Santa Clarita’s comedy renaissance takes flight with Comedy MashupSean Malin March 6, 2019 0 COMMENTS
On the first Friday of every month for nearly three years, comedians from Santa Clarita and the wider Los Angeles area assemble for the Comedy Mashup showcase at The Main (formerly the Rep House) in Newhall. The show is unusual in that its performers come from normally distinct comedy practices – stand-up and improv – rather than one or the other. Those two forms are then blended into a single 2-hour performance with an intermission: a mash-up, as it were, of disciplines.
Dan Fowble, who at the buoyant March 1st Mashup appeared in both sections, founded the show with Paul Dison, a local stand-up. Fowble notes that their first-ever show on July 29, 2015 was an organic response to the problem of urban sprawl.
“Us having a passion for comedy, we would often find ourselves driving to Hollywood to go see a Groundlings improv show or going to the world-famous Comedy Store to see some brilliant stand-up. With going to these shows came a lot of experiences that we didn’t really care for,” Fowble says.
Those obnoxious experiences – parking, two-drink minimums, freeway traffic – are familiar to comedy fans in many a suburban city, Santa Clarita included. For decades, local options for a funny night out here were sparse, expensive and in many cases poorly organized.
After years of booking and hosting their own show, Fowble and Dison are beginning to recognize their own roles as part of a growing movement across the valley that includes multiple shows at The Main, as well as new showcases at The Canyon, J.R.’s Comedy Club, The Stage Door and The Open Book. If Santa Clarita is indeed experiencing a comedy renaissance, then Comedy Mashup is its Vitruvian Man.
The inspiration for Fowble and Dison’s show began with Allan Trautman, a puppeteer and actor who teaches improv at College of the Canyons. Trautman’s encouragement and Fowble’s work with KHTS deejay Brandon Gibson led to a gig hosting Gibson’s stand-up showcase at the Canyon Theater Guild. The unique environment – comedy in a theatrical playhouse – inspired the comics “to not only host but also do improv in between each comedian,” Fowble says. Thus was the seed of the half-improv, half-stand-up format first planted.
When Fowble and Dison finally decided to found their own show, their main objective was, “to provide the same experience you would get out of going to a show out in Hollywood but without the headache of being in Hollywood.” That meant providing snacks (and eventually alcohol) for sale in the lobby, maintaining working air conditioning throughout the summer and active self-promotion from the hosts on a very personal budget.
It also required booking professional comedians with years of performance experience, both as improvisers and as straightforward joke writers, instead of only highlighting aspirational local comics. In addition to the corps of TV-ready improvisers that performs at every show, previous guests include Disjointed’s Tone Bell, Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville’s Lex Luthor) and Theo Von. The headliner for the March 1st show, Eliot Chang, recently starred in his second Comedy Central half-hour.
For their part, Dison and Fowble continue to co-host the event, honing their comedic banter onstage and their marketing acumen off of it. Dison is the bad cop to Fowble’s good, a smirking jacket-bound tough mercilessly ribbing his lanky, doe-eyed buddy. The partnership works so well that when Dison is not around for the improv section, as in March, Fowble at first appears on stage like one half of a formerly conjoined twin.
The playful energy that the performers exude at The Main belies the complex reality that they now find themselves in. As one of the only locally-founded, locally-run comedy showcases in Santa Clarita, Fowble and Dison are in untrod territory for entertainment here. But they are also under considerable pressure to grow in popularity and scope relative to more established shows and venues.
Only time will tell the fate of Comedy Mashup, but Fowble and Dison remain stalwart in their excitement to be part of this nascent renaissance. Dison, softer offstage than on, handily sums it up: “we feel so honored and blessed to have a story on Comedy Mashup and the journey we have been on.”
Tickets for The Main’s upcoming events, including Comedy Mashup on the 1st Friday of every month, are available here.