San Francisco

Interview: Mary Van Note, Comedian

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An old friend of The Sound of Young America, Mary Van Note, has been on a tear lately. She's landed her own IFC.com web series, and is touring the nation with her acclaimed (and bizarre) standup comedy. Chris Bowman talked with Mary about the turns her burgeoning career has taken.

You teamed up with IFC.com this summer to release the web series Gavin Really Wants Me. How did IFC initially discover you?

I had some videos posted on Nerve.com, a sex magazine, which was a perfect fit for my weird and sexually themed videos. Nerve.com and IFC.com partnered up to put together these top 50 lists like Top 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema, and the popular Top 50 Comedy Sketches of All Time. I guess when they partnered up, the Nerve people showed the IFC people their video content and BAM! my series and the Nerve series “Young American Bodies” got connected with IFC.com.

Have you always had a raunchy sense of humor? Where did it come from?

No, I haven't. I'm just your average girl who was raised Catholic and has issues about sex. I was pretty obsessed with it for awhile, and by "it" I mean talking about sex, but lately I've been writing about everyday things like roommates and internet dating.

What do you find more rewarding, performing live or producing the online comedy shorts. Why?

That’s pretty hard to say. I love doing both and they’re both so rewarding in different ways. I will always enjoy performing live. The feedback is immediate and there is always the feeling that anything can happen when you perform live. It is such a thrill to make a room laugh. Producing online content is a thrill as well. Probably my favorite aspect of producing and directing online comedy shorts is the ability to collaborate and work with others. That’s something you don’t get with traditional stand-up comedy.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned from collaborating with others?

Being a director was entirely new for me. The most valuable learning experience was simply communication. Communicating as a director working with a cast and crew was challenging and new for me, but became hugely rewarding.

When did you decide you wanted to go beyond the standard set-up/punch line style of comedy and embrace a more challenging performance art style?

I never consciously decided to embrace a certain style. The first time I ever performed I was really nervous and my material was more storytelling than “club comic” jokes. That first set went really, really well and my mentor told me to keep that nervous energy. Since then I’ve developed into a more mainstream form of a who I was when I first started. I’m still weird and quirky, and can perform at the most alt-y of rooms and theaters, but I can also perform at Blank Comedy Club with the best of the road comics and hold my place.

What is coming up next for MVN?

Jan 24—Feb 17, 2009 I’ll be a part of Belles and Whistles: the indie music and comedy tour of ladies making noise from San Francisco. Uni and her Ukelele, Foxtails Brigade and I will be touring the Pacific Northwest hitting cities like Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Salt Lake City, and more.

2009 will be full of fun and excitement: traveling and performing, recording my debut comedy album, and shooting videos.

Mary's online at MaryVanNote.com or myspace.com/maryvannote. She also hosts the regular San Francisco comedy & performance series Comedy Darling.

Al Madrigal & Tig Notaro at the Punchline in SF this weekend...

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Two great friends of The Sound of Young America and Jordan Jesse Go, Tig Notaro and Al Madrigal, are performing this weekend at the Punchline in San Francisco. If you're a San Franciscan and you've never been to the Punchline, it's a wonderful place to see comedy. Intimate, comfortable and well-curated. Of course, Tig and Al are both as hilarious as it gets -- and Al is a San Francisco native. Get some tickets now.

For those of you who aren't in the Yay Area, you can hear Al on JJGo... or Tig on JJGo. WE LOVE THEM.

Podcast Coyle & Sharpe Episode 34: Yo Quiero Fumar Cigarros

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Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: The Imposters attempt to convince a non-English speaking San Franciscan to sing a song. Although initially reluctant, he soon gets into the swing of things.

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Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 30: Portable Radio

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Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: The Imposters inform a gentleman of the advancement in radio technology.

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Get out of the house, nerd.

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This post is going to be sans-graphics, but fulla-info.

If you live in Seattle, I hope I'll see you this weekend at Bumbershoot. And if you can't come this weekend (or if you can), I hope I'll see you at Sketchfest Seattle later in September. Guests at Bumbershoot include Janeane Garofolo and The Human Giant, and at Sketchfest we'll have Dan Savage.

If you're in New York, don't miss Will Franken's "Grandpa, It's Not Fitting" at Ars Nova on Wednesday night. Will is an amazing solo performer who made his name in the San Francisco theater world. He essentially does one man sketch comedy, and what isn't hilarious is always fascinating -- you really go for a ride.

If you're in Los Angeles, don't miss 826 LA's Falltime Yukfest September 10th. I'm really proud to be sponsoring this amazing show, with Tim & Eric, Jimmy Pardo, Al Madrigal, Bill Burr and a bunch of other great stuff. Proceeds benefit 826 LA's literacy programs.

Finally, if you're in San Francisco, and you miss Louis CK at the Punchline Weds-Sat, September 3-6th, you're a fucking idiot. Seriously, just fucking go. There is no better standup in the world right now, and you should count your blessings that you could ever, ever get to see a show like his at a place like the Punchline. Tickets here.

Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 33: Mobile-o-coat

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Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: The Imposters attempt to convince John to wear a device called a mobile-o-coat. At first the device sounds like it might be to his advantage but quickly proves otherwise.

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Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 31: People Movers

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Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: The Imposters approach a moving company employee and try to explain the delicate nature of the cargo that needs moving.

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Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 32: Human Sugar Bowl

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Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: The Imposters ask a citizen if he wouldn't mind trying a new place to keep his sugar.

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Richie Cunning on The Drum

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Folks who listen to Jordan, Jesse Go! already know about Grad School Music superstar Ashkon and his international mega-hit Hot Tubbin'. But what about Richie Cunning?

Richie's a San Francisco native -- he was Richard when he was my classmate in high school -- and he's repping hard these days, with a new track called The City that shouts out the N Judah and whatnot.

But if you're wondering if this dude can really spit, check out these tracks recorded live on KPFA's legendary hip-hop radio show The Drum with Kevvy Kev. The Drum's in its THIRTIETH year of broadcasting hip-hop to the Yay Area late Friday nights. Richie destroys two freestyles here. It's really difficult to get closer to my heart than by alluding to both Common's first album and 1989 National League MVP Kevin Mitchell in one song.

"Lemme read off the trivia card / who the ill cat still rappin' gritty & hard? / Go 'head, take a min... give up? Here's a hint: Rich C, OG from the City of Fog / Dog, I was solo smashin back when Wild 104 was 107 / Back when Jerry and Joe were Bay Area legends / Back when left field wasn't Barry, it was Kevin"


Richie Cunning live on The Drum 1


Richie Cunning Live on The Drum 2

Jules Tygiel

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My friend Jules Tygiel passed this week.

Jules was a cultural historian, focusing on California and baseball. He was my professor at San Francisco State University, and wrote one of my college recommendation letters. When I hastily applied to graduate school, he came through with a letter on short notice without even a hint of complaint. He was an inspirational teacher who shared his passion for both history and baseball unreservedly.

In addition to his research, Jules was a wonderful writer. I read his book "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy" before I'd ever met him. In my childhood and teenage years, I read literally hundreds of books about baseball, and "Baseball's Great Experiment" was one of the best. Then as now I was impressed at its combination of academic depth and lucid, exciting prose. It's certainly the best book about Robinson, and when I sold my baseball books a few years ago, it was one of the dozen or so that I kept -- my special favorites. I have often recommended it to friends, both fans and non-fans. In Jules' San Francisco Chronicle obituatary, I was moved to read that it was Rachel Robinson's favorite book about her late husband. I'm not surprised.

Jules was also a friend, particularly close with the Weinstein-Zitrin family, with whom I spent many hours as a young teenager. He and Richard Zitrin, my childhood friend Gabe's father, would engage in heated discussions of baseball subjects -- I remember Richard having particularly strong opinions on whether Jack Morris was overrated, though I can't remember which side he was on and which side Jules was on. Jules was the commissioner of the Pacific Ghost League, the first fantasy baseball league on the West Coast, which was founded in 1981. I'm sure all the owners of the PGL have Jules in their hearts today.

Jules struggled long and hard with cancer, and his illness in recent months was very severe. I will be thinking of him, and of his family. I hope they can find peace in his passing. I also want to thank Jules Tygiel for all he did for me. He will be missed.

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