Stand-up Comedy Legend Award Winners!
Brian Copeland (2015)
Diane Amos (2014)
Will Durst (2010)
Robin Williams (2009)
Pat Paulsen (2008)
Jose Simon (2007)
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (2006)
Frank Kidder (2005)
Rebecca Erwin Spencer (2005)
Wavy Gravy (2004)
Don Novello (2003)
Enrico Banducci (2003)
Ronnie Schell (2002)
Michael Pritchard (2002)
WHEREAS, Brian Copeland is being given this year’s Standup Comedy Legend award, I, Debi Durst, President of Comedy Celebration Day, do hereby declare that the San Francisco Bay Area is better off with Brian Copeland in our community and grateful that he didn’t stay in Akron, Ohio, where he was born, because it wouldn’t have been in our budget to fly him here for this presentation; and
WHEREAS, Brian Copeland, actor, comedian, talk show host, playwright and author has had a four-decade career, working with Morgan Freeman, Rob Reiner, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Ringo Starr…and even Jim Nenopoulos at the Holy City Zoo; and
WHEREAS, Brian’s celebrated one-man show and subsequent book "Not A Genuine Black Man” became a catalyst for Brian speaking to students in schools, and churches, environments where Brian could try out his material on audiences not subjected to a two drink minimum; and
WHEREAS, his fearless battle with personal demons and challenges, and his courage to share with us those struggles in his second award-winning show, "The Waiting Period," help to uplift our community, and hopefully inspire us to overcome our own demons and challenges. (I myself was inspired to not get blackout-drunk after the Giants’ recent six-game losing streak); and
WHEREAS, as a single dad, brought up three amazing children, whose achievements would make all of the Bay Area proud (and by that I mean none of them have yet succumbed to Bieberfever or become Taylor Swifties. I’m a Taylor-Hater—sorry—“a hater’s gonna hate.”); and
WHEREAS, his broadcast career as a talk show host, first at KTVU, and presently at KGO, in addition to his decades of work as a standup comedian (who survived being the emcee at Tommy T's in San Leandro, where Tommy's ancient mom famously heckled the comics), encouraged us all to persevere in achieving our dreams, even in the face of overwhelming hardship (personified by Tommy T’s mom; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, we hereby honor Brian Copeland for his abiding humanitarian service, his support and advocacy of our community and his inspiration to the citizens, young and old, of the San Francisco Bay Area.
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WHEREAS, though born in Indianapolis, Indiana, this fierce product of the San Francisco Unified School District emerged from “the blood and the fog” of Washington High School to share her tremendous talent for improv at age 17, as a part of Natural Acts, San Francisco Times, The National Theatre of the Deranged and The Bad Aunties, giving us Karen Thompson from the Neighborhood, Sister Magnanimous Love, Dadisi, Performance Poet; and other characters.
WHEREAS, when her mother, Ms. Pearl “Chocolate Fury” Amos, told her daughter that she was smart, beautiful and could do whatever she set her mind to, she actually LISTENED and became an actress; a comic; a national-campaign spokesperson; a loving wife, mother and grandmother; and an inspiration to women, people of color and anyone who thinks they can make a difference
WHEREAS, when she decided to do stand-up, she was smart enough to turn her life stories of poverty, prejudice and professional-tennis-watching into serious funny at venues like Cobb’s, The Punch Line, The Holy City Zoo, The Great American Music Hall, The Improv and The Laugh Factory.
WHEREAS, for 20 years she has been one of the few African American national-commercial spokespeople in the country, and you still cannot take her anywhere where the cry, “Ain’t you the Pine Sol Lady?!” is not raised in celebration of her presence.
WHEREAS, rather than just cashing those checks, she became a motivational speaker and the face of the Women Who Rise Campaign which has helped thousands of women to realize they can rise above their circumstances and move beyond.
WHEREAS, most people would go to Ethan Allen to get a Laz-Z-Boy recliner but she went on three TV game shows and won herself one.
WHEREAS, Diane was the only reason Debi Durst did not win the Bill Bonham Meatloaf Cook-Off
WHEREAS, the City of San Francisco is so proud to call her its own, Mayor Ed Lee declared November 7, 2013, “Diane Amos Day.”
WHEREAS, nobody nowhere does a better job at speaking truth to power so that it can be heard.
THEREFORE, Comedy Day honors Diane Amos for the many gifts she brings to our community, not least of which are her professionalism and perseverance, her deep respect for smartness, her willingness to extend her hand and bring us all along, and her improviser’s challenge to all of us to be in the moment and live every minute of it.
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Diane Amos — The Pine-Sol Lady
Sweeping both sides of the asile with a quiver full of arrows dipped in common sense, Will Durst transcends party ties, having performed at events honoring former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Outraged and outrageous, Durst is as current as today's headlines, as accurate as a sniper, and universally acknowledged by even his peers as the nation's foremost political comic. He is a regular commentator for audible.com, Air America, CNN and NPR, writes a nationally syndicated op-ed column, and daily website jokes — yet still finds time to perform hundreds of comedy shows every year — at clubs, corporate events, theaters and benefits...not to mention the occasional acting and voice-over role. Reigning as C-SPAN's favorite comic (eight appearances,) Durst is a five-time Emmy nominee and recipient of seven consecutive nominations for the American Comedy Awards Stand Up of the Year. He is the first comic invited to perform at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the first American to be nominated for the prestigious Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the show "Myth America." He has racked up more than 400 television appearances in 14 different countries while slinging jokes around the globe in his one man crusade to make people laugh out loud on purpose against their will. Will Durst's performances are made possible by the First Amendment.
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WHEREAS, Robin Williams is being given this year's Sand-up Comedy Legend Award, Comedy Celebration Day, does hereby declare that the city of San Francisco does not know what it did to deserve him but as soon as it becomes clear, we plan on doing it again.
WHEREAS, without him, the sourdough would be less sour, the fog a little thinner and the cable car bells as grating as Mrs. Doubtfire's cackle; and
WHEREAS, without him the most recognizable San Francisco comedian would be Chris Daly; and
WHEREAS, he did much better hosting the Oscars than Letterman; and
WHEREAS, he taught Gregg Proops and Bobcat Goldthwaite everything they know and they still don't know nothing; and
WHEREAS, he may be famous throughout the solar system, but still calls the Bay Area home; and
WHEREAS he's the yin to Sean Penn's yang; and
WHEREAS, he has kept a generation of local bartenders' alimony paid up; and
WHEREAS, he may have played an alien, comic book character, fairy, genie, robot, king, president, various doctors and a woman; without him, the term "Gentleman" would have no living personification; and
WHEREAS, if we did any more of these interminable whereasses, we'd be here until Halloween;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that Comedy Celebration Day honors Robin Williams for his continued humanitarian service, support of the Bay Area comedy community and for the gazillion laughs he has provided...with the glaring exception of Death to Smoochy.
Honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines after WWII, Pat returned home, worked at several jobs and eventually attended San Francisco City College. After college, he joined an acting group called "The Ric-y-tic Players", a group dedicated to doing funny revues.
Pat and his brother Lorin later put together a comedy trio. The group achieved some success in San Francisco but shortly split up. After the trio broke up, Pat became a single act and something of a staple during the folk club craze, appearing as a comedic guitarist at such places as The Ice House in Pasadena, The Troubadour in Los Angeles, The Gaslight in New York and The Purple Onion in San Francisco.
It was at The Purple Onion the Pat met The Smothers Brothers. In 1967, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered. Pat was hired because he sold them cheap songs and would run errands. At first he was cast as their editorialist and his double talk comments on the issues of the day propelled him into the national consciousness. Pat was later approached by the Smothers Brothers with the idea of running for President. Pat's reply was "Why not? I can't dance — besides, the job has a good pension plan and I'll get a lot of money when I retire."
Pat's campaign was based in comedy and he ran it using outright lies, double talk and unfounded attacks on his challengers. Who would have thought this style would be the method of campaigns in the future? His work on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour earned Pat an Emmy in 1968.
Find out more here:
Pat Paulsen for President
Growing up in Mexico City as the godson of film legend Cantinflas, Jose Simon seemed destined to achieve greatness south of the border. But in 1959, he left financial security for the unknown in San Francisco. In 1962 he played bass with another new arrival, Carlos Santana, and music became his passion and profession. He played all the local clubs in North Beach, toured the U.S. with the Band of Gold, later joined his first Latin Rock group, SAPO, and performed on their first album — for which he was later inducted into The Kings of Latin Rock for his unique soulful bass work.
In the early seventies, on his way to a rehearsal, he was introduced to a world that became his second passion: improvisation, through the legendary Committee, directed by Del Close. Jose attended every workshop, and during that time he met three individuals who influenced his life: John Cantu, a great comedy writer, whose energy fueled Comedy Day; Frank Kidder, who started the very first SF International Stand-up Comedy Competition; And then there was a guy by the name of Robin Williams.
In 1972, Frank Kidder rented the basement of a church at 756 Union Street, which became known as The Intersection Coffee House, and began presenting comedy. Jose ran into Robin while he was on a school break from Juilliard and told him about the Intersection. Robin never went back to New York.
John Cantu managed a new place to perform called The Holy City Zoo. It was there that the seed of Comedy Day was planted. One night, Jose noticed that that there was no audience and, therefore, no performance. It seems that people were being murdered at random on the streets of San Francisco by an entity named The Zebra Killer and no one wanted to leave the safety of their home.
Tourism became practically non-existent, and SF was getting negative worldwide coverage. Jose, believing in the healing power of laughter, approached John Cantu and Rebecca Erwin Spencer, and together they rallied the comedy community to support Jose's idea of a free, outdoor, daytime comedy "concert" to bring laughter to a community, help change the negative image San Francisco had acquired, to prove that stand-up comedy could work outdoors, and to expose those not old enough to attend a comedy club to the art of stand-up comedy.
On July 11, 1981, in Golden Gate Park, a dream became reality: Comedy Day, and a tradition, was born. On February 16, 1994, the City of San Francisco declared Jose Simon Day. And on September 30, 2007, before the 27th annual Comedy Day audience, Jose Simon joined a select group of renowned local talents to receive the coveted San Francisco Stand-up Comedy Legend Award.
We love you Jose Simon!
It is with deep sadness that we announce the
passing of our beloved Comedy Day Founder.
Read The Chronicle Tribute
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Japanese-American performer Pat Morita was best known as Arnold in the TV series "Happy Days" and as martial arts sage Mr. Miyagi in the popular "Karate Kid" movies -- for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1984. After overcoming spinal tuberculosis at age 11, he spent his adolescent years in two WWII Japanese internment camps. Morita began his career as stand-up comedian, "The Hip Nip," in the early 1960s, performing in nightclubs and bars for headliners such as Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis and Diana Ross. His stand-up evolved into acting in both TV and films. Pat become the first Japanese-American to star in his own TV series "Mr. T and Tina" in 1976. His critically acclaimed role as Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" marked a turning point in his career as he was increasingly cast in leading roles in dozens of films and many guest-starring and reoccurring roles in numerous TV comedy, drama and adventure series. For more info, visit: hollywood.com.
Frank is the godfather of stand-up comedy in San Francisco. He created The San Francisco International Stand-up Comedy Competition and has been an influential force in the careers many great comedians including Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfield, Michael Pritchard, Dana Carvey, Roseanne Barr, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddy Murphy, Don Novello (Father Guido Sanducchi), Kevin Pollak, Steven Wright and others. His first comedy venture began at the Coffee Gallery in North Beach. He eventually moved to the Intersection Coffeehouse on Union Street and began teaching comedy workshops. During one of these sessions, a comedian by the name of Jose Simon brought along a young actor named Robin Williams. The rest, as they say, is comedy history. Frank's San Francisco International Stand-up Comedy Competition has spawned other competitions such as NBC's "The Last Comic Standing" and Showtime's "The Big Laugh Off." The movie "Punchline" starring Tom Hanks and Sally Fields also used the competition as an important plot point. Simply put, the San Francisco comedy scene owes its beginnings, middles and ends to Frank.
Rebecca Erwin Spencer
If Frank Kidder is the godfather of Stand-up comedy in San Francisco, then Becky is the queen! Nowadays she's the boss…of Robin Williams. In fact, Robin's life would be chaotic if it weren't for Becky. She's his personal assistant. But way back when, Becky was the princess of the San Francisco comedy community working with John Cantu at the famed Holy City Zoo. It was Becky who wrote the proclamation declaring the first Comedy Day (or Comedy on the Green as it was originally dubbed). Cantu is on record as saying there were "three key elements that made the event and one of them was Rebecca Erwin Spencer's brilliantly written proclamation and her knowledge of how to get it officially proclaimed." Because of her vast knowledge of the comedy community, her keen wit and ability to get things done, Becky is a true San Francisco Stand-up Comedy Legend. She has also been a member of the board of directors of Comedy Day since day one.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Wavy Gravy (a.k.a. Hugh Romney)
WHEREAS, twenty-five years ago, Wavy Gravy co-founded Seva Foundation "to alleviate needless suffering" in the world; and
WHEREAS, "Seva" is Sanskrit for "service" and Wavy, more than any other man, woman, clown, or former frozen dessert, exemplifies a life lived in service to others; and
WHEREAS, Wavy proved an Inspirational and Contagious Force, enlisting many of the world's most renowned artists to perform in benefit concerts with names like "Cowboys for Indians" and "Blues against Blindness," and raising millions in support of Seva; and
WHEREAS, as the result of his good work, Seva and its partners, in twenty-five years, restored sight to two million blind people in Asia and Africa, enabled thousands of indigenous people in Central America to deliver healthy babies and drink clean water, and supported Native Americans across the United States in reclaiming their health and culture; and
WHEREAS, Wavy brings fun and laughter to the table, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously (Seva folk are forbidden to use the word.), and exemplifying the joy in service to others. We honor him with our Stand-up Comedy Legend Award. Thank you, Wavy for who you are, and all you do! To find out more about Wavy, check out these links:
Erowid.org - Erowid Wavy Gravy Vault
(a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci)
Don Novello was born in Ashtabula, Ohio in 1943. He's best known for a character that brought him fame on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970s: the irreverent priest Father Guido Sarducci, gossip columnist and rock 'n' roll critic for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano". He has reprised the role several times for other shows, including Gilda Radner - Live From New York and two specials for the Showtime and Cinemax cable networks. As a writer and performer for SNL (beginning in 1978), Novello wrote several of the show's most memorable sketches, including the famous Billy Goats Tavern ("cheeseburger, cheeseburger") sketch.
Novello was a regular performer on The Smothers Brothers Show (CBS, 1975), Van Dyke and Company (NBC, 1976), and was a writer/producer of SCTV Comedy Network in the early 1980s, He also recorded two comedy albums for Warner Bros. His film work includes roles in The Godfather Part III, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and New York Stories for director Francis Ford Coppola, as well as Touch, Casper, The Scalper and Atlantis - The Lost Empire (2001). Novello has also written four books: The Lazlo Letters, Citizen Lazlo!, and The Blade: Shellville High School (All Sheep) Yearbook and most recently, From Bush to Bush : The Lazlo Toth Letters. To find out more about Don, check out these links:
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If it wasn't for Enrico Banducci, who knows where the careers of performers such as Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Mort Sahl, Dick Cavett, Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby and even Barbra Streisand would be today. Banducci was the owner of the beatnik-era hungry i nightclub. Why did he call it the hungry i? Because he wanted a "thinking-person's avant-garde club. So the "i" stands for intellectual. We honor Enrico not only because he was one of the nation's top impresarios...but because of his kindness and generosity to all who come in contact with him. Congratulations, Enrico...you're the best!
Want to know more about the hungry i? Check out...
Hungry i Reunion (1981)
During the 1950s and 1960s, San Francisco's hungry i nightclub (the lower case is not a mistake: that's how the name read on the club's outside wall) was a primary breeding ground for young and hungry comedy talent. The "i" is no longer in existence, but most of its more illustrious alumni are still alive and kicking. Taped in 1981, The hungry i Reunion is comprised of interviews and brief snatches of several classic comic monologues. The star roster includes Mort Sahl, Jonathan Winters, Ronnie Schell, Jackie Vernon and the inimitable Professor Irwin Corey. And just so we won't forget that the "i" was also famous for its folk-singing sessions, the Kingston Trio is on hand to stir up fond baby-boomer memories. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.
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Whether you know him as a standout, stand-up nightclub entertainer or as Gomer Pyle's bunkmate, Pvt. Gilbert "Duke" Slater on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Ronnie's been on the comedy scene for as long as we can remember! Schell also starred in his own series Good Morning, World with Goldie Hawn. He has been extremely busy, recording voice-overs for cartoons and commercials, and guest-starring in many series, including The Andy Griffith Show, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Charlie's Angels Emergency!, Sledge Hammer!, Saved by the Bell and as a as a regular on The Jim Nabors Hour. His films include: The Shaggy D.A., The Cat from Outer Space, and The Devil and Max Devlin, Jetsons:The Movie and Rover Dangerfield. Ronnie and his wife, Janet, live in Los Angeles where he serves as the honorary mayor of Encino.
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Michael Pritchard is a juvenile probation officer turned stand-up comic. After years of using humor in counseling young offenders, Pritchard took his act public and won the San Francisco International Comedy Competition the same year he was named California's "Probation Officer of the Year." Since then he has been a popular comedy club performer, youth counselor, TV host, and public speaker. For more than 20 years, Mr. Pritchard has traveled the country, thrilling his youthful audiences while spreading his message of good choices, personal responsibility, and respect for others. Pritchard was recently featured in Time magazine and on CNN, for the inspiring message he brings to parent, civic and professional groups, community organizations, and corporations.
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