During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay-at-home orders were in full effect across most of the country, only those whose work was deemed “essential” worked on-site. Comedians, musicians and other performers were not considered essential. However, after enduring these past two years, we may believe that comedy is essential. Live shows, including comedy shows, are back. In celebration, we asked four local comedians to tell us a joke, a little bit about themselves and what they’ve been up to.
JR De Guzman
I was born in the Philippines. When we first moved to America, we lived in a storage unit in Los Angeles. I feel like that would’ve been the most awesome episode of “Storage Wars.” They open it up and there’s just a Filipino family inside. On the outside there’s a guy with a trucker hat like, “I want that.”
JR De Guzman was a psychology major at UC Davis who took music and theater classes “in the closet.” (Immigrant parents don’t usually support that, says De Guzman, who came to the United States with his family when he was 5.) His favorite course was an in-depth comedy class taught by professor Mindy Cooper, where he learned about different styles of comedy including vaudeville, sketch, musical comedy, improv and standup. “I got to see which forms of comedy I liked the best,” he says. These days, De Guzman’s act combines music and comedy. “A lot of the songs come from something I really do feel and put it in a pill that is easier to swallow from a comedy standpoint. I can’t write about it unless I really feel passionate about it or it made me laugh,” he says of his material.
You may have seen De Guzman at Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival this past May. He’s headlining two shows at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on Oct. 1 and will be at The Crest Theatre on Oct. 2.
Me and my mom are very close. We have a lot in common. We both haven’t been with a man in 26 years.
Growing up in El Dorado Hills, Sydney Stigerts never aspired to be a comedian. She never even really watched comedy. But when Stigerts cut her hair and came out as a lesbian in her senior year of high school, friends told her she looked like Ellen DeGeneres and should have her own TV show. So she watched one of DeGeneres’ stand-up routines. “I was like, ‘Dude, I can do that,’” says Stigerts. “Hearing people laugh is such a drug, and nothing compares to that feeling of standing on stage and making people laugh, especially when it is me telling stories about my own life.” Stigerts has recently “got on the TikTok game”—a few of her videos have gone viral—and through August has a monthly show at Mic Drop Comedy club in San Diego. Stigerts also performs in “1 Degree of Separation,” a “funny look at depression and suicide,” in which local comedians talk and joke about their own struggles with depression with a goal of ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I recently had a baby and nothing went according to my birth plan, which I have since learned is very common. Admittedly though, my birth plan was to deliver in a kiddie pool in my backyard underneath a full moon. To which Kaiser Permanente replied, “Nah. Your backyard is out of network.”
Becky Lynn was living in Chico and going to weekly open-mic comedy nights with her co worker when the comedy bug bit her. “After going for a few months I was like, ‘I think I can do that.’ I went up and I never looked back,” she says. “I love the opportunity to share my own truth with other people through humor and watch other people relate to it in some way.”
Lynn draws much of her inspiration from her own life. “I think I have had a pretty interesting life. I am a transracial adoptee who grew up with older white parents who have since passed away. That has led me to a lot of perspective on family, race and grieving. And I am a new mom, entering into parenthood and what that looks like. Some of this people can relate to and some of it not. Ultimately my goal is to just find connection through all of it,” she says.
In addition to performing stand-up, Lynn co-hosts the podcast “It’s Crazy You’re in My Business,” which she describes as an “advice and pop culture podcast,” with fellow comedian Ta’Vi.
To make ends meet I used to be a substitute teacher. And full-time teachers would give me advice on how to be a better instructor. I had to tell them, “I appreciate your advice but I’m tryna make rent, I’m not tryna make a difference. I’m here till 2:45. I can’t change these little %$#^$$ lives in three hours.”
E. Clark got into stand-up comedy 20 years ago as an outlet for dealing with the racism and lack of diversity he experienced on the job. “Had I not experienced those things, I might not have become a comic,” says Clark, who describes himself as an observational comedian. A divorced father who shares coparenting duties, Clark draws much of his material from his life. “I’m a lot funnier than I was back then just because of life experience,” he says. Though he believes comedy and comedians are more under attack these days, Clark says he still appreciates the freedom of speech that comedy affords. “Comedians can express themselves under the umbrella of comedy,” he says. “We are a little more free than the average person who has to clock into the 9 to 5.”
In addition to comedy, Clark, who goes by Erik W. Clark for acting and writing, has written a miniseries, three movies and a treatment for another installment of the “Friday” film franchise, which he hopes to get in the hands of “Friday” filmmaker Ice Cube.
Follow Clark on Instagram @eclarkcomedy.