Things That Make You Go Ha

If you don’t feel like leaving Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to hear some top-quality jokes, you’re in luck.

2015 has seen an influx of comedy events and entertainment venues booking comedians all over our fair wine-riddled land, and Santa Rosa has some of the funniest.

Lila CuginiLila Cugini, a Santa Rosa resident for over 25 years, held a weekly comedy event at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa’s West End called Now We Are Friends. Cugini made a point to include newcomers to the scene in her lineup, as well as alternative and female comedians, who don’t always get equal footing with their male counterparts. Her show has been put on pause while she's busy welcoming a tiny human she recently brought into the world.

While Now We Are Friends is on hiatus, there’s still plenty of much-needed mirth to be had. Many Santa Rosa-based comedy veterans are helping to not only bring comics from San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and elsewhere to our fair city, they are also working to spread the scene throughout Sonoma County. Steve Ausburne, who has drummed up laughs at SF Sketchfest and the Punch Line Sacramento among others, runs a monthly comedy room in Healdsburg’s Thumbprint Cellars. Lifetime Santa Rosa resident Casey Williams hosts a bi-monthly show at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park, which sponsors the So Your Friends Think You’re Funny contest, open to amateurs and newbies to the comedy scene, and has brought in such names as Doug Stanhope, Carlos Mencia, David Alan Grier, Todd Barry, Emily Heller, Scott Capurro, to name a few (or, okay actually a lot), and has Gilbert Gottfried November 19th.

Juan CarlosJuan Carlos, a Santa Rosa resident since 1989, also advocates for the comedy scene both in Santa Rosa and elsewhere. In May he produced a sold-out show at Christy’s on the Square and continues to act as part of the life blood of Santa Rosa comedy along with his witty colleagues.

Right here in Santa Rosa you’ll find a monthly comedy night at Fogbelt Brewing Company (1305 Cleveland Ave), featuring a side-splitting amount of local talent, all sharing their hilarity with the craft beer lovers of Santa Rosa. www-510098

Annie O’s Music Hall in Railroad Square (120 5th Street) also regularly welcomes comics to their stage, and is hosting the popular Dads on the Rocks comedy show on November 20th.

It isn’t just the intimate venues pulling crowds in for their doses of laughter - the Luther Burbank Cen-- oop, rather, The Wells Fargo Center for the Arts also brings huge acts such as Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan, Jim Gaffigan, Chicago’s famed comedy improv troupe Second City Hits Home, and Whose Live Anyway - the live stage version of the hit series Whose Line is it Anyway? - plus a whole heckuva lot more.

Basically this was just a long way to tell you the following: you need to laugh out loud. Santa Rosa has you covered.

332614c5d8ceadc738a584c8a832dd05Side note: want to add some humor to your commute? Ausburne and Williams have a “pretty much weekly” podcast as well, called Barrel Proof Comedy, which you should download immediately.

All Hallow's Eve
At Arlene Francis Center

If you’ve been too scared to commit to a plan for Halloween, we’ve got you covered. With blood. Kidding! Get it?! It was a Halloween joke. Okay, moving on….

On Saturday October 31st, 2015, the Arlene Francis Center is hosting their third annual All Hallow’s Eve extravaganza. A spooky, zombie-filled event at this multi-roomed venue means there's potential for freaky surprises around every corner, ahhhhhh! As if that weren't enough to get you dusting off that Sexy Hamburger costume, this year’s bash is being co-produced by Sonoma County’s premiere vaudeville collective, the North Bay Cabaret, and hosted by local impresario Jake Ward. Jake Ward, Santa Rosa’s dangerous darling, has once again summoned his otherworldly gift of bringing together eerily exceptional local artists and performers and phenomenal, far-reaching acts from all over the Bay Area to create this seductively sinister celebration of all things wicked and wondrous.

marc pederson (1)There will be no shortage of elaborate decor, handmade props, painted scenes to make you shiver and projection art based on films of the 1920’s German expressionism movement. The sheer range of musical talent gathering like lost souls on the AFC stage is phenomenal. From post-apocalyptic vagabond acoustic, to dark edge demonic metal, to an upbeat interdimensional Oingo-Boingo all-female cover band - these are just on the main stage! For a lower-key musical faire the “Cage Stage” outside will be featuring local musicians including Santa Rosa’s own Corner Store Kids and a solo performance by Sebastian of The Highway Poets, among others. Inside the Arlene Francis cafe you’ll find a wicked dance party, with local DJ’s Brycon, Tony Manfre, Aspect McCarthy (of Jazz Mafia), and Shifty Shey taking turns spinning webs--er, vinyl.

All of this will be black-peppered with hypnotic belly dancing, cryptic goth comedy, frankenstein-inspired burlesque, aerial trapeze bodywork by Santa Rosa’s Quenby D. Trapeze, circus sideshow pain, and more. This will truly be an event for all of the senses.

quenby (1)Everybody knows that no Halloween whirlwind is complete without a few basic creepy crawlies and macabre elements; needless to say, the Arlene Francis Center has got them. Santa Rosa’s own Giant Insect Zoo, tarot readings, themed photo booths, live exotic insects and snakes and the All Hallow’s Eve signature feature: $5 Funerals. To help you get through the horrors, beverages from Lagunitas Brewing Company and Iron Horse Cellars will be available for purchase, as well as a special "not at all made from body parts" catered food menu.

Doors open for “All Hallow’s Eve 3” on Saturday, October 31st at 7pm with entertainment beginning at 8pm. Pre-sale tickets are $10 online at or at The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa. If you’d like to buy tickets at the door, do yourself a favor and wear a costume. I once arrived at a Halloween party in my plainclothes and it was awkward, to say the least. Plus, you’ll get into the event for $10, as opposed to the $15 door fee for non-costumed attendees. Event is 18+ for entry. Arlene Francis Center 99 Sixth St. Santa Rosa, CA.


Santa Rosa is quickly emerging as a happy contender in the art and entertainment world, and is the proud home of the newest (and smallest) Mortified chapter, Mortified Sonoma County.

What is Mortified, you ask? The simplest answer: it’s the best show ever. More specifically from their website, Mortified is a show where you can “witness adults sharing their most embarrassing childhood artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, art) with others, in order to reveal stories about their lives. Hear grown men and women confront their past with tales of their first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Jon Bon Jovi.”

For the record, I’m pretty sure I deserve to marry Jon Bon Jovi, right now.

After much discussion with Mortified founder Dave Nadelberg and Mortified San Francisco and Oakland Producer Scott Lifton, it was agreed that yours truly could bring Mortified to Santa Rosa for a test run...just to see if it would go over or not.

If you weren’t one of the 200+ people packed like sardines into Christy’s on the Square for the first ever Mortified Sonoma County show, then let us just say this: it went over, all right. It went over like a rainbow looking for gold. Weird analogy? Yes. Great show? YES!

Courtesy: Suzanne Karp
Courtesy: Suzanne Karp

Santa Rosa welcomed Mortified with open arms and pulled in neighbors from our surrounding Sonoma County communities to watch the mortification happen. Just as everyone has a story to tell, everyone has an embarrassing story to tell, often from those most awkward years of youth. And sure, not everyone is brave enough to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers describing the first time they got their period or how they did nothing with their time but intricately and angrily rate every Hamburger Helper their mom ever made...but hearing others do so sure is hilarious. And, surprisingly cathartic.

From diaries chronicling being forced to help with mom’s house cleaning business, to letters describing how going back into the closet is much harder than coming out, to the hip hop improv skills of Petaluma’s Opey tha Poet topping off each reader’s awkward confessions with an original, on-the-spot song about their angsty pain...Mortified Sonoma County was a massive success - and we’re ready for more!

In preparation for the next show which will once again be held right here in Santa Rosa, Mortified Sonoma County’s production team is currently meeting with sweaty, nervous everyday people who were lucky enough to keep the embarrassing documentation of their acne-filled, hormonal youth. Want to check it out? If you think you’ve got something to share, go to and click Participate, then find Sonoma County. If you’d like to just come to the shows and witness the revelation of burning crushes, early sexual adventures, exiting of closets, poop accidents, parent hating and so much more, go to Facebook and ‘like’ Mortified Sonoma County to stay updated. To hold you over, there’s a documentary you should definitely watch, called Mortified Nation - it’s on Netflix, people! So easy! You should also subscribe to the Mortified podcast on PRX via itunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Until the next show, remember the Mortified Motto: We are Freaks, We are Fragile, and we all Survived.

Click here to go to the Mortified Sonoma County Facebook page.