You no longer have to go to San Francisco to see great standup comedy. I found this out by attending Trek Winery’s open mic comedy hour in Novato on Nov. 3. The show was headlined by Steve Hytner, who played Kenny Bania on the hit TV show “Seinfeld.”
Hytner’s performance brought down the house. While his humor is for mature audiences only, his comedic genius was on display as he spontaneously riffed with several audience members throughout the night. He joked with one couple for being “boring” when they said they had met at Safeway, suggesting they spice up their get-together story using various foodstuffs.
Hytner’s material was smart, sassy, well-prepared and self-deprecating. Classic lines included his observation on how women go from “fishnets to oven mitts” as they transition from the Halloween to Thanksgiving holidays. Other topics he touched on included airport travel, using the internet and raising kids. Some of the most hilarious parts were when he was most vulnerable, for example when Hytner explained what he would’ve done in high school to have a girlfriend. Physically, Hytner would sometimes screw up his face or contort his body to illustrate his point in ways that very effectively added impact to his punch lines.
Other comedians who performed that night included Mike Betancourt and Susan Alfieri. Betancourt is from the Sacramento area and explained that “We don’t have wine—we have moonshine.” His impression of Vin Diesel was hilarious, and he produced some wide-ranging sound effects. Although Betancourt interacted well with the audience, his material wasn’t quite as smart or honest as Hytner’s.
Alfieri lives in Terra Linda, and her main topic was how White people in Marin do Halloween. While she was well-prepared, her gig did not include any direct interaction with the audience or physical humor.
Trek Winery has a classic northern California feel. Each comedian remarked on the beauty of the venue. The performance room was unique, with wine barrels stacked against the walls from floor to ceiling. It was easy to hear and see all the performers, and they were able to comfortably communicate with the audience. Not surprisingly, wine was one of the themes of the night.
I had never been to a stand-up comedy show before and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was delightfully surprised at how funny and relatable the performers were. I didn’t get all of their jokes, likely because most of the humor was directed at the majority adult audience members. For example, they understood the Seinfeld jokes that I did not.
Once or twice a month, Trek Winery hosts stand-up comedy showcases involving both amateur and professional comedians. With prices ranging from $15 to $25 per ticket, the cost is pretty comparable to going to a movie, particularly since there is no cover charge. Although plenty of wine was available, there was no pressure to drink alcohol, and the winery bar sold non-alcoholic beverages as well.
The next Marin comedy showcase at Trek Winery will be on Dec. 15. I highly recommend this performance as a stress reliever during finals week. However if you are not an upperclassman, parental guidance may be advised due to the maturity of some of the topics.