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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Club Owner who Gave Start to Dana Carvey and Bob Goldthwait Is Back on SF's Comedy Map

Posted on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Don Gavin
  • Don Gavin
The legendary Other Cafe is returning to San Francisco - at least in name. Bob Ayres, a former owner of the club that closed in 1988 and one of two men who established it as a comedy spot, is back in the promotion business after orchestrating a massive Other Cafe reunion show last year at the Palace of Fine Arts. His series is called the Other Cafe Comedy Showcase, and his first San Francisco show is Saturday at the Jewish Community Center. It mixes a visiting Bostonian - Don Gavin - with two Other Cafe veterans, Will Durst and Johnny Steele. Friday night at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Gavin and Durst are joined by Geoff Bolt, who also got his start at the Other.

"I feel that Don Gavin is a true stand-up American classic," Ayres says - and considering who he's seen through to stardom, we tend to believe him.

click to enlarge Will Durst came in fourth out of 11 candidates when he ran for mayor.
  • Will Durst came in fourth out of 11 candidates when he ran for mayor.
The Other was a tiny club but its reach was massive. The former coffeehouse on the corner of Carl and Cole was an incubator for names including Dana Carvey, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Rob Schneider, as well as enduring local stars such as Marga Gomez.
click to enlarge At the Other, you never knew when Robin Williams might show up. He's shown here at last year's reunion. - DAN DION
  • Dan Dion
  • At the Other, you never knew when Robin Williams might show up. He's shown here at last year's reunion.
Comedic giant Robin Williams was known to drop in for unannounced sets. (We've always pitied the local comics who came after one of those surprises.) Ask anyone in the business today and they'll tell you the Other was a leader in San Francisco's second "golden age" of comedy (the first giving rise to the likes of the Smothers Brothers and Lenny Bruce in the early 1960s).
click to enlarge Bobcat Goldthwait, who was also on hand for the reunion, is said to have once done almost an entire set at the Other inside a cardboard box. - DAN DION
  • Dan Dion
  • Bobcat Goldthwait, who was also on hand for the reunion, is said to have once done almost an entire set at the Other inside a cardboard box.
Ayres says last year's reunion was so well-received by the public and the 20-someodd comics who performed that he was moved to return to promoting stand-up.
click to enlarge Johnny Steele calls himself a comedian and "an all-around loudmouth commentator."
  • Johnny Steele calls himself a comedian and "an all-around loudmouth commentator."
"I felt I had to produce more comedy," Ayres said, "so I'm doing it as a side thing for comics I really respect at occasional theater-style presentations in the tradition of our infamous Haight-Ashbury comedy club."

That club, by the way, had big plate-glass windows that were often left uncovered during performances. According to the official history on Ayres website, Paula Poundstone got a guy on a motorcycle to ride it into the club while she was onstage.

Don Gavin, Will Durst, and Johnny Steele start at 8 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Admission is $20-$35. Ayres site mentions "possible drop-in guests." We won't say who they might be (because, frankly, we don't know) but we've told you about the man's history.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section.

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