Sketchfest Interview: George Chen of Cinecave

by Dakin Hardwick on January 13, 2015

Photo by Ricardo Esway

Photo by Ricardo Esway

George Chen is one of the founders of Cinecave, one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets. It’s a comedy club in the basement of Lost Weekend Video. It’s also one of the best rooms for comedy in this town. Cinecave is teaming up with Sketchfest for several shows during the festival, as well as shows every Friday and Saturday night! Chen is also one of the funniest comics in his own right, and you can catch him throughout the festival. His schedule is here.

Spinning Platters had the pleasure of speaking to George ahead of Sketchfest. Just click on the word “more.”

How long has Cinecave been going?

About 2 1/2 years now. We started in Summer of 2012

How did you end determining that Lost Weekend Video was a good place for comedy?

I didn’t determine that. I was offered the spot to do a show right when they opened by Hannah Lew (from Cold Beat & Grass Widow) She’s a long time employee, and she reached out to me do to something there. I had done a few shows in some other locations: John Benson’s Bus and something at Will Brown on 24th Street.

So, yeah, in 2012 I booked a show with too many performers. Like 12 comedians. I kind of went overboard, but everyone was amazed by how well it went. The comedians were impressed with the room. The comedians from LA on the bill said that it was a lot like the Meltdown room. Kevin O’Shea was on the show, and he said that I should keep doing it and he would help book. Everyone there identified that there was something good about the space. People attribute it to the architecture itself. The low ceilings help add to the intimacy of the room. Pretty much all of the comedians that perform there are really into it.

How did you score the W Kamau Bell residency?

He did two sets as drop-ins before. One of those times he came by, we had a secret Natasha Leggero show. She did 4 nights there. For her, it was just the idea of working on material, but doing a longer set that you can normally do in LA. Kamau did a guest set, and he had the idea of doing a “secret headliner” residency. He’s a big supporter of the room, and it’s really helpful for us to have a series of sold out shows. It was really neat for him to do it as a homecoming. It was how he announced that he was back in the Bay Area.

How involved are you in the booking process there?

I rotate booking with Kevin. I’ll do the majority one week, and he will do it the next. But there is some collaborating and overlap. Sometimes I’ll have somebody coming from out of town on his week, and we keep a Google calendar to sort that.
On January 17th, Karl Hess is up here, and he’s recording an album for A Special Thing. A few other people have recorded albums or parts of albums here Brandy Posey and Andres du Bouchet did, and a few other people have. Ivan Hernandez records his podcast here (http://givemefiction.net). It’s a fiction show- some comedians, some writers. People from the Tourettes Without Regrets scene, doing short fiction pieces around a theme. It’s set up through Boing Boing.

Do you think a comedy club could sustain Lost Weekend if the video store closed, as that seems to be a possibility?

Well, the writing is on the wall for any video store in 2015. However, there have been a lot of spaces opening up: Pianofight have a space now. Doc’s Lab just opened up. The Dark Room recently reopened. I feel that there is an audience for it. There’s enough people that are interested, it’s just a matter of outreach.

Cinecave is my “go to” OK Cupid first date. It’s low pressure, an interesting spot, and you get to know somebody pretty quickly when you observe what they laugh at.

I see a lot of dates at Lost Weekend. It’s interesting… I’ve never really “benefited” from performing there in that way. But, yeah, I think we had some website mention us as a good first date option. Being a comedian, taking a date to a comedy club is the last thing I’d want to do. Too much like my work life. Has any of this worked out well?

Well, I’m single currently, so in the long run, no. But I’ve always gotten second dates from anyone I’ve taken there.

That’s all you need to say. All your average needs to be is that it’s gotten to a second date.

Wanna hear George talk about Lost Weekend? Check out his appearance on Brock Party.

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