The inaugural Gundo Comedy Festival brings the funny to El Segundo
By Michael Aushenker
Back in the 1970s, Redd Foxx, as irascible sitcom patriarch Fred Sanford on “Sanford and Son,” used to say that his cheap Ripple wine hailed from “the vineyards of El Segundo.” In one episode he plans to commission a religious painting of Moses parting an El Segundo oil spill, and in another Fred says his son’s “Days in Paris” cologne “smells more like ‘Nights in El Segundo.’”
In the 2011 documentary “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” Q-Tip reveals that the inspiration for the ‘90s rap group’s jokey hit “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” came directly from “Sanford and Son.”
Starting this week, however, El Segundo elevates itself from punch line to comic epicenter with the inaugural Gundo Comedy Festival, a nine-event engagement that continues through May 17 at venues throughout the city.
The Gundo Comedy Festival kicks off Wednesday with a noon “Call in Sick to Work” comic storytelling event at El Segundo Brewing Co. and continues with a free 8:30 p.m. stand-up performance by Ryan Stalder at the Purple Orchid Tiki Lounge.
Festival organizer David Williamson, an El Segundo resident, has been a coordinator of the South Beach Comedy Festival for the past three years. As a comic he’s opened for Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black and Jimmy Fallon. Now he’s assembled a program in his own neighborhood with a lineup that, in addition to Stalder, features Al Jackson (Comedy Central), Mo Mandel (TruTV’s “BARmageddon”), Bert Kreischer and Ryan Connor.
“Dave’s been a comedian for a long time,” Stalder says. “He’s connected with a lot of major comedy. This is the inaugural year, so it’s pretty impressive the people he’s got.”
A South Bay native, Stalder launched a monthly comedy show at the Purple Orchid that happens the first Wednesday of each month. He lived there, too, until recently moving to Phoenix — “for the women,” he says.
“I got tired of looking at that goddamn refinery, [that] blight on humanity,” Stalder adds — probably only half-jokingly — and of “rock ‘n’ roll eateries,” he adds with a chuckle.
Phoenix also offers more stage time for developing comedians — and easier drivers to gigs. Stalder says that when people in Arizona whine about the traffic there, it reminds him of “how kids complain how coloring is hard.”
Stalder attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, soaking up the work of late comedians Bill Hicks and Greg Giraldo in the 1990s and early 2000s.
To win his admiration, stand-up comics must stand out against the generic, cookie-cutter routines of mainstream fare.
“You should be interesting,” Stalder says. “I like doing it, and I want to get to the point where I can just do whatever I want, wherever I want. My favorite shows are always theater-type shows. Places where people aren’t eating or drinking.”
Asked whether he thought stand-up comedy was in a good place in 2015, Stalder says he does — “but I think it’d be more exciting if I were more popular.”
Stalder looks forward to hosting the evening program on the first of the event’s five nights. After all, there’s no cover or two-drink minimum, so there’s no need to smuggle in a bottle of Ripple.
The Gundo Comedy Festival begins Wednesday with a storytelling show at noon at El Segundo Brewing Co. (140 Main St., El Segundo), $30, and continues at 8:30 p.m. with Ryan Stalder’s free show at the Purple Orchid Tiki Lounge (221 Richmond St., El Segundo). The festival closer is a headliner show on May 17 at Old Town Music Hall (140 Richmond St., El Segundo), $25.
For a complete lineup, visit theGundoComedyFestival.com.