by Chloe Schildhause

I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking deeply about the connection between comedy and burritos. What do they have in common? What impact do they have on society? What common goals and aspirations do they have? Another important question, why am I thinking about this?

This deep level of contemplation stems from the announcement of the Comedy & Burrito Festival, a three night festival (October 11th through the 13th) created by comedy curator Ameen Belbahri and local comedian, Jeff Cleary. Together the two have put together a festival that features over 100 comics (a good chunk of whom are local or have their comedic roots in the Bay Area), and a much anticipated CD recording of comedian Brendon Walsh’s show at the Elbo Room.

“There’s nothing that inherently links burritos and comedy. They’re just two great things,” said Belbahri, who has produced comedy shows for the Punchline. Those looking for a connection could argue that all of the venues for this festival (The Dark Room, SubMission and Lost Weekend Video’s Cinecave, to name a few) are located in the Mission, home of the Mission style burrito. And festival tickets include two burritos from sponsors El Toro and Pancho Villa.

For born and bred San Franciscan Ameen, the idea arrived from his adoration of burritos. “I consider it our local specialty, like how New York has pizza, Chicago has hot dogs. We have burritos.”

It took a lot of dreaming to make Ameen's early idea of having a festival focused solely on the burrito a reality. “I kicked around the idea of doing a festival around [burritos], maybe in Dolores Park, but there were too many logistical problems.” Namely, how can people be expected to eat numerous burritos in one day?

“Then a friend of mine mentioned putting on a comedy festival and somehow the two things merged in my brain.” Ameen said. “I kind of thought it was a dumb idea, and over a drink I would tell friends about it. More and more people would respond positively and I thought, well, maybe I should actually do this.” A Kickstarter was created for this proposed festival in March, and it quickly garnered the funds necessary to create the event.

I spoke with a few of the comedians performing at the festival, who shared with me their insights on burritos and comedy.

Chris Garcia:

SCOUT: What makes a good comedian?

CHRIS: Someone who is fearless and honest and not only brave enough to reveal somethings about themselves, like stories or things they’ve experienced, but to have funny insight over that. That’s the kind of comedy I like.

SCOUT: What makes a good burrito?

CHRIS: Oh, man, there’s a lot of stuff. That’s a good question. Not that the first one wasn’t a good question, but this is an exciting question for me. Well the meat of course. I’m a meat eater. Let’s start with the grilled tortilla. I go refried beans, carne asada, cheese. Some people go no sour cream. I’m a sour cream guy. The x factor is whatever the green sauce is that comes with it. I like [El] Farolito, and [Taqueria] Cancun too. I guess I should say El Toro, or whoever else is sponsoring.

SCOUT: So you feel obliged to say the sponsors?

CHRIS: Uhh, a little bit. I mean, yeah, El Toro’s the best! But I just love Farolito. Their green salsa.

SCOUT: What do burritos and comedy have in common?

CHRIS: People love them. Sometimes they make your stomach hurt. If you go all in, you might react with a stomach ache. I think the good ones are made with the best ingredients. Honest ingredients. They’re fun to share with a friend. And they’re both great when you’re drunk.

Garcia performs on 10/12, 6 pm “Best of The Fest” at The Elbo Room, and on 10/13, 7pm “Best of SF” at Sub Mission.

Guy Branum:

SCOUT: When you first heard about the Comedy & Burrito festival, did you immediately know that you wanted to be a part of it?

GUY: Yeah. I started out in San Francisco and love San Francisco. For some people in other places [the combination] may not make sense, but to me it makes perfect sense. The two are so intertwined of what I would do with my years starting out. Eventually papusas occupied a significant place as well, but burritos were always at the core.

SCOUT: Are papusas taking over the scene?

GUY: They haven’t taken over! But by the time I left San Francisco in 2004, Papusas were definitely a significant option for what we would do after a show. But it was generally ‘let’s go to Cancun.’ ‘No, that’s bullshit let’s go to Farolito.’

SCOUT: So, where’s your favorite burrito?

GUY: Farolito is amazing, but I am going to say something pretty controversial. I always like going to [La] Corneta because it’s nice, and you can take your parents there, and it feels like a lovely experience. And also they have churros and stuff. It’s a little more Disneyland, whereas you go to Farolito and someone may be bleeding in the corner. But you are going to get the most fucking amazing burrito you’ve ever had in your life.

SCOUT: What makes a good burrito?

GUY: A burrito is a combination of so many elements that it really does have to be a magic of synergy. It comes down to quality in each of those individual constituents. I can’t control where the magic comes from. I just need to wait for it to happen. That and meat. Meat is the answer.

SCOUT: Are you of the persuasion that burritos should always be made with pinto beans?

GUY: Look. In reality, yes. Black beans are lovely and if I’m going to Chipotle I’m probably going to order black beans. But if I’m getting a burrito in San Francisco what I’m going to want is pinto beans. When a taqueria is making black beans they are making something healthy, for healthy people. But with pinto beans, they’re like, hey, how can we get as much pork fat into these beans as humanly possible?

SCOUT: What makes a good comedian?

GUY: Disappointment and pain are really important. And an ability to recognize your own ridiculousness. It’s very difficult for nice, happy, attractive, wealthy people to be good comedians. Because what is there to love? You’re just going to be mad that you’re not that person. It needs to be someone you can fall in love with quickly. Like, Jesse Elias is performing and he’s a sweet, adorable little boy who is clearly terrified by all social interaction. You look at him and he’s so frail and you’re just like, I want to take care of that little boy. Or Danielle Radford is this girl from Seattle who’s coming. She’s very sweet, but very open about what’s not going right in her life right now. The first minute I saw her I thought, that girl and I are friends.

Branum performs on 10/11, 8 pm “Darkroom All-stars” at The Darkroom, 10/12, 6 pm “Dinner Hour Comedy” at Esta Noche, 10/13, 5 pm “Guy Branum Talk Show” at Sub Mission, 10/13, 9 pm “LGBT Showcase” at Sub Mission & 10/13, 10 pm “Personal with Tony San” at The Darkroom.

Joselyn Hughes:

SCOUT: What’s been your experience with San Francisco burritos?

JOSELYN: My younger brother lives in San Fran so every time I go there he take me to the Mission for a burrito. It’s always been positive. I have not had one bad burrito.

SCOUT: What do burritos and comedy have in common?

JOSELYN: Good question. I’d say you don’t always know what’s inside. With a comic there can be good surprising parts, but also some scary weirdness. Does that make sense?

SCOUT: Yes. For comics, how does the scary weirdness come across? For burritos it can be more obvious.

JOSELYN: With comedians, you never know. Sometimes a comedian you’ve never seen before might look really innocent, then they might have really dark material. Or they drink too much, they’re just really angry. You could equate spice in a burrito with spice in a comedian.

Hughes performs 10/12, 6 pm “Dinner Hour Comedy” at Esta Noche, 10/12, 9:15 pm “Best of L.A.” at The Polish Club, & 10/13, 7 pm “Backroom Prime Time” at Sub Mission Backroom.

Brendon Walsh:

SCOUT: What do burritos and comedy have in common?

BRENDON: They both give you gas.

SCOUT: What drove you to become a comedian?

BRENDON: Free beer and good working hours.

BRENDON: Wait, what’s this interview for?

SCOUT: It’s for ScoutmobSF. So, how do you feel about the San Francisco audience compared to other cities where you’ve performed?

BRENDON: I love San Francisco. I wanted to record my CD there even before the whole festival thing came up. I always have really really fun shows in San Francisco. People seem to like me. And I like that. People just get me there, man.

SCOUT: Is there a city you’ve been to where you feel like they just did not get you?

BRENDON: I worked a lot of shitty places when I was first starting. Tulsa Oklahoma was pretty bad. There used to be a club there called the Tulsa Comedy Club and uh...what’s your last name Chloe? I’m looking you up on Facebook. I want to see what you look like.

SCOUT: Schildhause.

BRENDON: Well jeez, who are you? Every picture is of a different girl. Is this the right person? Yep. Oh wait, girl with dinosaur head. But on your photos page everyone is different.

SCOUT: I’m the one with the hair.

BRENDON: The short hair? Oh alright. Cute. We can continue this conversation. So I was in Tulsa, that was a weird week. I posed the question to the audience at one point, just as a goof, I had a joke about Florida and said ‘Out of all 50 states Florida is the grossest.’ Or something like that. And the crowd, they were just so stupid all week. So I said to the audience, ‘Wait 50 states? How many states are there? 50?’ and a couple people chimed in saying there were 52 states because of Alaska and Hawaii. And it started this debate in the audience. I was just standing on stage watching a room full of 60 or 80 people debating whether there were 50 or 52 states. Then 52 won because of Alaska and Hawaii. So that was an odd audience. Indianapolis is not great either. I just fucking hate people there.

SCOUT: Who are your comedic influences?

BRENDON: I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Cosby and Steve Martin. I have a lot of old comedy albums. Currently I really like Todd Barry, Louis CK, Doug Stanhope. Doug was actually a pretty big influence on me. He took me under his wing pretty early on when I started comedy. He had an influence on me, and he’s a great guy, super funny, a sweetheart.

Walsh performs 10/12, 9 pm & 11 pm “Brendon Walsh CD Recording” at The Elbo Room, & 10/13, 8 pm “Cynic Cave” at Lost Weekend Video.

Barbara Gray:

SCOUT: What makes a good burrito?

BARBARA: I love breakfast burritos. They’re probably my favorite kind, so I go with chorizo, eggs, beans, rice, cheese, and no hot sauce or anything because I’m kind of a wimp.

SCOUT: What do burritos and comedy have in common?

BARBARA: They can be plain from the outside, but they’re full of delicious, and sometime horrifying things.

SCOUT: What made you decide to start doing a comedy show in your own house in LA?

BARBARA: Well, I’m a control freak so to have control over the venue and everything. And we always have a party afterwards. It’s very welcoming to come over to someone’s house and watch a show. You don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t have to pay for drinks, you’re hanging out there having a good time. There’s nothing more intimate than someone’s living room and I think intimacy is the key really to great comedy.

SCOUT: I saw the video you did for the fake comedy class. That was lovely.

BARBARA: Yeah, it’s funny, the line I say in there about chocolate dicks is a whole basis of this character I’ve started now of just this girl who is always like, ‘ladies night!’ and weird things like that. That video was based on a real video for a comedy boot camp that came out. It’s an awful guy who is running these expensive comedy boot camps and they’re terrible. You can’t pay for it. You just need to get up on stage. It’s not going to work any other way so they are just exploiting people.

SCOUT: Do you think it’s possible to teach people how to be funny?

BARBARA: Not really. Being funny is something inherent. But I have seen people who I thought were not really funny get better at it. Get better at writing jokes, maybe. But stage presence, they either have it or they don’t.

Gray performs 10/12, 10 pm “Andy Haynes & Friends” at Lost Weekend Video, 10/13, 4:20 pm “Ngaio’s 420 Show” at The Polish Club & 10/13, 11 pm “Sub Mission All-stars” at Sub Mission.

Hasan Minhaj:

SCOUT: What do you consider a good burrito?

HASAN: When you have a really good burrito, you’re like, ‘That is is money. That is so great.’ El Farolito’s, their carne asada super burrito is so good. The carne asada, the sour cream. They don’t put guacamole in it. They slice up avocados and put them inside the burrito. And the melted cheese. Forget Chipotle.

SCOUT: So is El Farolito your favorite in the city?

HASAN: One of my favorite’s is El Farolito and Taqueria Cancun. Then there is this place in San Jose, La Victoria, that has the infamous pink sauce. I live in LA right now and I feel like they’re great in the taco business, but when it comes to burritos, it’s San Francisco. They’re incredible. They have the burrito game on lock.

SCOUT: What do burritos and comedy have in common?

HASAN: I’ve always said that burritos are the greatest food, because it’s an entire meal wrapped in a tortilla. It’s a self contained meal. No need for forks or knives. And I think burritos and comedians go so well, especially in San Francisco, because the taquerias are open super late, and often times we’re doing sets until super late at night. I don’t really drink, that’s not my thing, but if you want to go to a taqueria and go hard after a show, I will totally be there.

SCOUT: What do you think of the comedy scene in San Francisco?

HASAN: For me it was one of the best places to start. Two things were in place that were really good. Three things actually. One, there was a group of comedians that was ahead of me that were really doing original, unique amazing stuff. Like Ryan Stout, Moshe Kasher, Brent Weinbach, Ali Wong, all these comics were like in a class or two ahead of me. Then I would see amazing headliners who made their roots in the bay area, like Patton Oswalt, and see them front in center at The Punchline. It was comedy education 101. The second great thing about the city is there are so much clubs in the area. From the Punchline, to Cobbs, to the Purple Onion, to smaller rooms. The third thing is that the people in San Francisco are so great. They’re down to support live comedy and the arts. They’re smart and they get it.

SCOUT: What is the best joke you’ve ever written?

HASAN: Best joke I’ve ever written. Wow. That’s tough. I think I’m still writing my best joke. It feels really good though when you have certain jokes where people tell you “Oh wow, I really like this joke, it’s great” Especially from your peers, other comics. I have this joke about roller coasters and relationships right now and a lot of my friends who are comics say ‘Oh man, I love that joke, it’s a great joke.’ I will definitely tell it at the Burrito Festival.

Minhaj performs 10/11, 8:30 pm “Underground Comedy” at Lost Weekend Video, & 10/12, 9 pm “Backroom Prime Time” at Sub Mission Backroom.

Chloe Schildhause is a writer and editor-in-chief at DECADES magazine. Chlo-ish is her blog. She uses Twitter, @chloish.