Most schools choose mascots that reek of misogyny, but in true Santa Cruz fashion, the Banana Slug is a hermaphrodite—and any university that has a Banana Slug as a mascot also has a sense of humor. Luckily for comedy fans of all ages, Santa Cruz has a thriving comedy scene active virtually every night of the week.
UCSC has a group that anyone can join dedicated to stand-up comedy called Slug Stand-Up. They tell jokes around campus all year long, and if you have the comedy bug, joining is a good way to get over the shaky legs that come with doing open mics.
Over at Cabrillo, the Performing Arts Club puts on several open mics a semester at the Black Box Theatre.
And the non-elitist stand-up comedy scene is strong not only on campus, but throughout the bars, clubs and coffee shops of downtown Santa Cruz.
A recent “Funniest Student in Santa Cruz” competition at my venue DNA’s Comedy Lab boasted a Slug winner: Audrey Hebert, who is new to stand-up.
“I thought there were other people in the competition that were better than me and doing it longer,” the shy sophomore says. When asked how she gets over the jitters, Hebert says, “I get nervous. I envision the worst-case scenario, like bombing, and realize that it really doesn’t matter. I know I’ll survive.”
Also placing that night was Cabrillo Sophomore Colin Thiel. “I always knew I wanted to do stand-up comedy, and I saw Santa Cruz had a website and an active scene,” says the red-haired comedian. “So I enrolled at Cabrillo, and I’m looking to transfer to UCSC if they’ll have me.”
Thiel, like many college students each year, makes the pilgrimage off campus to colorful downtown, where the comedy scene is in its heyday.
Not only can you see national headliners and regional superstars each week, but you can also take the plunge and hit the strong open-mic scene. From the bunny slope every Monday at the Poet and the Patriot hosted by UCSC graduate Sam Weber (sign up at 7:30 p.m.), to the cool-kid vibe upstairs at Rosie McCann’s every Wednesday (sign up at 8:30 p.m.) to the newly minted Blind Tiger Open Mic also on Wednesdays at DNA’s Comedy Lab (sign up at 8 p.m.), there’s no shortage of places to laugh and be laughed at.
There’s also the opportunity to join sketch and improv groups like Shebam (UCSC’s only all-female sketch group), Secret Family, and Someone Always Dies. Or maybe you want to just find a comedy-writing partner.
“I saw a copy of Fish Rap (UCSC’s long-running humor publication) and that’s what I got involved with my freshman year,” says Hebert. Although the fledgling comedian knows getting into writing comedy screenplays can be a hard career path, she also knows she’ll never give up stand-up: “There are things I get out of stand-up comedy that I love. It’s the only form of entertainment where you find out immediately if your material is any good or not. But either way, I’ll never stop.”
The burgeoning comedy scene in Santa Cruz culminates each year with the Santa Cruz Comedy Festival that takes place Oct. 4-6. So if you want to try comedy and join the ranks of comedians and the cornucopia of funny slugs, take a chance, put down the screen and seek out some live entertainment. It could change your life—or at least make you feel better about yourself for a little while.
COMEDY ON THE DAILY
Sunday: The Crows Nest, 21+, $7, 9 p.m. 2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz.
Monday: The Poet and The Patriot, 21+, free, 8 p.m. 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz.
The Catalyst, 21+, free, 9 p.m. 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Wednesday: Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub, 18+ (until 10 p.m.), free, 9 p.m. 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, 18+, Free, 8 p.m. 402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz.
Blind Tiger Open Mic at DNA’s Comedy Lab, 16+, $5 for non-performers, 8:30 p.m. 155 S. River St., Santa Cruz.
Thursday: The Blue Lagoon, 21+, free, 8:30 p.m. 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.
Every 3rd Wednesday: The Blue Lounge, 21+, free, 9 p.m. 529 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz.
Second and Fourth Friday: The Over the Hill Gang Saloon, 21+, free, 9p.m. 3530 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz.
Wednesday-Saturday: DNA’s Comedy Lab, 16+, show times and prices vary. 155 S. River St., Santa Cruz. 900-5123, dnascomedylab.com.
For a calendar of all local comedy shows, visit standupsantacruz.com.