Photograph by Woody Carroll
The Brother from Another Planet : Richard Stockton, host of 'Planet Cruz,' takes his afternoon constitutional.
Keeping Radio Weird
'Planet Cruz' is back for a second season--and it promises to be wackier than ever.
By Curtis Cartier
Weird." It's a term that gets thrown around a lot when people describe Santa Cruz. Yoga balls, drum circles, bike lanes and marijuana cards may seem like the norm to natives, but from the outside looking in, it can all add up to a strange sight--kind of like its own planet.And in wonderful observance of this weirdness, the Planet Cruz Comedy Hour, the widely popular live radio show that lampoons everyone from Mayor Coonerty to Robert "Pink Umbrella" Steffen, is back for its second year and is promising to be bigger, bolder and more politically incorrect than last year."Santa Cruz is weird," states Planet Cruz creator and career comic Richard Stockton. "People here challenge basic assumptions about life, and they take charge of their happiness. I think the mentality here is great. It's also hilarious, and I think it's important to be able to laugh at yourself."
Opening Oct. 3 with a live broadcast performance at Kuumbwa, Planet Cruz will feature seven monthly episodes recorded live and aired on KUSP-FM (88.9). Taking the form of a variety show a la Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, the program riffs on topics both unique to Santa Cruz and common to the country.
"The concept of doing a live show that's on the radio is great for Santa Cruz culture," says returning local comic and miniature guitar shredder Ukulele Dick. "People have been suffering though an oppressive dictatorship based on ignorance and greed for the last eight years and they need to laugh. We have a very specific identity, and I think it connects with certain people everywhere."
When the show began last year, Stockton says he didn't know if anyone would listen. But when he showed up for the first performance, a line was stretching down the street and he knew he'd tapped a nerve. This year, Planet Cruz will air on stations in 20-odd markets, mostly in Northern California.
"I never could have known how this thing would take off," he says. "I've gotten emails from scientists in Antarctica who love the show, and a hillbilly family from Idaho just told me they are all piling in an RV and driving out to see the opening!"
Returning this year to spread health and wellness, but mostly to collect dollars and cents, is Dr. Rupert Opie. Played by the infallible Noel Murphy, Dr. Opie is head of the Dr. Rupert Opie Institute for the Advancement of Dr. Rupert Opie, and he offers a chance to bask in the world's largest ego in exchange for cash--lots of cash.
"Dr. Rupert Opie has touched the lives of billions. He's so megalomaniacal his patients can't help but give him all their money," says Murphy, describing his character. Murphy also said there will be cameos from such famous politicians as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Bush and Dick Cheney, some of whom may or may not be led off the stage in chains.
"Santa Cruz has been hovering in the stratosphere of weird for years. It's time to go pro," says Murphy. "With this year's lineup we've put the weirdness at the level of Picasso and Monet."
New additions to this year's show are highlighted by a "vast pool" of new writers, both amateur and professional, as well as new character appearances and interviews from everyone from a live banana slug to God himself.
"People go their own way here, they march to their own tune, and when you're here it's like being on another planet," says Stockton. "I think Santa Cruz can teach the country a lot. Hopefully we can start by teaching them how to laugh."
PLANET CRUZ COMEDY HOUR premieres Friday, Oct. 3, at 8pm at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18 advance/$23 at the door, and live broadcasts can be heard on KUSP-FM (88.9). For more information visit www.planetcruzcomedyhour.com.
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