The crowd murmurs and jabbers like a wild beast at the Canyon Theater Guild in Newhall as the beer starts to take effect and the improv group announces the first of three headlining comics for the night.
It’s a special evening at the theater. After the professionals got the crowd to begin making sounds similar to hyenas, these masters of chuckles and jibes are letting a first timer take the stage and try his hand at the craft.
Brandon Gibson — the personality behind the morning radio show on KHTS 1220 AM — put together the act named Safety Net Comedy.
“I started thinking about my first time doing stand-up and where I was then and where I am now, and how things have changed. I wish I had some way to bail me out of things I didn’t want to say,” Gibson said. “If I had a Delorean and I had the chance to go back and do it again, I would bring a bunch of guys that would go ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and slap me on the back of the head [and say] ‘thats not funny, this is funny.’ So I thought, ‘why not give somebody that chance?'”
The first time comic, Kurt Tocci, came from Santa Monica for this event. Tocci is somewhat stocky, with a genuinely friendly personality. His performing style is reminiscent of what Dane Cook was like at his age. A theater student at Santa Monica College, he found an ad on Craigslist asking for audition tapes. Eventually, he was called back by Gibson, who asked Kurt to participate in the “Safety Net” experiment.
“Everyone loves a good laugh, and I think just from watching a bunch of stand up comedians for so long it just looks like fun. Why wouldn’t you want to go up there and make people laugh when you can,” said Tocci. “I mean what do I really have to lose?”
Behind Tocci and Gibson were comics Patrick Keene and Lou Santini. Improv group Bent-Neck-Giraffe was also on stage. A three-man group, Giraffe is comprised of theater students from College of the Canyons.
The “Safety Net” portion of the show only lasted 30 minutes, but Tocci was able to keep command of the stage — with the occasional interruption from the professionals making a comment or two. While some of his material needs to be refined, he has great potential. Lou Santini commented on this after the show in the main lobby of the Canyon Theater Guild.
“The biggest challenge [to young comedians], every one will probably tell you, is being original or being ground breaking, but just be funny,” Santini said. “Just be yourself, but be yourself times ten.”
Gibson is not sure about future Safety Net shows, but is weighing the possibility of pitching the idea to Comedy Central.