Bring on the laughs: 44th Annual San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition comes to Nevada County |

Bring on the laughs: 44th Annual San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition comes to Nevada County

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector


WHO: The Center for the Arts

WHAT: 44th Annual San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 13 — doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m.

WHERE: Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Dr. Grass Valley

ADMISSION: General Admission $35, Members $30, Premium Box Seats $45

MORE INFO: 530-274-8384

The Center for the Arts is once again bringing the 44th Annual San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition to Nevada County, this time to the Foothills Events Center tomorrow night.

Competition Producer John Fox has run the competition for all but the first year. He said he and his wife stumbled into a comedy club in North Beach forty-three years ago and saw a new comic named Robin William perform in a comedy competition. The event was not well attended but there was a thought that the competition could become an annual event and Fox talked to the club owner about getting involved.

“The next year, we announced the competition and wondered if anyone would actually do the event. They came down one by one, and 32 of them showed up.” Fox said, “To this day we still go with 32 competitors.”

The competition is a month-long event. Comics pay a nominal fee to have their audition viewed and from those, 32 comedians are chosen to compete. They are first split into perform in two groups of 16 each. Fox said, “We are putting together an entertaining show as well as a competition, so a lot of factors go into deciding who will be included.” This year, there were over 200 submittals.

Week one, the first group of 16 comics perform four times in the preliminary rounds and are judged using a sophisticated scoring system. “They are scored from one to ten in seven categories.” Fox said. This keeps someone from being eliminated based on the taste of a single judge or single performance. He added, “The comics have the option of having their lowest score dropped or only performing three times since some of them might need to do a gig to finance this thing they are doing. They can’t always make all four shows.” The top five highest score earners then move onto the semi-finals and perform ten-minute sets at five venues.

Week two, the second set of 16 comics go through the same schedule. One of those four performances will take place at the Events Center. The comics performing in Grass Valley are a mix of ten males and six females, hailing from as far away as New York, Florida, Edmonton, and The Hague and as close as San Jose, Petalum, and Sacramento.

Local talent are selected to be judges, Fox said, “The formula I look for is someone in the media who will bring attention to the event; a past competitor who understands what the comics are going through and someone from the entertainment industry who might actually be able to hire some of these people. That is the ideal, but we don’t always succeed. But that is what we shoot for.”

This year, the Center For The Arts judges are KVMR General Manager Ali Lightfoot, an award winning film and radio producer, founder of the Paonia Film festival in Paonia, Colorado and director of several youth radio and film programs and reporting projects;  Executive Director of South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRC) Melinda Booth; and KVMR broadcaster, editor/publisher of Celebrator Beer News, former owner of the Vintage Cellar Wine Bar in Hayward, gag writer for Pat Paulson, and emcee of the Pat’s Save My Asti event, Tom Dalldorf.

Following their four nights of performances, the second set of five semi-finalists are announced, joining the first weeks five semi-finalists. Those ten comics perform longer sets (about ten minutes) five times each. Fox continued, “From there, we whittle it down to five finalists that do 15 to 20-minute sets in the five nights of finals.”

“It’s a month-long competition.” Fox said, “In addition to joining an incredible fraternity of illustrious alumni, that includes the likes of Williams, Dana Carvey and Sinbad (Ellen DeGeneres came in second that year), the winner also gets $5,000. We have a total prize fund of $15,000.”

Comedian Kris Tinkle will host the Center event. “He was a substitute teacher in the Oakland School District. You can imagine what that was like.” Fox said, with a laugh.

Fox said, “We have a record number of female comics this year, which is great. And it’s a great workshop. Even if you don’t advance, it’s worth the time and whatever financial commitment you had to make to come to grips with what you are doing on the stage.”

The Center For The Arts Marketing Manager Melissa Clark said, “We are really excited to continue the partnership we have with the San Francisco Comedy Competition as part of the Center on the Go series as we await the reopening of our center this winter.”

John Fox said, “We love coming to Grass Valley. We have high hopes to convince them to host the finals once they (the center) reopens. But we are going to have a great show this year. We can’t wait to get up there.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.