The audience silently watched as the large, shaggy, long-haired man slowly approached the microphone. Looking everything but composed, the man sniffled a few times before segueing into his first joke.
“I just want to start off by saying … I’m not as good of a stoner as I look,” Cristiano Machado said.
The crowd immediately burst out laughing, and the pleased comedian flashed a quick, sly grin before following through with the rest of his act. The crowd at the San Francisco Comedy Competition was already warmed up for Machado, as he was the fifth out of 15 competitors to enter the stage. The 15 comedians entertained a crowd of about 300 people on the night of Sept. 8 for the 43rd annual Comedy Competition, which took place at the Marin Showcase Theater in San Rafael.
These acts were the preliminary rounds for the semifinals, and five comedians were chosen to advance and continue competing for the $15,000 cash prize.
In this year’s show, Machado was a highlight. Although he was one of the youngest competitors, not only did he carry out his act flawlessly, but was able to take one out of the five spots in the semifinals.
Machado was one of the most entertaining performers, and was complemented by the gregarious host, who set the tone for the night with a hilarious and enthusiastic introduction covering content ranging from his personal life to edgy political jokes.
The use of current events as comedic material was not uncommon, as “Donald Trump sucks” became a prevalent theme of the night’s performances. Many backhanded comments regarding the president were made, some of which were very creative and well executed. They called out a number of his policies, as well as some of his inappropriate behavior including tweets and public statements. Although Donald Trump is a very easy (and obvious) comedic target, it seemed as if a few comedians based their entire act on the president. Even the wittiest of jabs at the president began to turn into desperate attempts for an easy laugh, rendering such material mundane.
Although such content did get a few laughs at first, the applause began to die down after the third round of similar humor, and it appeared as if the audience was ready for some new material. Luckily, most comedians had a handful of fast-paced and lively jokes; many used their appearance and personalities as a platform for their comedy routine. Jokes like these were essential throughout the night because they consistently loosened the crowd up and maintained an upbeat vibe.
However, even with the addition of self-deprecating material, many of the competitors fell flat in their efforts to amuse the crowd. Lacking adequate material and confidence, it was clear that many of the comedians were new to stand-up, and a little nervous on stage. Some of these stage jitters impacted performances, resulting in some boring and even awkward sets, but several performers skilfully turned poorly-received lines into humorous moments of their own.
At the end of each set, the competitors were awarded a point if they could make it through a ten-second count of applause, judged by the host. Although most of the comedians made it through the ten seconds of “applause,” partially due to pity cheering, it was clear that loudness was the determining factor in awarding points.
The show started off very energetic and for the most part maintained that same energy to the end. If in search for a side-splitting laugh (and possibly a few pity laughs), the 43rd annual San Francisco Comedy Competition satisfies with lighthearted, if slightly politicized humor. An entirely new set of comedians will perform on Sept. 15 in the same location; the show is only $30 per seat and guarantees a unique group of 15 talented comedians.