Starting stand up comedy a year apart and both hailing from the Bay Area, Sean Keane and Sammy Obeid return to their roots and co-headline Punch Line San Francisco.
Ronn Vigh: Do you remember your first set at Punch Line San Francisco?
Sean Keane: My first set at the Punch Line was on an "Iron Comic" show during Sketchfest, which I was only on because Randall Wong (Fresh Off The Boat) got sick. I’d done the show before, which has comics write jokes on the spot from audience suggestions, but I don’t think anyone in the crowd knew who I was. I didn’t win, but I did well enough that the booker told me I could do the Sunday showcase some time. I said, “How about this Sunday?” because you strike while the iron is hot. I like that expression because it implies comedians know anything about manual labor. I’ve since done Iron Comic at least three more times at Sketchfest.
Sammy Obeid: I was less than a year into comedy. My friend Hasan Minhaj asked me to host his show on a Monday. I bombed. After watching many Sunday showcases and seeing how fun and hot the crowd was, I was shocked that I was getting little to no response. People consoled me afterward, saying "Mondays are tough" but it was probably mostly me just being less than a year into comedy.
How has starting comedy in the Bay Area and the Punch Line shaped the comedian you are today?
Sean: The Bay Area has a ton of places to perform and also has actual audiences full of people who read books and know things. I don’t think I appreciated how good the crowds are here until I started performing in other cities - you can get spoiled. Although it can also make you overconfident about how well jokes about NPR, polyamory, and food trucks are going to go over in Turlock. Oh, and it’s probably the city where you’re most likely to get paid in weed.
Sammy: The Bay Area is one of the best places to become a comedian. It has so many different kinds of rooms and crowds. It also doesn't have the pressure and overflow that LA. or New York has, so you can really spread your wings, do longer sets, and grow. Punch Line establishes a goal for every Bay Area comedian to reach. Hang out in the back on Sundays, work on your set Monday-Saturday, and one day you'll get called on to show your work so you can work your first A room. The crowds at Punch Line are smart and the bar is high for originality... I credit a lot of my originality and intellect in comedy (I could be wrong and have none, but assuming I do) to coming out of the Punch Line.
Have you ever regretted telling a joke?
Sean: I used to do a joke where I made fun of the Raiders for an extended amount of time and at one point a woman in the crowd yelled, “They’re trying, OK?” Then I noticed she was sitting with a huge, muscular, scowling man, and realized I’d been directly roasting a member of the team. He probably assumed I was doing it on purpose and straight up picking a fight with an NFL offensive lineman. I regret hurting his feelings and am thankful he did not wait for me in the parking lot to discuss things.
Sammy: Not really. I've had bad responses to jokes, but it's never my fault, always the crowd's. I'm kidding, but seriously, for every joke there is a crowd that will laugh at it, no matter how bad it is. The only way you'll know if it's the crowd for your joke is by telling it. So no regrets.
What's the best piece of advice you could give to a new comedian?
Sean: Perform as much as you can, cut extraneous words out of your jokes, and never do bringer shows. If someone is making you bring audience members as a condition of performing, you might as well produce your own show. Oh, and learn how to apply for food stamps.
Sammy: There's a shit ton of comedians nowadays, so really think about what's gonna make you stand out. And, don't tell math jokes, that's mine.
What are your comedy aspirations for 2019?
Sean: Become rich and famous. Actually I’d settle for solidly middle class and someone calling me an “undiscovered gem.”
Sammy: I want to get a special on TV (or streaming services). A viral stand up vid or two would be nice.
Finally, you both have performed at Punch Line so many times. Is there any one night in particular that stands out?
Sean: Once, we got word that Dave Chappelle was going to drop in on a showcase but it wasn’t clear when he was arriving, and my assignment was to go up and perform until he arrived in the club. They said, “You might do one minute, you might do twenty minutes.” I think I did six minutes, and when Dave came in, I have never wrapped up a set faster. Also one of the comedians in the back kept insisting that Dave had brought his “Muslim spiritual advisor” along to the show, because he didn’t recognize Mos Def.
Sammy: There are so many but my best memory at Punch Line was the time I celebrated the end of my run of 1,001 consecutive nights of comedy. I did my 1,001 night show at Punch Line, it was sold out and in my memory it was the best show of my life.
Sean Keane and Sammy Obeid co-headline Punch Line San Francisco on Dec 20, 21, 22. One show Thursday. 2 shows on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $18.50 - $24.00 in advance.
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