If you live anywhere near downtown Mill Valley, then there is no doubt that you have seen the sign outside of the Throckmorton Theatre on Tuesday nights that reads “Mark Pitta and Friends.” The comedy show has different acts and performers every Tuesday night. Robin Williams and Dana Carvey have even been known to drop by, and sometimes perform. The show I saw was a great combination of an intimate venue with lively performers. It was a show I would readily see again, even if it had an entirely new lineup of Pitta’s friends.
The night opened with a viral video of the week and as the clip ended, Mark Pitta entered the stage and began the live entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised by how witty his improvisation was. I didn’t expect such a charismatic individual to perform at the same, relatively small venue every week. Aside from Pitta, there were five comedians and a brief, interview with acclaimed comedian Mort Sahl that was streamed live on the web.
The first comic, Paul Green, was performing at the Throckmorton for the first time. His topics weren’t particularly original (relationships with women and family) but his stage presence really got the ball rolling for the night. I say this partly because of his general interactions with the crowd, and especially because of the retorts he exchanged with particularly loud audience members. When Green left the stage, Pitta returned, and kept the crowd occupied again with more improv and interaction until the next act: Dave DeLuca.
DeLuca was a fairly funny guy, but halfway through his set, some of his jokes became a little off kilter, considering the audience. In particular, his jokes about religion fell a little flat. By the end, he had moved past the subject, and the show moved on to better acts. Acts like Carrie Snow.
The first woman to perform that night, Snow brought quite a different perspective to the stage. She never once mentioned a girlfriend, or why women were crazy, both of which were pretty well covered by her turn on stage. Her jokes were often about mothers and the terrible things they do. She even gave us a couple anecdotes that she was using for her book-in-progress, “My Mom’s Meaner Than Your Mom: True Stories of Mean Mothers.”
As her set ended, a camera was set up to the right side of the stage, and a glass podium was brought out for Mort Sahl to speak. Sahl was a comedian who began performing in the fifties. During his career, he became well known for his style of comedy in which he would make commentary on current events and politics, a lot like Jon Stewart. The 85-year-old described working and writing jokes for John F. Kennedy, touring with Frank Sinatra, and being personal friends with Marilyn Monroe. The interview drew in roughly 250 live stream viewers.
During the intermission, I realized I was the only teenager in the entire theatre. The jokes weren’t very political, or the comedians made references to particularly old pop culture; everything they said would definitely have gone over well with the teenage demographic, and yet we were virtually unrepresented. $15 tickets are a bit of money, but the two and a half hour show with six comedians is well worth the cost. In fact, I would have paid for the tickets just to see the last comedian, Steve “Spanky” McFarlin.
Spanky strolled on stage, slightly hunched over, bald, in baggy brown pants and I didn’t know what to expect. He began soft spoken, and seemingly intoxicated, but quickly got into his character. He would wheeze into laughter as he reached the height of a story so outrageous, and sometimes crude, that it was hard to believe. Yet, if anyone was telling the truth when they said, “I went skinny dipping with a girl who had pierced nipples…[and] she caught a fish!” It would be him.
The night was dynamic and I can easily imagine returning to see the show every week. So very little of the show, if any, seemed scripted, which made it exciting to watch. The quality of comedians that traveled to perform at the theatre that night, far exceeded my expectations.