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Last Chance Open Mike

[whitespace] Josie's Millie hosts at Josie's

By Millie

My opening set goes ok. I mostly play with the audience. There's a witch in the house. At least she says she's a witch. I ask, "Do you make a living being a witch? What's your benefits plan?" It's amazing what people will pay for in this town.

I'm hosting Monday Night Open Mike at Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, the venerable queer comedy club in the Castro where all the big stars of gay comedy got their start: Marga Gomez, Mark Davis, Lea DeLaria, Scott Capurro, Suzy Berger--even San Francisco's president-to-be of the Board of Supervisors, Tom Ammiano.

If you haven't been to Monday Night Open Mike, you're missing a San Francisco entertainment institution. Here's how it works: comics sign up with the house about three or four weeks beforehand. Anyone can sign up. Unlike some comedy clubs, Josie's doesn't need to see a video of your work or talk to your agent. Nothing formal. Just introduce yourself and pick a Monday night.

Each comic gets five to seven minutes; when the light flashes from the back of the house, it's time to get off the stage. For five bucks, the audience can usually see about 10 comics. Tonight there are 13. I'm giving comics the light at exactly five minutes and keeping my in-between patter to a minimum.

The first performer after my opening monologue does a dyke-dating performance piece that sounds much worse than it is. Smart and sassy, perhaps a bit too "performance-arty" for the crowd, the piece gets respectable applause. I follow up with acidic jokes excoriating the "rainbow regime." Such fare can receive a mixed reaction. Locals usually get it and join in as I gleefully skewer the rainbow flag. ("The rainbow flag's real meaning? Free the Otter Pups!")

Josie's is well-known far and wide. There's always at least one queer tourist decked out in his rainbow best for a big night out in the Castro. They're typically a little less willing to join in as I tear apart the beloved symbol of gay liberation for suburban queers across the globe. Even East Bay lesbians get a little touchy around this material.

Next up is a guy reading a piece that starts with the words "cunt-licking bitch!" Then a Jewish lesbian who works at Kinko's, then a straight guy spinning the "I'm such a loser" routine, then a Midwest dyke who trashes her parents in an understated but hilarious routine. (Lots of jokes about "Ched-Spread.") I jump up between acts, tell some jokes and introduce the next guest. The real joy of Josie's Open Mike is the kooky mix of comics--some good, some great, a few downright terrible. One comic from L.A. does her patented imitation of a squirrel. It's hilarious.

Up next: Scott Capurro, a real pro who can bring down the house with a sharp roll of his eyes. He does some mean stuff about Carol Channing, improvising for a good 15 minutes. The next performer is a drunk drag queen, her first time onstage. She slurs her words and weaves around the stage. Her comedy isn't bad, but it's hard to enjoy when you're scared she's going to fall into the first row.

The hearty souls who make it to the end are in luck. The closing act every Monday night is Bridget Schwartz. Her trademark lunatic rant against corporate culture and smug yuppie blight is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The show ends late--around 10:30. The crowd shuffles out dazed, exhausted and vaguely high. Live comedy on a Monday night beats Ally McBeal any day of the week. So those who want to check out a show at Josie's better get over there while they can, because the last scheduled performance before this Upper Market legend shuts down for good is Jan. 2.

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From the December 21, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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