual San Francisco International Open Stand-Up Comedy Competition in the fall of 1977!

      The evaluation for this Comedy Competition was INTENSE: could you handle this type of scoring?

      "They were extremely precise. When it started, the comedians were awarded 1 point for each 2 second burst of laughter, 1 point for each 3 seconds of sustained laughter, 1 point for each 5 seconds of sustained tittering, 1 point for each 3 seconds of sustained applause, 2 points for every 3 seconds of simultaneous applause and laughter, and that's not all!"

      When Dana won - by the tiniest of margin - he was presented a check by Robin Williams as a result of being cast in the new Laugh-In, and the rest is history.

    • Playing the beloved guest star alien Mork on "Happy Days" in 1978 was Robin Williams' big break after a string of challenging sitcoms and other series. The character proved so popular he got his own spinoff show, Mork & Mindy.

      And all of this was kickstarted at the Holy City Zoo!

      Another San Francisco cafe, The Other Cafe, started doing comedy a few nights a week.

      Paula Poundstone shared:

      "The location of that club, although it was not by design, it was on the corner of two streets, Carl and Cole, in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco...if it had been down on Haight Street, the foot traffic going by would have been distracting. The background for the stage was a huge plate glass window, so I could see people when they were walking down the street, so I'd talk through them through the window, and it afforded me this possibility of finding stuff to work with."

      That's where her famous Pop-Tarts bit got started. And then you throw in the third San Francisco club, The Punchline.

      Apparently the club also had a secret identity as a dance club when it wasn't a comedy club.

      By March 1979, San Francisco is being seen nationally as a place undergoing a "Comedy Renaissance..."

      Will Durst shared his experiences on the podcast of moving based on seeing the energy of Holy City Rollers, relocating to the Bay Area, and loving that scene. But going through tough times like Jonestown led him to consider putting together events to support the community:

      "It was a very sad [time], what can we do, we're comedians? And at the time, Bill Graham was doing these things called "Day on the Green," big outdoor concerts he would put on, and we said "Why can't put on a show like this for comedians"... so that's how Comedy Day started."

    • There's a fourth club, Cobbs, that's just about to open at this point, creating a roster of all-star talent incubators in the San Francisco Comedy Scene.

      The show brings in a performance by the legendary Kevin Pollak, and then samples of performances by other comedians and talents of the time.

      Alex Bennett was the missing element in the equation: "he was a big catalyst" to helping build the San Francisco comedy scene.

      With open-mic nights, a bunch of Boston-comedians made the move to San Francisco... creating yet another influence in the movement. The San Francisco Comedy Competition was a big draw for many of them, "and if you did well, you're a star in San Francisco!"

      Bobcat Goldthwaite talks about moving to San Francisco as a result of the competition and became a big star as a result:

      "What changed for me is seeing my name on a marquee, which meant that people were coming specifically to see me...It meant I really was a comedian."

      Other talents like Margaret Cho and Rob Schneider are brought into the mix and interviewed or excerpted. Ellen (yes, THE Ellen) was an opener!

      Then things begin to change... "comedians are starting to take a page out of the Whoopi Goldberg playbook, and create their own shows."

      You may have heard of 1991's "Defending the Caveman" - it was the first one of these types of shows.

      Then as the comedy show scene began to contract, Mark Maron, Patton Oswalt, and other comedians started to come up through the ranks.

      Patton talks about in a clip on the show and being genuinely surprised by how challenging performing at the Holy City Zoo was. And starting on May 5, 1992 - he was prompted to start writing new work.

      And then in 1993, the Holy City Zoo went under. And then the Punchline?

      Dave Chappelle got involved to try to help, although the fate of the club is unclear. But no matter what, stand-up is here to stay in San Francisco, and this episode is a fantastic look at it.

      Looking forward to seeing what other cities in Season 2 of the History of Standup will be in store!