JOSHUA RAOUL BRODY: Upcoming appearances

Thanks for stopping by. This is the new, unimproved calendar page of my old, totally unimproved website. Here you will find the lengthy explanations of the various things I do, so I can keep my monthly-ish newsletters relatively fat-free. (If you got here through some other avenue, and would like to be added to that mailing list, or if you'd just like to say hi, it is a piece of cake: e-mail me! Your contact info will remain as safe as anything in this crazy e-universe. I know I won't sell it or trade it or anything, but that's all I can promise.


If you got here via, you should be apprised that EXACTLY THE SAME WEBSITE can be found at, and that it's probably a little easier to make bookmarks to pages within the site that way.


last updated, 3/5/16

this revision is dedicated to Karen Larsen for her empathy, and Mattie for her diligence

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Here's the latest updates. Click on the name to take you to a more detailed description (which may or may not include the updated info):


Plays His Favorite Beatles Songs AND Accompanies YOU On YOURS I've played Caf(c) Royale (a great little neighborhood bar in a neighborhood most people don't think of as a neighborhood) several times with Tango No. 9 and sweet-talked Les, the former owner, into letting me have my own night. It started as my filling in for a Beatles cover band, and has evolved into a sort of glorified karaoke lounge, except all the songs are Beatles songs, and the accompaniment (me on keyboards, usually David Norfleet on drums) can follow your key(s), tempo(s), and deranged arrangements, if you care to have any. Guest artists have been known to drop in and join in the Liverpudlian merriment. And you! It is way more stupid fun than it has any reason to be. PLUS it's FREE!


We did it the first Monday of every month at Royale for over six years before they pulled the plug on it, but by that time we had acquired three other monthly gigs:

First stupid bloody Tuesdays of the month, 9-11 pm at the Rite Spot 2099 Folsom at 17th St -- this one's ALL AGES!

Third Sunday of the month, 7-9 pm, at the Fireside Lounge, Webster Street, Alameda

Third Monday of the month, 9:30-11:30 pm at PianoFight, Taylor Street between Eddy and Market


BATS Improv -- San Francisco's longest-running improv company works in a wide variety of formats, from short-form like you may have seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway to fully improvised one- and two-act plays in styles ranging from Shakespeare to Elvis musical. I've been music director for most of the company's 30 years, which means I play most but not all shows, which are just about every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm at the Bayfront Theater in Fort Mason.


Hoot -- Joe Christiano, winner of the coveted Northern California Independent Booksellers' Association award for creative getting-people-to-come-into-a-bookstore award via his First Person Singular series, probably would have come up with this idea without my help, but he very graciously acknowledges An Evening Of Song as one of his inspirations. Only he does it monthly, and isn't nearly as grumpy about it as I get. September's theme is Woodstock.


Zoltan di Bartolo is a terrific singer — he started out as one half of the substance-addled lounge duo Wink & Yoni, then added jazz and tango to his skill set before taking the plunge into opera. Unlike most classical singers I've run into, he hasn't forsaken his pop roots, just added his stronger chops to that material. After working together in Tango No. 9 and Orchestra Nostalgico (see below) we landed a monthly slot at Martuni's, where we bring all of our interests to bear: cabaret, neapolitan folk songs, French pop, Beatles, tango, dreadful American top 40, and a smattering of originals. It's the 4th Monday of every month from 6-8:30 pm, and it's FREE! ... to get in.


Orchestra Nostalgico (The band formerly known as Club Foot Orchestra)/The Nino Rota Project -- take a stroll back to '60s Rome with this medium-sized big band. We started out as a Nino Rota cover band, playing mostly music Rota composed for the films of Federico Fellini, but have gradually added the work of other film composers like Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, et al. Just about everyone in the band is (a) a terrific musician, (b) a terrific arranger, and (c) stupid busy, so our get-togethers are uncommon. We managed to stay in the same city for four days in 2013, resulting in our 2nd CD, Plays the Music of..., which is available for purchase at our gigs and in more obscure used records shops around the Bay Area. We generally play at least one gig a year — New Music Bay Area's annual Garden Of Memory festival of new and new-ish music at Oakland's fabulous Chapel of the Chimes on the summer solstice, which is usually June 21 or 22. This year (2016) I will be out of town, and it is undecided whether the rest of the band, or some version of it, will be playing.


Awkward Dinner Party,

An awesome evening of improv-based theater, the brainchild of Dave Dennison and Lisa Rowland. They get some suggestions from the audience about the couple they are about to portray and the home in which they live. Then they do an introductory scene incorporating those suggestions, and alluding to a couple they've invited over for dinner. The doorbell rings -- it is one half of the couple (this month played by Ben Johnson), who explains why he's arrived alone. And then... anything can happen. I've done this show several times and despite the tight format no two shows have been anything remotely resembling alike each other.


The Bogues -- a  tribute to the genius of Shane McGowan

This started a few years ago, when local sensitive singer-songwriter and Genuine Brit Paul Griffiths decided to celebrate St. Paddy's Day by covering the Pogues' album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash in its entirety. He enlisted me to play accordion, Pat Bregant (the P of PMS) on vocals, and a number of other local dim luminaries and we had a jolly olde time. We've done it many times since then and, like so many other items on this list, it shows no signs of going away.

UPDATE: At about the same instant that I amicably withdrew from this fine ensemble, (1) I got a call from an excellent Irish pub rock band called Cullan's Hounds asking me if I was familiar with Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, as they were going to perform it on St. Paddy's Day at Peri's, a little bar in Fairfax, and (2) I got a call from the Bogues asking if I could sub for the guy they got to replace me (fortunately, this was for another gig, not their St. Paddy's Day Make-Out Room show). Is there no end to it?


Comedy Day -- five hours of stand-up comics most of whom do five-minute-long sets, so if you don't like one, you'll probably like the next one. A stripped-down version of Theee STUPEDS is house band, opening the show with a half hour of requests, and spending the rest of the day playing comics on and off with ten-second bursts of their favorite songs.


Merle "Don't Call Me 'Merle "Ian Shoales" Kessler' " Kessler

We've still got yet another "one-man show so big it takes two guys and a six-pack of beer" coming down the pike. Meanwhile, he's on Philosophy Talk, the weekly radio program on KALW, every week, although The Pla-Tones (me, him, and his wife Amy) are no longer the musical guests.


Click this link to download a text file of that oft-quoted essay I issued last December:

Tis the season (2011).


Here's a look at some other projects that I have been or might again be involved in:


Tango No. 9 -- take a stroll back to '60s Buenos Aires.

Tango No. 9's concerts generally feature the selections in our repertoire that lend themselves more to listening than dancing, although there's a little of the latter, too. Sometimes we do a milonga (in this context, it means a dance party, featuring tangos, waltzes, and [in another sense of the word] milongas), often preceded by a tango lesson. We're also available for private parties, weddings, bas mitzvahs (you think I'm kidding?) and what-have-you.

Our fourth CD, Live at the Columbarium, is ready for consumption at CD Baby, Amoeba, and other fine music outlets. Our beloved accordionist, Isabel Douglass, went off to tour with Rupa and the April Fishes, upon which she up and moved to Copenhagen and left us bereft of squeezebox. Squeezeboxless. Sans box de squeeze. We plod on natheless, still a quartet as our usual singer Zoltan diBartolo is now a full-fledged member of the group. And we occasionally are joined by a guest or two.


Sam's Enchanted Evening - you missed it

In late 2007, the Residents were invited by a producer at London's South Bank Centre to devise a show utilizing a 40-piece string orchestra. They took the bait and chomped down a hefty portion of the fishing pole as well: rather than a standard concert, they drafted a two-act play that chronicles a solo character's upbringing in 60s Louisiana and his wrestling — mostly unsuccessful — with the social issues of the day, interspersed with re-arrangements of pop hits of the era.


The Residents engaged me to transcribe their computer-based arrangements into playable orchestral parts, and to create piano reductions for use in rehearsals. After I worked with the Residents on it for a year or so, funding for a project of this ambitious scale dried up with the international financial crisis, but another outlet emerged — one Friday night in the Berkeley Art Museum's monthly new music series curated by new music angel Sarah Cahill, with an honorarium more suitable to a stripped-down version. After working on it a little bit with dramaturg Jayne Wenger, the show was mounted on June 4, 2010, featuring the Residents' singer backed by an ensemble comprising piano, string quartet (with accordion virtuoso Rob Reich filling in for the viola) and percussion.


It set an attendance record at BAM, encouraging us to pursue the project further, and also giving us insight as to what aspects of the project needed more development: the script and the acting. We then approached the Marsh and secured a six-week run in one of their Berkeley spaces, and enlisted Jim Cave to direct the performance and help shape the script. This even more pared-down version -- just singer and piano accompanist -- received rave reviews. (Here's one.)


And then it went to New York ... sort of. A four-day workshop run at the Abrons Art Center in the lower east side, produced by Steve Saporito and directed by Travis Chamberlain, along with guest artist Jibz Cameron. It earned me my first mention in The New Yorker ("THE pianist Joshua Raoul Brody", although I must confess the caps are mine, and the definite article just The New Yorker's traditional stylistic hiccup, not a sign of supremacy) and was, well, received.


Like most Residents shows, Sam's Enchanted Evening is not a typical Residents show. It only has one Resident in it, virtually all of the music is acoustic, and it has a much more linear narrative than other of their outings. That said, it is probably just as disturbing and off-putting as much of their work, and if you like disturbing and off-putting, I have to say we disturb and put off quite well.


Plans to take it to other venues here and abroad came to naught, probably because of prohibitive licensing fees for using all the songs we covered. So we're now looking at mounting God In Three Persons, the Residents' epic concept album from the 80s, probably in Fall 2016, possibly at ACT's Strand Theater. Wash this space.


Theee STUPEDS -- annoying rock band

With Ricky living full-time in London, O-lan living in Los Angeles, Laurie living who-knows-where, and Jeff not living at all, our get-togethers are few and far between. There's always our annual appearance as house band for Comedy Day, this year on Sunday, September 14 from 11am-6pm. And we do hire ourselves out to host Jam Sessions With Real Live Musicians.



Pat Bregant, Mary Lambert, and Sandy Noltimier met in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and decided they had more to offer the world than just backup vocals for Mahler's 10th. So they started singing a cappella, and then added me on piano, Elaine Herrick on bass, Susan Jette on drums, and Todd and Joe Nelson on guitar and 'cello respectively.

Laurie Amat

Soprano diva extraordinaire Amat and I have been collaborating on various things since we met in Tony Pellegrino's Deer Rose  way the heck back in the mid-80s. She is currently dividing her time between the East Coast and Europe, but we have vague plans to collaborate on something else ere long.


Three For All -- improvised theater. They no longer employ my services, but they're still worth catching. (Here's their website).



True Fiction Magazine -- improvised theater.


               Friday-Saturday, October 31-November 1, 8 pm at Stagewerx 446 Valencia near 16th St.



My solo show (still very much a work-in-progress) -- About a year ago I wrote a first draft of a book (for reasons I can go into in correspondence if you're curious) with the working title The Art Song In Late 20th Century American Pop Music. I'm now trying to turn it into a live performance/lecture-demonstration, with the even more unwieldy working title The History Of Music, Paying Particular Attention To The Years 1966-1970, But Touching On Everything Before And Since, If Briefly. There are no current plans for workshop performances, but if you have any ideas, I'm all ears. (This might also turn into a way of getting above-mentioned Berman/Thunes/Brody trio off the ground, but don't hold your breadth.)


Rubber Souldiers

If the Workingman's Dead-era Grateful Dead played Beatles songs and sang in tune, they'd sound something like this. David Gans enlisted the Rowan Brothers and they do a fine job of it; lately they've brought in me, former STUPED bassist (and current Bob Weir sideman) Robin Sylvester, and drummer Peter Lavezzoli.



See me yap about a few books I like:


Here's some products that include my services:


AT LAST! The original cast album to Broke: Based on a True Story  is available! Buy it at The Marsh or from the Duck’s Breath site or contact me for further info. Also available: Duck’s Breath’s box set (five audio CDs and a bonus DVD), which I had almost nothing to do with.

Big Lou's Polka Casserole CD -- great gift idea! and check out her second album, Dogs Playing Polka, and third, Doctors of Polkaology, and fourth, Big Lou'S Back, all of which I'm also on.
The True Fiction Magazine CD -- great gift idea!
The Whistleaires' Christmas CD -- no longer a great gift idea! I can't find them anywhere! If you know their whereabouts, drop me a line! UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Phil Worman! What do you make of that?
The Tango No. 9 CDs -- still great gift ideas, all four of 'em!

Club Foot Orchestra Plays Nino Rota -- whaddya know? Another great gift idea! Back in print.
The Asshole Monologues -- o.k. gift idea.


Here's a more-or-less alphabetical index of links to more detailed descriptions of other things I'm involved in from time to time:


Around a California Piano -- seven piano players you've never heard of -- well, six you've never heard of, plus me -- in a delightfully eclectic and unpredictable program


An Evening of Song -- a bunch of nice people singing nice songs. Boy, we really should do another one of these sometime.


Ralph Carney -- incredibly strange music


Enjoy -- arty film


Ethel Merman Memorial Choir -- annoying singing group


Sara Felder's Schtick!


The Folk-Ups -- very loud acoustic act


Fratelli Bologna


Dan Hicks


The Holy Modal Rounders


Improvpalooza — an annual improv festival held in June and July in Mendocino County produced by Doug Nunn of the Burns and Nunn comedy team and co-founder of Hit and Run Theater. The program is usually the current line-up of Hit and Run for the first weekend, a reunion of Hit and Run alumni for the second, and an all-star line-up drawn from Los Angeles Theatersports (with me on keyboards) on the third.


The Marsh -- a breeding ground for new performance


Kitty Ultra Sound -- chanteuse


My fabulous career as a composer for film, video, and multimedia


Overtone Industries' It's A Pretty Good Life -- avant-garde holiday show


Patsy Cline and the Memphis G-Spots


Rezzn -- annoying heavy metal band


Rick & Raoul -- comical musedy


Paul Robinson -- really great guitarist


Sprocket Ensemble -- original music for original animation


Tenderloin Opera Company -- experimental, neighborhood-specific musical theater




And here's the more detailed descriptions in all their glory, but no particular order, and with almost certainly outdated dates. (For my current schedule, please rely on the list at the top of this page.):


Tango No. 9(click the name to go to the website)

was formed in 1998 by violinist Catharine Clune to fill the gap in her life caused by Club Foot Orchestra's lapse into dormancy. She figured it would be easier to coordinate the schedules of a quartet than a 10-piece band, and that a tango group would be easier to rehearse in her living room than something with drums. Imagine her surprise when she discovered Astor Piazzolla, the Argentine maverick who combined traditional tango with jazz improvisation and classical composition training (learned from the legendary Nadia Boulanger) to produce an enormous body of material that is not only danceable but a joy to play and listen to. She had no trouble enlisting Odile Lavault (mainstay of the Baguette Quartette) on authentic Argentine bandoneon, avant-garde trombonist Greg Stephens, and me to join her in an exploration of this rich musical vein. A little more than half of our repertoire is by Piazzolla, with more traditional tangos, paso dobles, milongas, and odd novelty numbers filling out the rest.

Tango No. 9's debut CD, All Them Cats in Recoleta, is one of my prouder moments. Check the website for ways to get it. And watch this space for news of our new album, coming soon.

For a while the group looked like it was pursuing the greener pastures of traditional milongas, and they and I parted ways amicably. After experimenting with other pianists and bandoneonists and a couple of years' complete dissolution, I'm back in the fold, along with Isabel Douglass taking over the squeezebox chair.

NOTE: Our milongas are usually preceded by tango lessons (to recorded music), and we tend to lean more toward the traditional tangos in our repertoire. The club and concert gigs lean more toward the more modern stuff, especially Piazzolla (it is definitely possible to dance at these!).

Tonal Chaos(click the name to go to the website)

Six Bay Area performers (BATS's Gerri Lawlor, Kirk Livingston, and David Norfleet; San Francisco Mime Troupe's Amos Glick; True Fiction Magazine's Barbara Scott and Joshua Raoul Brody) take theater improvisational strategies and apply them to singing. The results careen wildly from haunting soundscapes to goofy sound effects to cabaret to Irish drinking songs to gibberish opera and back again, and everything in between and on either side... Tonal Chaos has been experimenting biweekly for the last two or three years, and made its dramatic debut last fall in my half-composed/half-improvised opera Smoke x 7.


BATS Improv(click the name to go to the website)

Local purveyors of Keith Johnstone's Impro, which has about as little to do with the crap you see on "Evening At The Improv" or "Whose Line Is It Anyway" as haute cuisine has to do with fast food chains. It's about characters and narrative, not delivering prepared one-liners more hastily and sloppily than a stand-up comic. Which isn't to say it's not funny. 

Some people are put off by the ostensible competition inherent in the Theatersports (BATS used to be an acronym for Bay Area TheaterSports) format. I was, too, at first, but it's just for show; this is one of the more supportive and nurturing environments I've ever seen.

Most Fridays and Saturdays at the Bayfront Theater are Theatersports matches performed by some of the thirty or so "company players" (the more experienced improvisors). I'm often the musical accompanist.


There are some late shows by visiting improv groups (e.g.Kasper Hauser or That Time Of The Month, an all-woman group) and other related projects. Thursdays and Sundays are usually held by the "workshop players", people who have graduated from the Theatersports training. (True Fiction's Barbara Scott and I have been teaching an advanced workshop in song improvisation through Theatersports -- and also outside of it -- for years.) Sometimes the prime-time matches are pre-empted by special shows (see below), such as full-length improvised musicals or shows based on film genres (e.g. film noir), or guests, such as Three For All and True Fiction Magazine. Call the BATS hotline, 47-IMPROV, for the most up-to-the-minute schedule.


In addition to the "potpourri of games" that is featured over much of BATS's calendar, there are from time to time specialty shows that depart from that format, including a full-length improvised Gangster Musical, a Shakespearean-style play, and an evening of improvised fairytales

Disco Romance  Patterned after Saturday Night Fever: a romantic story with disco songs (improvised from the side of the stage by director Gerri Lawlor and hot new singer-songwriter Spencer Day) serving as a kind of Greek chrous commentary.


Spontaneous Broadway is, in a way, a long form in that the entire evening is devoted to a single conceit, but purists might quibble, because the first half is substantially different in structure and style from the second (which is, essentially, a play-within-a-play). (True Fiction Magazine's format is truly a long-form, although in the course of a single show many different narrative threads might (and usually do) emerge.)


The format of Spontaneous Broadway was developed at Freestyle Repertory Theater (the New York Theatersports league) by Kat Koppett (who we inherited from New York, lucky us!). The premise is that the audience is composed of potential backers of a Broadway show, and the producer has a number of possible shows to audition, from which excerpts are presented. In actuality, on arrival audience members are given pieces of paper on which to write imaginary song titles; improvisors then pick a song title, improvise the title and synopsis of a show from which the song was supposedly excerpted, and then improvise the song (with me improvising the accompaniment). Repeat about a dozen times, audience votes on their favorite, and the second half of the evening is devoted to the "Broadway premiere" of the top vote-getter, complete with reprise of the song from the first half! 

IMPROVISED ELVIS -- My most frequent improv milieu, BATS, has given me the keys to the theater on you missed it, and I've decided to do another full-length, fully-improvised Elvis musical. Everything -- the songs, the dances, and whatever passes for a plot -- will be completely made up on the spot. PLUS we've got super-duper special guest star Rick Right sitting in on guitar. If you can only attend one thing on this page, you could do worse than coming to this one.


The Society To Undertake the Preservation of Endangered Dumb Songs (click the name for links to band history, member bios, master song list, etc.)

What with Ricky living most of the year in London and O-lan full time in LA, the old gang doesn't get to reune as frequently as we would like. It looks like our next gig will be house band at Comedy Day again September 30.

About the name   STUPEDS is always spelled in all caps as it is an acronym: Society To Undertake the Preservation of Endangered Dumb Songs. It was recently discovered that there are two other bands with the same name but, interestingly, one of them, from Dagenham, England, draws its letters from the initials of the band members' names -- Sam, Tich, Umberto, Pyotr, Ernst, Dozy, and the other Sam -- while Thee STUPEDS, from Denton, TX, doesn't stand for anything -- they just liked the name and didn't know how to spell "stupid" (or "the", come to think of it) and couldn't write in lower-case letters. Our lawyers have advised us to add yet another E to "Thee" in order to avoid trademark infringement lawsuits from either of the two other groups.

Here's some completely pointless info about other things The STUPEDS may or may not be doing:


Our other relatively dependable gig is house band at Comedy Celebration Day, held every summer in Golden Gate Park. An amusing anecdote from the '99 show: Since our drummer Eric was on vacation, our bass player Dave brought his bass and his drum set and played both at the same time. At one point our guitarist Jeffrey relieved Dave of his bass and put it on himself, looking for all the world like a mutant version of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, and playing all ten strings almost simultaneously. A little while later Dave went to retrieve his bass, but by this time the two guitar straps had become inextricably intertwined, resulting in a fairly mirthful and song-stopping bit of physical comedy, in which Jeff was almost strangled.

Usually a Sunday toward the end of September, beginning of October

The STUPEDS recently (oh, OK: a few years ago) were hired to portray a band called The Revolutionaries to appear at a product launch party for a company whose product claims to be a "revolution: the end of software". So the client asked us to perform rewrites of REM's "It's the End of Software As We Know It", the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Client Server", and the Beatles' "You say you want a Client Server, we-e-ell, you know..." They had us dress up in camouflage, leading many party-goers to walk by our stage murmuring "Where's that music coming from?" bemusedly.

We appear to be in greatest demand by corporate clients (and weddings) who want something kinda Big Chill-y but are sick of the same old Yet Another Unnecessary All-White Soul Revue. We are not for everybody, but it appears that for some people we are the bee's knees.

Rick & Raoul

Here's what we tell prospective corporate clients:


Rick Right and Joshua Raoul Brody have been purveying their unique brand of musical merriment since 1977, when Raoul joined the legendary San Francisco musical comedy act Rick & Ruby. The group, best known for their uncanny musical impressions and turn-on-a-dime transitions, gained national notice through tours with Robin Williams (appearing on his first album, Reality: What A Concept) and television appearances (Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Midnight Special and many others). In 1980 Raoul devised The Society To Undertake the Preservation of Endangered Dumb Songs (or The STUPEDS), under which guise the team appeared on Mork & Mindy in 1981.

As a duo, Rick & Raoul recorded song parodies that found their way onto the Dr. Demento radio show, and continued to front ever-changing lineups of STUPEDS (at one point the band boasted some 15 members, including back-up singers known as The Idiettes and a horn section dubbed The Brassholes; in 1989 the group appeared in the mono-million dollar sci-fi epic Martians, Go Home, earning them mentions in three different Joe Bob Briggs columns). They have also forged estimable solo careers -- Rick as a world- renowned solo stand-up, Raoul as an accompanist for improv as well as a versatile composer. Their latest project has been hosting rock'n'roll jam sessions for wannabe musicians who missed the career bus -- think of it as karaoke for guitarists -- at conventions for the likes of Sun Microsystems and Apple.

Here's essentially the same info in more chatty form:


The STUPEDS started as my hobby project to flex my entrepreneurial muscles after a few years as the mostly silent sidekick to comical musedy team Rick & Ruby. Rick shared my fondness for the dumb songs and became my ko-konspirator of kitsch, and we also worked up a duo act to while away the time that Ruby was off having babies and Ph.D.'s. We still revive that act from time to time, although we spend more time playing Stump The STUPEDS with the audience than we do reciting prepared routines. We've also started up a little cottage industry hosting a sort of live karaoke bar for instrumentalists: Chris McGregor of Stage II Productions has been hiring us for corporate parties, where a typical hotel meeting room is magically transformed into a smelly garage, complete with hubcaps on the wall, spare tires and rakes lying around, and probably even oil slicks in the shag carpet -- and a drum set, a few amps, some keyboards and a p.a. So all these frustrated musicians-turned-whatever get a chance to strap on a Strat and play all the three-chord songs they know with Real Musicians! Sun Microsystems hired us for their Java One party several years running, one year we entertained Steve Jobs at MacWorld and were the surprise guest headliner over Spinal Tap. This year it's lucky Macromedia's turn to enjoy our services.

Click here for a snapshot of Rick & Raoul at 1999's event (it's a 224K .jpg; download time will vary depending on your hardware configuration and net connection).

For those interested in Rick's whereabouts, they're usually in England, where he has become a favorite in the Jongleur's comedy club circuit. Check the club listings page in Viz Magazine, if they still have them.


Merle Kessler(click the name to go to a web page about him that he probably doesn't even know exists)

When Duck's Breath Mystery Theater first moved to San Francisco from Iowa, only four of the five members came; Merle, the fifth, was busy in New York opening a play he'd written. So by the time he came out to join his brethren I'd gotten used to seeing their sometimes silly, sometimes surreal skits (think Monty Python if they'd come from the midwest) performed by four, and thought to myself "Who is this interloper?"

"This interloper" eventually became one of my two best friends and most enduring collaborators (Rick Right would be the other one, on both counts). After we sniffed each other's butts, artistically-speaking, in little shows at the Other Cafe and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Merle eventually hired me to score his script for Duck's Breath's 1984 NPR special, The Last Days of Palm Bay, and from that point on we've collaborated on literally several shows together, from the delightfully mis-subtitled one-man cabaret acts to full-length musicals and opera briefos (our latest, Jam, is part of Overtone Industries' Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands). We also co-wrote songs for CD-ROMs like Planet Dexter's Grossology (ooh, what a proud moment that was) and the computer game Tiny Tank, and have performed our songs without the shelter of a dramatic frame under the nom d'(c)tage And They're Cops! which rerears its ugly head in clubs from time to time. While I was in Vegas, Merle started working with our beloved Dave Terry (ex-Baltimores, Child's Portion, and faux Irish tenor) as Merle and Dave, or Dave and Merle, depending on who's at the mike doing the intros. They do many of the same songs we do as And They're Cops!, only Dave can really sing.

And we occasionally co-produce An Evening of Song

Our new show, Slouching Towards Disneyland: A Brief History of the World is the latest in a series of "one-man shows so big it takes two guys and a six-pack of beer to do it". It features Merle as his long-standing alter ego, surly fast-talking social critic Ian Shoales; and me as his catatonic sleazy musician friend, Raoul. Click here if you don't know what we look like. And click here for the Chronicle's extremely kind review of our last show, Broke: Based on a True Story.
UPDATE: Click here for an equally kind (if not soft-pedaling) review of
And here's the website our director, Bill Allard, has been throwing together about it.

Ducks Breath Mystery Theater celebrated its 30th anniversary. You missed it, but it's now available on DVD.

An Evening of Song

What started as just an attempt to create a venue for our (Merle Kessler's and my) very talented friends to sing a song or two has evolved over the years into ... just that: an evening in which our very talented friends sing a song or two. Think Prairie Home Companion without Keillor's smarmy baritone. A couple of dozen people (some talented singers without a professional outlet, some professional singers who don't get a chance to sing material outside their usual repertoire) sing one song apiece. Guests at the last show included members of the Ethel Merman Memorial Choir and True Fiction Magazine, both (or, depending on how you count, all three) members of the legendary duo Rick &Ruby, former Baltimore Dave Terry, former Bob Gunnar Madsen, former Pointless Sister Bermuda Schwartz, a capella trio PMS, and many many more. I play piano, Hopefully Jeff Kane is usually on guitar, and Merle is your genial host.


Orchestra Nostalgico (the band formerly known as Club Foot Orchestra)

In the early '80s, the house band at the legendary Club Foot out on Third Street in SF was a bunch of improvising jazz and classical musicians pretending to play dance music. The founder committed suicide, so Richard Marriott inherited the name and used the ensemble to work out his compositions. He and a few of his musicians got tapped by Snakefinger to play in a show called "The History of The Blues, Parts 1 and 2", for which I played piano; we toured Europe in '83 and released an album on Rough Trade (Deutschland) that TECTones is considering reissuing but hasn't got around to yet. When we got back from Europe, Richard resumed Club Foot Orchestra with the blues band personnel and a few others, including Beth Custer and Opter Flame. When rehearsal demands started conflicting with my other interests, I was amicably fired, and the group went on to greater glory composing soundtracks for silent movies.

A couple of years ago, Club Foot was hired to provide the accompaniment for a show at Bimbo's about Hitler's Jewish psychic, Hanussen, and they, in turn, hired me to fill in on piano. When CFO's cellist Matt Brubeck was approached by Bruno's Restaurant to do an evening devoted to the music Nino Rota composed for Fellini's films, he decided to use mostly CFO personnel, including me, and we released a CD of that stuff a year or two ago on the Rastascan label.

More recently, Richard (who was not involved in the Rota project) requested that the Rotarians stop using the Club Foot Orchestra name, which he owns, so we're now going by the name Orchestra Nostalgico. A group calling itself the Club Foot Orchestra, featuring some past members, a string quartet, and Gamelan Sekar Jaya, recently performed a new score by Richard to accompany some Balinese silent film at the Castro.

Anyway, if you go to the Club Foot Orchestra site (here's one; here's another), you'll find background on this group that I was a member of for about ten minutes (including uncredited synthetic accordion wheezings on their first album, Wild Beasts, reissued on CD by Rastascan). If you check here periodically, you'll find out where the Rota project is playing next: 

Ralph Carney(click the name to go to the website)(oh, here's his old one)

So I'm sitting backstage in a theater in Minneapolis in 1990 waiting for the union guys to get off their two-hour union lunch break, during which we are forbidden to so much as lift a strap on a road case let alone set up any of our own equipment to rehearse, and the phone rings, and I say jocularly "If it's for me, tell 'em I'm not here," and the phone keeps ringing and ringing, so finally someone picks it up and answers it, and then turns to me and says "It's for you."

It was Ralph Carney, who had called me a year or two earlier on the recommendation of Eric Drew Feldman (who had just moved to work with Pere Ubu in Akron, from which Ralph had just moved here to SF). My reply was "Not THE Ralph Carney?" which I'd like to think somehow endeared me to him. But I wasn't just blowing smoke up his ass; his reputation had indeed preceded him: I'd noted his credit on albums by Tin Huey, Tom Waits, and his own project, Swollen Monkeys; he's also livened up the proceedings of the Waitresses, the B-52s, and various Hal Willner projects with his limitless talents: various saxes, clarinets, flutes, brass, and string instruments are only a small percentage of his arsenal. When he first began insinuating himself on the Bay Area music scene, he would do these solo shows where he'd augment the above instrumental line-up with arcane Southeast Asian harmonicas and talking Gabe Kaplan dolls. He later moved on to being a dependable fixture in such far-flung ensembles as the Hesla-Robinson Big Band (in which company I first actually shared a stage with him), Oranj Symphonette, and the Blue Room Boys.

After crossing each other's paths too many times for coincidence (including my microscopic stint with Waits), we finally ended up in a project suitable to both our eclectic skills and senses of humor: it was called Ralph, Finger Puppet, and a few other names over the short time we did it. The first version of the project featured Ralph's friend Daved Hild intoning previously written poems over music improvised by Ralph, me, and percussionist extraordinaire Kevin Mummey; when Daved moved to Florida, we continued for a time as a trio, with occasional guests like Ralph's old comrade from Tin Huey, Mark Price. The "crowd" that had climbed the stairs to Above Paradise to see the poetry reading that preceded us was somewhat bemused by our combo's recital of Mexican folk songs, inept Cecil Taylor impressions, two-chord jams, and dance routines; I believe the fact that all of this was being made up spontaneously was completely lost on them. I coined the expression "free pop" in a desperate attempt to describe our application of jazz improvisation strategies to the materials of pop music.

Ralph, Kevin and I keep our hands in by occasionally subverting Mr. Lucky's lounge act, and plunged back in the deep end a year or so ago with a tour supporting Ralph's second solo album, I Like You (A Lot). The still-to-be-renamed group (I voted for "Carney", because it's got the name recognition factor plus alludes to carnivals and is also a word used to describe people who take advantage of suckers, but it looks like the more prosaic "Ralph Carney" (with "and friends" merely implied) will prevail) executed a triumphant mini-tour of the Southland's more prestigious bowling alleys and coffeehouses, sharing the bill with Smokey Hormel (formerly of Beck's group) and Stephen Hodges improvising they fool heads off.

By the way, I never did find out how Ralph tracked me down to that Minneapolis backstage phone.

Ralph's third solo outing, This Is!, is out now on Black Beauty Records.

Watch this space.

Three For All(click the name to go to the website)

Stephen Kearin and Rafe Chase, both formerly of True Fiction Magazine, along with Tim Orr from Bay Area Theatersports, accompanied by me on keyboards, doing a potpourri of improv games in the first half and a long form in the second half. More reckless than True Fiction, which is both a recommendation and a caveat.


True Fiction Magazine (click the name to go to the website)

Award-winning, internationally-acclaimed, and just damned great improvisational theater ensemble. (See above, under Bay Area Theatersports, for my tirade about improvisation.) Probably the most common criticism we receive is that "it can't possibly be improvised"; indeed, one fan had to leave a recent show in the middle because the friends he'd brought were disappointed by the "poor writing". I've been with them since before their inception and, although I have resigned as a formal member of the group, continue to perform with them as a guest artist. The remaining members are Diane Rachel, Regina Saisi, and Barbara Scott. Info: 415-824-1559.


Occasional Saturdays at 10 am or so: West Coast Live, KALW 91.7 FM and other stations (at other times) around the country and, dare I say it, the world. If you're as disappointed as we are that we didn't get to go to Alaska with the show this summer, let them know.

The True Fiction Magazine CD, On The Radio, 1994-97, more than two years in the making, has finally surmounted all obstacles and is now available for your listening pleasure. It is currently on sale at performances for ten bucks. 

Big Lou's Polka Casserole (click the name to go to the website)

One day Big Lou had a dream: dozens and dozens of accordion players all lined up playing "Beer-Barrel Polka". Not only has that dream come true (through the good graces of the Cotati Accordion Festival), but in pursuit of that dream she co-founded Those Darn Accordions!; managed to come in fourth in a field of two in one of the categories of the International Accordion Festival in Castelfidardo, Italy; got drunk on bathtub vodka in Vilnius, Lithuania; was responsible for me playing "Lady of Spain" 800 times in one afternoon; and produced my candidate for the novelty record of the year (although she insists it's an authentic polka album), Big Lou's Polka Casserole (Don't Quit Your Day Job! Records). (I'd like to take full credit for the horn arrangements, which are prominently featured throughout the disc, but I just wrote 'em: it was Big Lou's overarching vision that kept me from overwriting them into arcane obscurity.) 


Since the above was written, Polka Casserole has released its second album,  Dogs Playing Polka (complete with a photo of my friend Laura Hazlett's black velvet painting on the cover), and third, Doctors of Polkaology, for which I provided the same arranging and pianoplaying services as I did on the first.


She's currently playing (without me, but still worth checking out) at Schroeder's German restaurant downtown -- call them up to ask when their next appearance is!

Drizoletto (or Octomutt or sometimes The Hulagains)

A showcase for the not inestimable talents of singer-songwriter-guitarist Ted Savarese, backed by a rotating cast of characters which often includes bassist Ashley Adams, multi-everythingist Ralph Carney, guitarist Brandy, and others.


The Marsh(click the name to go to the miserably maintained website)

Their slogan is "a breeding ground for new performance" but that almost makes it sound like you could catch a disease there. What it is is a fine little venue for theater, music, and indescribable little concoctions that you simply won't find anywhere else. The many shows and people I've worked on and with there include Merle "Ian Shoales" Kessler, A Karen Carpenter Christmas, Laurie Amat, Josh Kornbluth, Bob Ernst and Ruth Zaporah, Bermuda Schwartz, Janie Bob Scott, Zachary Barton, Pulp Playhouse, Improv Theater, Sara Felder, Deborah Gwinn, June, ... Keep your eyes open for further details, and support the Marsh.

Kitty Ultra Sound (click the name to go to the website)

A new chanteuse (one who is described at great and much better length on her own damn website) emerges over the horizon.


watch her space

Overtone Industries

Overtone started in the late '70s/early '80s and has since then had an uninterrupted commitment to developing new music theater. This mandate has resulted in such productions as the Emmy-winning Superstitions on PBS; Love In The Third Degree at the Magic Theater and in New York; String of Pearls (a collection of four mini-operas, including "Goddess of the Hunt" by me and Merle Kessler) which ran in SF, LA (garnering a couple of Drama-Logue awards) and at Carnegie Recital Hall in NY; the forthcoming double-header The Man Whose Brother Was Eaten By Wolves/The Woman Who Forgot Her Sweater; and the holiday confection It's A Pretty Good Life with book and lyrics by Kathleen Cramer and music mostly by me. Aside from the title, it's inspired more by A Christmas Carol than anything else, but it's even more inspired by the wacky brain of Ms. Cramer. 

After successful runs in Los Angeles, we're currently in negotiations to bring this strange holiday confection home to the Bay Area someday. Meanwhile, Overtone mounted Cramer and Jones' The Woman Who Forgot Her Sweater in LA in March, and is raising funds to produce Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands which will likely include a piece Merle and I are working on about people stuck in a traffic jam for eternity, and a list of the answers to all life's great questions that I created all by myself. 


Overtone's current projects include The Woman in the Wall, a new original Jones/Cramer concoction.

My fabulous career as a composer for film, video, and other multimedia

Currently playing on overpriced pay-per-view systems in hotels all across America: the Playboy Channel's Sexy Urban Legends. Produced by Amy Weinberg and Bill Olson, this is probably the best shot soft-core porn you've ever seen. I did the theme song and music on half the episodes, although they dubbed in somebody else's weird techno loop over the sample you see at the website.




Here are some projects of friends of mine that I have recommended in my quasi-monthly mailings:


The Residents

"America's best-known unknown band", are frequently mistaken for a music act. They are, in fact, conceptual artists whose output over the last 35 years includes stage productions, visual arts ranging from silkscreen to computer graphics, videos, and pioneering interactive media, as well as music and, yes, a band, also called "The Residents".


Their origins are shrouded in mystery, as are the identities of individual members. They appear to have begun working in the mid-1970s, shortly after moving to the Bay Area from Louisiana, and directed their efforts at mastering early multi-track technology and forgetting any formal music training they might have had. Some of the results were mailed anonymously to Hal Halvorsen, a liberal-minded producer at Warner Bros., who returned the package to Residents, from which the group drew its name. A blithe fearlessness led to more recordings, cover designs, marketing campaigns, and the occasional stage show, and before they knew it, their notoriety had spread world-wide. Although they bore many of the trappings of a traditional music act — recordings, songs, performances in concert venues — they were always finding ways to push the envelope, incorporating cutting-edge technology (they were, for example, one of the first artists to own E-mu's Emulator sampler, and the first to tour with it), attention to the visual component of performance (when most bands were concerned primarily with which t-shirt to wear), and incorporating narrative into all of their product.


A more formal stab at live performance of their brand of music-theater came in 1983 with The Mole Show, based on material from their 8th and 9th albums, and began a tradition of international touring every three or four years that continues to this day. In between came audio-only music theater, award-winning experiments in the nascent videogame industry (back when CD-ROMs were a force to contend with), and an internet-based video series that became the foundation for their last tour and approximately 50th album, The Bunny Boy, a performance piece that mixed monologue and song. Their current production, The Talking Light, a collection of post-modern campfire ghost stories, has just concluded its second world tour. Along the way, their influential videos found their way into retrospectives at New York's Museum of Modern Art and other institutions of high culture, while their cover version of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" was distinguished by the British pop journal NME as "four and a half minutes of the most determinedly repellant music ever recorded".


Further information is available at


The Thrillpeddlers' revival of the Cockettes' classic Pearls Over Shanghai . It embodies just about everything that drew me to and kept me in San Francisco in 1974. It's not for the faint of heart (or stomach, or butt) but it is adorable. It has been extended numerous times and continues to pull 'em in. Become one of the pulled.


Tell It On Tuesday, a monthly series of monologues-in-progress, has just moved to the Marsh's new Berkeley space, 2120 Allston Way just off Shattuck. Music starts at 7 and the stories begin at 7:30.




And if you made it this far, here's the graveyard — gigs that for one reason or another are no longer with us, but might make amusing reading for the completist:


Porchlight storytelling series, featuring hostesses with the mostesses Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte! Monthly at the Verdi Club near Mariposa and Potrero. Marc Cappelle has resumed his rightful seat as house pianoplayer.


World Premiere is me, Ralph Carney, Allen Whitman (bass player for the Mermen, Edith Rules, and others), Gerri Lawlor (queen of improv), and David Norfleet. We will be making it up as we go along, and our world premiere is Monday, October 19 at the Ivy Room in Albany. UPDATE: We had an unscheduled pre-premiere at midnight on 9/11 at the Dark Room, and it went quite well, or so said all 8 or 9 people in the audience. Sadly, Ralph has been called away to tour with They Might Be Giants, so he will miss our official premiere, but we hope to have him back for our next premiere, whenever that is.


The other thing is me, bassist Scott Thunes, and drummer Ed Berman. We've known each other for decades, and Ed has drummed for me in Theee STUPEDS and other projects, but the three of us first got together as such to tackle a bunch of Zappa tunes for a Mothers Day party earlier this year. We had fun, and are now seeing if there's any further fun to be had, and ideas that we've tossed about include other difficult music like King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, "Incense and Peppermints", "Edward, the Mad Shirt-Grinder" and Honegger's Fifth Symphony, first movement. Wash this space.


Those Darned Accordions!

Long-time followers of my checkered career may dimly recall that I was a founding member of this

group. It has gone through many changes since then (including the parting of practically all the founding

members) but will be trying to recapture the glory of the early days with a special 20th anniversary reunion

show at Caf(c) du Nord on Thursday, November 5, in the evening sometime.



The Holy Modal Rounders

Someday I'll post here the article I wrote for the late, lamented Nose about these guys. In brief: Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber started in the early '60s as a kind of psychedelic folk act -- Eugene Levy's character in A Mighty Wind could be a slightly malevolent caricature of their hypothetical offspring. They did time as the Fugs' musical credibility (remember "Boobs a Lot"?), then gradually morphed into a slightly skewed country rock band -- their version of "If You Want To Be A Bird" is one of the highlights of the movie Easy Rider. I met them several times -- once outside Folk City when I was a pimply teenaged fan; once, when I was a bike messenger, on the sidewalk outside Stampfel's West 55th Street apartment, much to his discomfort; and once more when visiting with a girlfriend whose ex-husband happened to be their drummer -- it was this last encounter that stuck, and Stampfel and I became friends. A couple of years ago, my boyhood dream came true and I got to sit in on a Rounders reunion tour of California, and again on their 40th anniversary shows in Portland, and now appear to be their on-call keyboard guy, at least for the time being. UPDATE: They (well, Peter, anyway) asked me to become an official full-time member! I accepted! And then they forgot to tell me about their most recent gig!

Around a California Piano

My old buddy Doug McKechnie started this in much the same way that Merle and I started the Evening of Song: a bunch of his piano-playing pals sitting around his living room one night trading licks, songs, and stories, and somebody said "we oughta charge admission for this". Next thing you know, Doug's booked the lovely Noe Valley Ministry and the rest is history. The line-up changes slightly from year to year; 2004 (the ninth in the series!) was the first year I've been able to do it, and the other pianists were Doug (of course), Hokum W. Jeebs, Randy Craig, Leslie Harlib, Paul de Benedictis, and Jim Purcell, fine folk all. This year's show is a benefit to buy a decent piano for the Ministry, which presents lots of excellent and off-beat shows year-round, thanks to the tireless efforts of Larry Kassin.


In 2002, Brian Lohmann (old improv friend, founder of Pulp Playhouse which became True Fiction Magazine) called me to see if I was interested in working on a new show at a Las Vegas showroom. My schedule didn't permit it, so he went ahead with a musician he knew from LA, along with some other fine LA improvisors (including Dan O'Connor and Edi Patterson). The show was created to capitalize on the Cabaret Theater at the New York New York hotel -- comedienne Rita Rudner had been doing her schtick there nightly for over a year, and her husband, producer Martin Bergman, wanted to see if he could come up with something else to fill the room when it was dark. The idea of a late-night scary sketch/impro show arose, and it opened last July. The original musician stayed with the gig for its initial run, then decided to return to LA, so I've been called in to replace him. The ticket price gets you a free ride on NYNY's legendary roller coaster.

The show that wouldn't die (does that make it ... undead???) finally did on August 10, running just over a year.

A Karen Carpenter Christmas

This unbelievably tasteful holiday confection has been delighting audiences on and off for the last half a dozen years. When I say "unbelievably tasteful", I'm not kidding: there are a total of one oblique anorexia gag and one veiled Richard-is-gay reference in the whole thing; the rest is taken up with a charmingly senseless story by director Tom Ross that serves as styrofoam packing for the songs, served up by Katie Guthorn's incredible Karen and Morey Goldstein's goofy Richard; the dear departed Jo-Carol as Mrs. Carpenter, Barbra Streisand, and (of course) Ethel Merman; and Stefanos "Tom Jonesing" Xanthoudakis as well as yours truly. If you like the Carpenters, you can't go wrong. If you don't like the Carpenters, you will probably resemble the audience at the conclusion of the "Springtime For Hitler" number in Mel Brooks's movie The Producers

The show was retired after the untimely demises of two of its key players. Katie is still active with the Soul Delights, Randy Craig Trip, and other endeavors.


I first met Jo in the early '80s when she was singing with Brian Lohmann in A Capella Gold. Since then our paths have crossed numerous times and ways: hanging out at reprobate parties when she was half of the disco diva team Jo-Lo, contributing our services to various off-shoot projects of Ducks Breath Mystery Theater, hiring her as a stunt Idiette in The STUPEDS, co-starring in A Karen Carpenter Christmas and conspiring in the Ethel Merman Memorial Choir. She died in June, 2003, RIP.

Sprocket Ensemble

Sprocket Ensemble is the brainchild of Nik Phelps, phenomenally gifted multi-instrumentalist (mostly reeds and brass) and composer who I worked with in Club Foot Orchestra. He figured if he wanted to get known as a composer he'd have to start making his own opportunities, so he started Ideas In Animation as a showcase for animators to show new work and works-in-progress, with the catch being that they "had to" work with him as composer -- not a terrible catch, in my opinion. (Among the animators who took him up is Nina Paley, hilarious cartoonist and designer of BATS' logo.) Anyway, he's been doing these shows for a couple years now, and often has guest artists like Connie Champagne, Scrumbly Koldewyn, Mr. Lucky and other household names.


Watch this space. Unless they move to Belgium, as they've been threatening for the last four or five years. UPDATE: They finally did.

Paul Robinson

Mainstay of Dan Hicks' Acoustic Warriors for many years, I first met Paul when we played in the Hesla-Robinson Big Band together. He's also accompanied Al "Please Don't Call Me 'Al 'Year of the Cat" Stewart' " Stewart, among other notables. He's celebrating his 50th birthday in a style to which I wish more people would subscribe: hiring me to accompany him at shows.


you missed it

Enjoy (The Movie) (click the name to go to the website)

A modest short film with pomo (that's "post-modern"; some fonts make it look like "pornography") intentions; I wrote a little bit of the soundtrack.

Tenderloin Opera Company

Erik Ehn was researching the statistically disproportionate incidence of tuberculosis in the Tenderloin as background for Phrenic Crush, an opera he was writing with composer Lisa Bielawa. His investigation led him to St. Boniface Church, a hotbed of social services in the neighborhood (e.g. St. Anthony's Dining Room), and, in addition to the many kindred spirits he found there, he also discovered a 400-seat light opera house sitting neglected in the basement. The notion of a Tenderloin Opera Company sprang to light, and a couple of benefit concerts were scheduled there even before it was totally clear what they were benefitting.
Eventually the vision coalesced. Tenderloin Opera Company's mission is three-fold, mirrored by its slogan "BEAUTY - FREE - NOW". Some of the group's projects, such as
Smoke x 7, areof the neighborhood - created and/or performed by residents, or with contents relating to the Tenderloin. Other projects are intended to provide beauty and relief to residents, many of whom do not have access to opera. And the third tine is access to the tools of creation themselves: workshops in various opera-related skills for residents.
Tenderloin Opera Company relies entirely on donations - financial and in-kind - from people and organizations who share its vision. Admission is always free to all Tenderloin Opera Company events and workshops, and artists always get paid.

TOC's most recent project was a Tenderloin edition of An Evening of Song (click on those words to take you to the section of this page with info about that fabulous show), a stab at building our resources within the community. Next up is The Interview Project (working title), a more ambitious sequel to Smoke x 7, with a libretto based on interviews conducted by DeMarillac Middle School students about the history of their neighborhood. And the theater, Theater St. Boniface, totally rocks -- come by and check it out sometime! 

Mr. Lucky's Cocktail Party (click the name to go to the website)

Yeah, just what this city needs: yet another lounge band doing Sinatra covers. But with the eccentric contributions of folks like Ralph Carney (maestro of dozens of instruments, associate of Tom Waits, B-52s and Tin Huey), Kevin Mummey on percussion, and yours truly backing up the over-the-top vocal stylings of Mr. Lucky (and his omnipresent sidekick, Mr. Martini Shaker), I think it might be worth a look-see. Uh, a listen-hear?



Dan HicksDan Hicks (two! different websites)

The singer-songwriter best known for his novelty, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away" is a phenomenal jazz singer, sensitive poet (he wrote "I Scare Myself", a hit for Thomas Dolby and others), and frighteningly solid rhythm guitarist (he began his musical career as drummer for the proteal SF band The Charlatans). As leader of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, he was a solitary beacon of intelligence, taste and wit amid the torrents of disco and schmaltz that flooded the airwaves in the '70s. Currently he pops up around town under various nommes de groupe, but it's usually pretty much the same musicians (including the awesome Paul Robinson on lead guitar) and more or less the same material; when they're called the Acoustic Warriors, it's a tip-off that the set-list is leaning more towards his originals, while Bayside Jazz spotlights Dan's vocal stylings on old standards. Either way, the musicianship is top-notch (with the possible exception of yours truly, who prefers to think of himself as an Acoustic Red Cross or Acoustic Chaplain) and Dan's legendary between-song (sometimes even mid-song) repart(c)e as scathingly witty as ever. 

Addendum: It's been over a year since I've gotten a call from ol' Daniel, but bitterness cannot keep me from recommending his new album, "Beatin' the Heat" (surfdog), unreservedly.

Update: His Surliness deigned to invite me to join other past and present collaborators in his 60th birthday party at the Warfield in December, and it was truly a momentous occasion. High point was certainly the reunion of the Blue Thumb Hot Licks, but it was only the highest of many high points, not least of which was the curtains parting on 45 musicians assembled for "You've Got To Believe": eight bassists, nine guitarists, countless singers including at least six Lickettes (one from the Columbia days, and one that predated even her), a dozen violinists (including pre-original Hot Lick David La Flamme, who went on to found It's A Beautiful Day), and, ahem, one accordionist. The documentary DVD is out now.

New news: Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg (not exactly the original Lickettes, but the ones from the most famous line-up) have deigned to include me in their reunion line-up, which features repertoire from the Hicks days as well as each of their colorful solo careers.

Haiku Tunnel

Josh Kornbluth wrote and performed a monologue by this name as the very successful follow-up to his very successful debut, Daily World (which eventually became the first half of the incredibly successful Red Diaper Baby). He sold the film rights to the show to Miramax, which returned them to him, so he and his equally talented brother Jake produced the film themselves; I had a bit part. Sony Classics picked it up for distribution after seeing it at Sundance, and it's now out on video and DVD, after a modestly successful theatrical run (to generally positive critical acclaim, with the exception of the New York Post, whose rabid pan was one of the funniest pieces of writing I've seen since, well, the script of the film). 


But as long as I'm on the subject of Josh, he recently remounted Ben Franklin Unplugged, our only actual honest-to-goodness collaboration (I sat in with him improvising some sampled glass armonica underscore while he workshopped an early draft, and contributed the sound design to the finished product) and it's among his best work. He also opened the film version of Red Diaper Baby, which I haven't seen yet.

Fratelli Bologna(click the name to go to the website)

Fratelli Bologna started as an enormous commedia dell'arte troupe whose main function seemed to be to annoy festive Rennaisance Faire-goers. As time went on they winnowed down to an incredibly inventive and tight-yet-reckless theater troupe (which is when I first met them), purveyors of the beloved Weber Family Christmas, respectable elder statesmen of improv (in which guise they founded Bay Area Theatersports), and, now, finally, the remaining two members are proprietors of a successful business that farms out improvisors to various corporate clients for entertainment, facilitation, creativity training, and other devious ends. They are also producers of the San Francisco version of Life Game


Talk Show Live

Kurt Bodden's monthly talk show at the Purple Onion in North Beach. On Monday, May 12, I was one of the interviewees, and Tango No. 9 was the house band. This historic event is preserved as a podcast at the website, if you're interested.

Patsy Cline

No, not the original one, you idiot. But seeing as how that spot's been vacant for a couple of decades now, you could do worse than to see this remarkably life-like recreation. Accompanied by the Memphis G-Spots, all of whom, even yours truly, are named Hank. Patsy frequently shares the bill with Elvis Herselvis (the Drag King of Rock 'n' Roll).


You know, when I think of an evening's entertainment, the first thing I think of is generally not a politically correct juggling lesbian. Yet Sara Felder has repeatedly proved my hesitation entirely unfounded: she's funny, incredibly skilled, versatile, and has something to say that is truly inspiring, not mere rhetoric. I worked on her spectacular June Bride, as well as this more recent show. 

The Asshole Monologues(click the name to go to the website)

What started as a joke ("Hey, they did the Vagina Monologues; what if we...") has taken on a life of its own. Despite the seeming one-joke-jokedness of the title, it is actually an eclectic mix of performers from many different disciplines treating the many different meanings of the A-word with many different degrees of seriousness, irreverence, thoughtfulness, and idiocy. Most pieces are prepared but some are improvised, most spoken but some sung, most funny but some sober... you get the idea. And all proceeds go to help fight Crohn's Disease.


Last I heard they took it to New York in December, 2003.

The Ethel Merman Memorial Choir

What started as a joke ("Hey, we all sing real loud and enjoy being obnoxious...") has taken on a life of its own. Features in People Magazine and a cameo in "Nash Bridges" are only the icing on -- well, a big pile of icing. If you have a use for five to twelve Ethel Merman impersonators, many of whom can sing on key, most of whom are female, and nearly all of whom are white, give Kim Teevan a call at 415-387-1148.


An appalling heavy metal band, complete with hair extensions, performing songs exclusively about dope (except for my sole contribution, a collaboration with Merle Kessler, about throwing up). Founded by the editorial staff of the late, lamented Nose Magazine. If we do ever get another gig, I'll probably be the last to know about it. 

The Folk-Ups (click the name to go to the website)

Founded by Bill "Sputnik" Spooner (founder and principal song-writer of The Tubes) and Alex Bendahan (formerly of Alex Guiness and the World Records), this ensemble takes its descent into middle-age quite seriously. Acoustic guitars and earplugs are the order of the day (although the monitors are turned up to ear-bleeding levels), as are whimsical covers of "Please Please Me", "Hey, Mr. Spaceman", and a bolero/jug-band arrangement of "Caravan". Bill's touching originals include his old Tubes songs (no, not "WPOD", but "Strung Out On Strings" and "Young and Rich") as well as more recent vintage; Alex resurrects some of the tunes I learned for our tour of East Germany when it was still East Germany; and they've even deigned to learn my foray into C&W, "The Nose Picker Song". There's also a song called "They Kicked Me Out Of The Band" which could be about Bill's relationship with the Tubes -- or, come to think of it, mine with The Folk-Ups, as they keep on hiring me and laying me off without my expressing any interest either way.

The Whistleaires: 120 Christmas Favorites (vol. 1)

If all these guys (Phil Worman and Mark Romyn) did was wear loud plaid jackets and whistle beautifully -- nay! virtuosically -- that would be enough for me. But you're not me, so you need to know that they're also hilarious, gifted actors with a schtick that cannot be summed up in so few words: their act is as much about performance (especially schlocky, unself-conscious vaudeville) as it is a satisfying performance in itself. That said, their albumis little more than two guys whistling Christmas carols over tracks produced by yours truly, but it is also pants-wettingly funny. 

Update: After an old friend stumbled over this website in a Google search for Christmas music, I tried to track the guys down to buy him a copy, and have been unsuccessful. If you hear of them, let me know.


The Whoa Nellies


Mostly queer, mostly pop, entirely fun. Featuring Leigh Crow (formerly Elvis Herselvis), Connie Champagne, Peter Fogel (of Enrique), and other fine musicians. Watch this space (don't go to their website -- it's more hopelessly out of date than this one is).

Monday, February 23 at Caf(c) du Nord (opening for Gretchen Phillips in a rare local solo appearance!)


Martha's Scandalous Speakeasy Show and Sexy Cirque Extravaganza (click the name to go to the website)

Positioning itself as Teatro Tinzanni Lite, this is an eclectic mix of athletic circus performers, anachronistic girlie dance routines, a pretty hilarious comedy bit, and a dream-come-true (for me) band: reed and brass whiz Nik Phelps, drummer Gene Raskin, and my longtime idol and mentor Scrumbly Koldewyn at the piano and baton -- he and I get to make like Daffy and Donald in Roger Rabbit.

               Hoo-boy, did this tank.

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