Knee-slapping and laughter. Strong cocktails and beer in plastic cups. A single spotlight, highlighting an individual in a funky button-up peering out from behind the mic.
These are the things you expect at a stand-up comedy night — not at the beachy, trendy sweatpants store Aviator Nation. So why is Dope Show Comedy starting a stand-up series at the brand’s Hayes Valley location later this month?
The leisurewear company was founded in 2007, and became a celebrity favorite shortly thereafter. Their original store was in Venice Beach and, as a kid growing up in L.A. private schools, I was aware of the sweats as a “status symbol” from my tweenage years. In fact, when I finally ordered my first pair earlier this year (working from home makes spending over $100 on comfies sound reasonable) I, much to the confusion of my roommates, squealed the name of my middle school best friend — the quintessential “it girl,” who could regularly be found in Aviator Nation. She is now, as should have been predicted, a yoga practicing, poetry writing, tropics-traveling Instagram model. Receiving them in the mail, the 12-year-old in me finally felt like I was one of the cool kids. Maybe comedy show organizers were hoping to soak up some of their awesomeness?
To answer that question, I called up Murahd Shawki, comedian and executive producer of Dope Show Comedy. He had a much more practical explanation. “We were looking to start a show in Hayes Valley, and we were just checking out the neighborhood,” he says. “We saw Aviator Nation, and how they have this decorative stage area with a piano and a drum kit, a beautiful backdrop, vinyl records, and neon signs. We run a lot of shows, and immediately recognized they had the perfect layout.”
Dope Show Comedy’s first performance will be on July 31 at 8 p.m., their second on August 28th, and, as long as all goes as planned, potentially continue for every last Saturday of the month. Titled “Double Rainbow,” the comedians will perform on a stage inside the store surrounded by the loungewear brand’s colorful clothing. The comics will crack jokes indoors to a crowd of 30-to-40 people, making for an intimate setting, says Shawki. The lineup features six local comics: 2019 World Series of Comedy winner Ryan Goodcase, San Francisco Punch Line favorite Emily Van Dyke, Desi Comedy Festival’s Ryan Sudhakaran, SF Sketch Fest’s Marcus Williams and Sureni Weerasekera, and Shawki himself.
Shawki normally hosts his shows at comedy clubs all over town. On Wednesdays they’re at the San Francisco Athletic Club, on Fridays they’re at Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, and every other Saturday they’re at Mister Bing’s. During the pandemic, they were one of the only sources of COVID-safe comedy, conducting outdoor shows at Oakland locations Nido’s Backyard and Oeste Bar. On multiple occasions, he says he’s introduced new customers to these locations, and thinks Aviator Nation will reap the benefits, too. “Every time I run a show at Boozeland, I get a comment from an audience member that’s like, ‘Wow, this is a good bar,’ so I know I’ve just made a new fan of the venue,” he says. “We pull in a pretty valuable demographic: the people who come to our shows are 25 to 35.”
The show’s biggest appeal, however, has nothing to do with venue — rather, it’s bang for your buck. Whereas comedy lovers might buy tickets to see just any one of the comedians he brings to the stage, at Dope Show, they get to see multiple buzzworthy comics in the same night. “What you’ll see at our show is six comics, who are on the rise, all doing the tightest 10-to-15-minute sets,” says Shawki.
It also helps that there is a bar next door — Noir Lounge. There, guests can grab a bite to eat, order drinks, and find a lovely bathroom to miss half the show waiting in line for. Ahh, the pleasures of comedy shows…
The partnership between Aviator Nation and Dope Show Comedy may, at first glance, seem like a strange collaboration. But upon second glance, it’s not an act of sacrilege. Rather, it’s a reimagining of the comedy club scene, and an example of the sort of flexibility by which Shawki’s troupe was able to survive the pandemic. If all goes well, perhaps the new arrangement will take Dope Show Comedy to new heights.
Aviator Nation declined to comment.