George Chen reports from the Cynic Cave

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Keeping the lambs rowdy and not so silent, Sean O'Connor crashes the 'Cave.

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Sjimon Gompers | July 23, 2013

Silence of the hams, George Chen presents Kevin O'Shea at the Cynic Cave.

Silence of the hams, George Chen presents Kevin O'Shea at the Cynic Cave.

Bay Area underground pop culture mastermind George Chen has been hosting the latest up-and-coming comedians in the basement of San Francisco's bastion of modern relics, otherwise known as Lost Weekend Video. In their subterranean lair dubbed the “cine cave”, Chen has reappropriated it as the “Cynic Cave” for his weekly events that host more rising comedians than a Marc Maron podcast/IFC episode. We were catching up recently, discussing the upcoming show with Sean O'Connor on August 23 and the Cynic Cave's recent micro-commission award from YBCAway, and we decided to share some of our banter with you all.

So how did you turn Lost Weekend's 'cinecave' basement into your self-annointed-self-appointed 'Cynic Cave' event?

My friend Hannah Lew works there and is also in the band Grass Widow. Lost Weekend did a Kickstarter to convert the space into mini-theater, but Hannah asked if I wanted to set up a comedy show there. I'd already tried doing comedy in a few different venues, mostly art galleries and even a moving bus. We had our first show on july 14, 2012. I kind of promised too many people spots so we had like 12 comics on that, and had to turn a bunch of people away due to limited space. One of the comics, Kevin O'Shea, offered to help run the shows, so we started off doing that as a monthly show till about November when the store asked if we wanted to go weekly.
Since then we've also done shows with out-of-town headliners like Ron Lynch and Dan Mintz.

Favorite joke ever told in the 'Cave?

Oh man. Such a tough one. I've seen so many jokes there.
I'm trying to think of one-liners cause so much of live standup is about being there in the flesh.
My friend Jesse Elias is one of my favorites, he's got rather complicated set ups but one is about giving father's day presents. Whether it's a tie or a toolbox, a blue collar or white collar dad, the underlying message is “keep working. I need more toys.”

Least favorite joke ever told in the 'Cave?

One comic making a fat joke about the female comic that went on right before him.

Some comedian guests of interest who caught you off guard or by surprise?

We usually know before the show starts, but the first time W. Kamau Bell came down, Kevin just tweeted at him to come by. I broke my leg the week before Bobcat Goldthwait showed up and did a set. I was kicking myself, no, I wasn't even able to do that.

What's the George Chen mission for Summer 2013?

I've been on unemployment for a while, so I'm looking for work. Doing these West Coast comedy trips sort of interferes with that potential. I just did a fun trip to the Northwest and I'll be in LA next weekend. Just get better, write more, be funny in new places. I started June by hosting a six hour variety show at SFMoMA for their closing celebration.

What the George Chen secret for keeping up in the comedy buzz?

Not sure how to answer this. The buzz of comedy? I just enjoy doing this stuff, it's fun to facilitate and watch. I could probably articulate it more with a specific question…

Well shoot, how did you get O'Connor on board for the 'Cave appearance?

I don't personally know Sean – we met, but he is part of The Business LA, the offshoot of the weekly San Francisco Business show at the Dark Room. Kevin O'Shea and I both make the movie poster parodies with our heads photoshopped in. He has found some embarrassing Facebook photos of me with this blue cowboy hat. Never owned that hat, just got caught trying it during sxsw.

Another thought is can we ever expect there to be 'Cynic Cave' the syndicated tv show? Or maybe a webisode component? Podcast, or is there a podcast this reporter is unaware of yours but probably should be?

I seriously considered setting up a laptop and doing the shows as a live Google+ hangout.
We have talked about doing a podcast down there. We've had a few live podcasts from our LA friends Dave and Julia who do a cult film podcast [Friday Night Film School], appropriate for a video store.
It's still being worked out, but we are planning to record a bunch of sets in September of local comics for a live compilation organized by our friend Garrett, who is a drummer in a lot of bands you probably know. Hopefully, if all goes well, Burger will be releasing it as a cassette.
And on Sept 20, LA comic Brock Wilbur is planning on taping his comedy special in the Cave.

Podcasts you like at the minute?

In terms of standup podcasts, which is not a typical genre, comedians can be skittish about releasing too much of their material online, Cameron Esposito's Put Your Hands Together really gives you the sensation of the live show.

Podcasts you don't like at the minute?

Well, there's mine. I always listen back and wish I could cut things out.

Are podcasts getting to be too like, iPhone3GS when they should be like an iPhone5?

I don't get this analogy, I have an android.

Facetime-Snapchat casts the wave of relaying the comedy of the future?

Again, my phone doesn't have enough memory for snap chat.

Thank you again sir, appreciate your myriad totem of talents.

Check out the Cynic Cave site for further details.

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