46th Annual SF Stand-up Comedy Competition Returns

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(Courtesy of Dauood Naimyar)
Comedy returns to the Orinda Theatre with the 46th Annual San Francisco Stand-up Comedy Competition. Comic and third place past competitor, Dauood Naimyar, will emcee the Sept. 2 show, which begins at 8 p.m.

    Laughter in a time of COVID is the theme of this year’s 46th Annual San Francisco Stand-up Comedy Competition (SFCC) produced by Jon Fox, with preliminary round one slated for Sept. 2 and round two on Sept. 9.
    Held at the Orinda Theatre, 16 comics per night will perform their best five-minute sets, while judges determine which five comics per show will advance to the next round of competitions.
    Producing these shows is Fox’s full-time job and passion in life. He does it for very specific reasons.
    “We are able to supply them [comics] full houses, and there’s really an excitement in the air unlike a typical performance,” said Fox, who lives in San Rafael with his wife Ann. “There’s such an enthusiasm among show-goers and a real camaraderie that develops among the contestants. And for me. It’s very refreshing to be around people who are just breaking in, you know, people in their twenties. It’s like a fountain of youth actually!”
    Dauood Naimyar, a 10-year comic, will emcee the Sept. 2 show, and comic Paul Conyers emcees Sept. 9. Both shows begin at 8 p.m.
    Naimyar, who took third place in this competition in 2018, knows exactly what the comics will be going through.
    “It was nerve-racking and stressful and the most fun I’d had doing comedy up to that point,” said Naimyar. “I had a day job at the time, and the SFCC was not just in the Bay Area, but all over California. So, I would be driving to Chico doing my set, and then driving back to Oakland to get to work by 8 a.m. I met a lot of talented comedians with whom I’m still friends to this day. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience.”
    Naimyar, a full-time comic for the last 10 years, currently lives in Hollywood, but grew up in San Ramon. He said the SFCC changed his life.
    “The competition really changed the San Francisco comedy scene perspective of me,” he said. “Prior to that, I was not really known in the area and had trouble booking shows. But once my name started progressing through the finals, I started to get the recognition from my peers that I craved.”
    Given the current dire world landscape in all arenas (political, economical, mass shootings, pandemic, environmental and equality set-back), Fox feels that now, more than ever, laughter is the best medicine.
    “I think it’s much more important. We have a calling now that someone’s got to provide some relief. And people want to get away from all those things,” said Fox. “They want to have some fun and laugh. That’s our job.”
    Fox added, “It’s been especially hard because we had to forego doing the event in 2020. We were walking on eggshells last year because of restrictions.”
    He said last year there were two attempts by venue managers saying their performers had to perform with masks on, but Fox’s team managed to convince them otherwise.
    Fox encountered an experience which solidified how important his job of making people laugh is right now.
    “I was sitting in the audience at Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa behind this couple. Obviously, the husband did not want to be there at the beginning of the show, and the wife was encouraging him to stay,” said Fox. “By the end of the show, they were kissing, hugging and laughing and I was like wow, this is what I’m meant to do.”
    This isn’t the first time the SFCC has been at the Orinda Theatre, and Fox always gives the comics advice about the Orinda audience.
    “This audience has seen a lot in life. They’re successful and they know 10-times more than what you think you know,” said Fox. “And you better respect that, or you’re gonna fall flat on your face!”
    The 32 contestants are mostly seasoned, veteran comics looking for that next leg up – not to mention some extra money in their bank accounts.
    “They’re not amateurs. They’re professionals and this is the next step on the ladder for them,” said Fox. “But the event does have a great reputation because some of the alumni that we’ve had, included Robin Williams, Dana Carvey and Ellen DeGeneres. And so, it will open doors.”
    He added, “It’s also right for a normal workshop. I tell them, you know, we are giving away $20,000 here, but you can’t fail because whether or not you get any prize money out of this, it’s going to force you to come to terms with your act. You’re going to have to trim it down to its bare essence.”
    Naimyar, who can be found on Instagram at @dauoodn, is looking forward to hosting, but he’s also excited about the Orinda audience support.
    “I really appreciate the audience and fans who keep coming back every year and bringing new friends because they help mold these future stars,” said Naimyar. “Without their positive and sometimes negative feedback, these competitors wouldn’t be able to grow.”
    Tickets are $30 for the first five rows and $25 for rows 6 through 13. For more information, visit www.orindamovies.com.

Charleen Earley can be reached at editor@theorindanews.com.

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