Cavern of Whimsy #12 Recap





Whenever someone asks me my favorite novel, I hesitate — because it’s embarrassing to always have the same answer — then say, “Stoner, by John Williams.”

The title is the last name of the main character, it’s not a spoiler to say Stoner dies at the end because it says he will on the first page. It’s how he dies. After a lifetime enduring hardships dotted with glimmers of joy, one thought keeps recurring on his deathbed:

What did you expect?

Let’s be clear: no one died at Cavern of Whimsy #12. I jokingly made a pre-show playlist of songs with the words “goodbye” or “the end” in the title — one exception, John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” still made me laugh out loud when I heard it droning through the theater door — but as I said toward the end of the night, “this wasn’t exactly Johnny Carson leaving The Tonight Show.” It’s the final Cavern of Whimsy, but what does that really mean? Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

(Damn, I forgot to put “Closing Time” by Semisonic on that pre-show playlist!)

The show started with an extended intro highlighting some of the best moments from past shows. Then, because someone from the theater left a standalone door on the stage, probably from a play involving a door, I entered from my usual spot, walked up to the stage, and entered a second time through that door.


– The final SoCal Slideshow Tour, a greatest hits highlight of the funniest sights in all of Los Angeles, had the crowd rolling with laughter almost continuously for a full 20 minutes. That’s not an exaggeration. I have it on video. I’ll probably spend the rest of my career trying to replicate that reaction.

Clyde McFly came on in character as my two Italian Uncles, then reprised their roles as Dave and Paul of Well Done and themselves in a new edition “Loggia on Loggia.” They even brought back an old favorite, Norm, the hilariously downtrodden hardware store owner. Fantastic.

– After establishing that Pete Mutino had just flown in from New York and might be jetlagged, Pete killed, talking about his first impressions of LA, how to make tons of great gay friends (“Step one: be a theater major in college. That’s it.”), and the invention of cheese. Then I embarrassed him, and myself, by showing one of the first sketch videos we ever made, ten years ago as budding comedians in the suburbs of Connecticut. Ah, memories.

– Speaking of memories, I put together a quick slideshow of my worst artwork from the Cavern of Whimsy vaults, the stuff that didn’t even make it onto the posters. Comparing my renderings of Clyde McFly (AKA “Well Done”) from the most recent poster to the first, it was deeply gratifying to see how far I’d come in just a year. (Because I sucked.)

– Finally, Mike Miller serenaded the audience with just an electric piano and some all-time favorite songs, from Randy Newman to Whitney Houston. He was so good that Mike from Clyde McFly asked him, after the show was over and we were out in the lobby, “Hey, tell me if I’m overstepping my bounds, but how about we get back in there and you play a few more? Because I could listen to you all night.”

How did Cavern of Whimsy #12 end?
After thanking the audience and giving one final shout-out to Jill in the booth, I waved goodbye and exited through that fake door onstage. After a long beat, I stepped out from behind it, saw that everyone was still seated, and yelled, “Hey, the show’s over! Get the hell out of here!”

What did you expect?


CoW #12 – May 4th, 2015

CoW - May 4th

This is it.

A full year of Whimsy wraps up Monday, May 4th. Whether I actually saved money by booking all 12 shows up front is debatable – survey says: no – but this year has given me, and hopefully you, something to look forward every month.

Now, you might be saying to yourself… wait… THE FINAL SHOW IS FREE???

Yes. Yes it is.

With plenty of seats to fill and leftover beer to drink, it just makes sense. To all past performers, and all past attendees, and to all for whom this will be both a first and last show: thank you. This one’s on me.

The final show is going to be PHENOMENAL, by the way:

- From my first show to my last, Clyde McFly (Matt Noonan and Mike Trehy; formerly “Well Done”) bring the funny with some of the best two-man sketch in LA.

Speaking of LA… the remaining two performers aren’t even from LA:

- Pete Mutino is an old friend of mine, and an up-and-coming comic based in New York City. He stayed East, I went West, but May 4th we’ll be together again.

- Mike Miller is an old friend of booth-babe-Jill, and a producer/musician based in Austin who’ll soon be moving to Nashville. On his way, he’ll be stopping off at the Cavern of Whimsy to help shut it down.


- My favorite shots from a year of SoCal Slideshow Tours.

- A highlight reel of some of the Cavern of Whimsy’s best live segments.

- A few surprises.

Is that enough? Oh, also, IT’S FREE!

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, May 4th, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for the 12th and final time.

Just show up. First come, first serve.

Thanks, everybody! 12 shows in 12 months! What are the odds?!


Cavern of Whimsy #11 Recap

Crossfit Horse Power


They’re all my babies, of course, but last night was, by far, the funniest Cavern of Whimsy ever. From top to bottom, everything just worked:

– This month’s SoCal Slideshow Tour took us to Studio City, where I called out everything from the pitiful state of the Los Angeles “Riverwalk” to “Crossfit Horse Power,” a workout facility with no relation to either horses or automobile engines.

Ugly & Delicious performed “Ragamuffins” — with sketches about getting high on nutmeg, four-hour boners, thumb wars, and an ultra-crass cooking show, among other things — after which I commented they should change their name to “Funny & Hilarious.” (I know, I know, I’m so lame.)

– I premiered a new “It’s All Mike (and a bag of chips.)” in which Bag has a disturbingly dark view of Randian economics. [Plus, the whole series is now available in the Original videos section!]

Sethward did a slapstick routine as the self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world.” I won’t spoil it, except to relay an overheard bit of conversation after the show, from Nick Casalini of Ugly & Delicious: “That bit would work great at children’s parties if you covered up your penis more.”

– I did some standup, then Riley Trela did some standup and absolutely killed, with a combination of personal material and off-the-wall one-liners. I’ve been laughing about his “inexperienced anti-Semite graffiti artist” bit all day.

– Finally, Joy Mamey couldn’t help but be funny, playing a few “serious” songs but also telling a silly story about a sad New Year’s Eve kiss.

But the most ridiculous part, to me, might’ve been the size of the audience: tiny.

I can say with no bitterness that it’s comical how few people showed up for what was one of the best shows I’ve seen anywhere, of any kind, in a very long time. Here’s a prediction: in five years or so, after several performers from this lineup become household names, you’ll hear lots of people saying they saw them here first, at The Cavern of Whimsy.

They won’t have, but they’ll lie and say they had. Because it was outstanding.

One final date remains: May the 4th. And if you don’t think I don’t have a few tricks up my sleeve for the finale, you don’t know Mike.


CoW #11 – April 6th, 2015

CoW - April 6th

Good things come to those who wait.

I’m writing this late Friday afternoon. The show isn’t this coming Monday — it’s the following Monday — but usually the promo materials go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday so people have a few days to get excited about it before the weekend.

No such luck this time; the weekend is already here.

Fortunately, while you were waiting, I’ve been busy assembling one of the most exciting lineups you’ll ever see, this April or any April:

Ugly & Delicious is actually Muriel Montgomery and Nick Casalini; I don’t know where “ugly” comes from because they’re both delicious. This is the hugely popular sketch show they’ve been honing at iO West and The Nerdist, and now it’s ready for prime time! (How’s my self-aggrandizement? Doing anything for you?)

- “Stupidity by” is how Sethward asked to be credited, don’t worry. I last saw him at a show by The Innocents where he nearly destroyed the set in an Evil Knievel parody. What he’s got planned for CoW #11, no one knows. I told him to keep the Cavern intact, but everything else goes.

- Cavern original David Croom (of CoW #1!) has been begging me to book the funny and talented Riley Trela from the very start of this show, and I finally got around to doing it. To those who wait, good things come, indeed.

- Finally, we last saw Joy Mamey at CoW #2 in July, playing a few comedic songs to an adoring crowd. Since, she’s joined iO West’s The Deltones and risen up the ranks at ComedySportz LA, but will be closing the show with a few non-comedic songs. What’s going on here? Whimsy, that’s what.

Waiting is the hardest part. But I’m writing this late, so you won’t be waiting very long.

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, April 6th, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for an 11th time.

Pre-order tickets on Brown Paper Tickets, or pay $10 cash at the door. Your choice.

Oh, boy, is this gonna be great or what?


Cavern of Whimsy #10 Recap


When I created the above animated short, “Art Imitating Life,” I didn’t realize it would reflect the tone of the entire show: confrontational and bizarre, the audience really not knowing what’s about to happen next.

My second LA Slideshow Tour through Van Nuys was fun, but the show truly began when Natalie Palamides interrupted her own introduction by bursting through the side door as a giant, dying worm. (That’s all I’ll say. If you get a chance to see Natalie live, do it.)


“Art Imitating Life,” which I figured would seem completely reasonable after whatever genius Natalie had concocted.

– A fun set by Power Up! that began with a backyard seduction involving “unsweetened lemonade” (raw lemon juice) and an extended riff about non-alcoholic alcohol companies refusing to take business because they think it’s always a prank. (“You idiot! Nobody likes Martinelli’s that much.”)

– A second episode of “It’s All Mike (and a bag of chips.)” For an audience who hadn’t seen the first one, I can’t imagine what it was like to witness me arguing with a giant bag of potato chips that openly expressed its hatred of due process and other American freedoms during a discussion of Edward Snowden.

– The lights dimmed for a performance of “Evil,” a solo dance by Kistina Pressler choreographed by Alex Floyd. The music, by Gian Trinidad — part of The New Historians and accompanist to Marie Clare Halpin for Cavern #8 — set an eerie tone for a piece inspired by, and inspiring, horror.

– Some standup, by me, about the 3 Ds: death, dick pics, and dog-walking.

– Finally, eschewing the microphone setup and standing right at the edge of the stage, Hughie Stone Fish played a few originals, a folk cover, and a mash-up of original guitar and lyrics from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme the Loot.” (The biggest surprise of the night, to me, was the audience’s reaction to Hughie introducing the Notorious B.I.G. song: “This is California!” What, is the East Coast / West Coast hip-hop rivalry not dead yet?)

To paraphrase Johnny Carson, it was weird, wild stuff. Can Cavern of Whimsy get weirder or wilder? On April 6th, we’ll find it.


CoW #10 – March 2nd, 2015

CoW - March 2nd

There are more ladies than gentlemen on this month’s poster, yet it’s shaping up to be the most balls out crazy show we’ve ever had. Allow me to inflame the online gender wars further by mansplaining this month’s lineup…

The ladies:

- The Cavern was introduced to Natalie Palamides as a member of Little Red Feathers, but she’s also a completely fearless solo performer. Enjoy this video Natalie made about “Objectifying Women” to see why I asked her to do “10 minutes of anything [she] wants” at this month’s show.

Alex Floyd runs a dance company called OdDancity that specializes in dance that’s modern, experimental, and, frankly, dark and scary. A past Whimsy attendee, Alex has choreographed a brand new piece to be performed by Kistina Pressler. After viewing a sneak preview, I had to sleep with the lights on.

The gentlemen:

- Regulars at the Nerdist School, Power Up! (Max Crandall, Jonny Cruz, Landon Kirksey, Matt Portman, Ray Timmons) is an improv team filled with quick-witted, hilarious people who’ve been playing together a long time. Fine wine, anyone?

- Hughie Stone Fish is an outstanding musician who plays multiple instruments and is an extremely prolific songwriter. Whatever he plays to close out the show will be but a fraction of his work, so click his link — and everybody else’s — to get a sneak peak for March 2nd.

– What else? This month’s “SoCal Slideshow Tour” returns to Van Nuys for a second helping of Valley weirdness. And two new original videos? You got it.

Where can you see this madness?

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, March 2nd, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 10th time.

Pre-order tickets on Brown Paper Tickets, or pay $10 cash at the door. Your choice.

Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy: ladies and gentlemen.


Cavern of Whimsy #9 Recap

photo 2

Above is a photo I took while walking down Van Nuys Blvd.

For each show, I walk through a different district of or near LA, take a series of photos, and try to assemble them into a tour of that area. For Van Nuys, I noted that the trash there has a “performance art aspect” to it, and this full Subway cup on a fire hydrant was a prime example; it’s as if the person leaving it there said, “If the hydrant breaks, now they have a backup.”

Last night’s show was like Van Nuys.

Right before showtime, I found out that standup comic Michael Alberici had gotten a flat tire on his way to the show, no spare (no hard feelings, Mike, we’ve all been there). Later, as I introduced the lineup, I explained the situation, and said “so I’ll try to make you laugh instead.”

How did that go? I’ll tell you in a minute.

First, the featured performers were, once again, spectacular.

– The opening video was a Clyde McFly original, released online for the Super Bowl but premiered at the Cavern. Two grown men crying over sappy advertisements. Check it out in the featured videos section.

Tacklebox took the suggestion “whatever you do, take care of your shoes” and transformed it into: a father who passes on horrible, lazy genes to his son; two girls at a slumber party who don’t understand courtship rituals; an overeager Secret Service agent; a confessional booth in reverse; and more.

– The highly-anticipated radio play by Tessa Williams did not disappoint. With six people onstage using two microphones, providing sound FX, voice-overs, and multiple characters, we got a slice of life story about twin detectives book-ended by old-style radio ads for “fruit and vegetable wash.” Silly and pitch perfect.

Johnny Ashkar of Crown City Krooks performed a few Krooks songs and a few of his own, filling the space with nothing but the sounds of his voice and an old acoustic guitar, picking and strumming and slapping it every which way and ending the night on a high note. Follow his band and check out their album when it drops.

Now, about my “making you laugh instead.”

My girlfriend / tech-booth-babe Jill told me after the show that she loved my off-the-cuff rambling about the pointlessness of NASA, the upside of destroying the environment, and how Ghostbusters is unrealistic because “no one can run a successful small business in this bullshit economy.” (These were all written and rehearsed standup routines, by the way, they just seemed like insane ramblings.) What was “off the cuff”: me knocking over the microphone stands multiple times and saying “I guess that’s why they have cords”; me mumbling “sexy, sexy, sexy” as Jill lowered the house lights, then apologizing for “doing an ODB cover”; me using the time Johnny was tuning his guitar between songs to remark “there’s tons of beers left, so feel free to grab one, you know, before getting in your car.” (Everyone laughed; no one got a beer.) Just a continuous stream of time-filling nonsense.

Also, my short sketch “It’s All Mike (and a bag of chips.)” was about as successful as it could be, given that I abruptly knocked over a microphone stand right when it started playing.

Returning to the original metaphor, if Michael Alberici was the fire hydrant, I was the Subway cup. Fortunately it all worked out in the end, making CoW #9 one of my weirdest, silliest shows yet.


CoW #9 – February 2nd, 2015

CoW - February 2nd


When you schedule your show on the first Monday of every month, it wasn’t because you brought a calendar to the negotiations to make sure that each date was ideal for your fans; it was because you saw that Mondays weren’t booked yet in the theater you wanted, and you figured people wouldn’t be as busy as on Fridays or weekends.

(“You” is me.)

What I’ve realized over the past eight shows is that people aren’t busy on Monday nights because they choose not to be. They just had a long day at work after the weekend and are exhausted. They don’t want to go out, they want to stay home and watch The Blacklist on ABC.

The Monday of February 2nd, in particular, is the day after the Super Bowl. And while I don’t have the unenviable task of trying to fill a theater that night like my friends at the Same Same Show, Feb 2nd won’t be a piece of cake either.

What’s a guy to do?

Put together the best show of the whole entire month, I guess…

- Tacklebox is the improv comedy duo consisting of BJ “Honkey” Lange and Josh Tariff, teacher and host, respectively, at iO West Theater. Good long-form improv is hard, but these guys are some of the best.

– You may remember Tessa Williams as the weird lady on the panel at CoW #2 and as a member of my old improv team, Little Sally Jenkins. But did you know she’s also a playwright? She’s working on a short, old-school radio-serial-style play and performing it live. Whimsical, yes?

– Standup comedian Michael Alberici has consistently made me (and everyone) laugh at the HaHa Cafe in North Hollywood, so much so that he’ll be hosting his own weekly show there starting Tuesday night. If you like his set at CoW #9, go check that out too!

–Finally, Johnny Ashkar of Crown City Krooks, fresh off his band’s successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their debut album, will go solo to close out the show.

–More? How about a new “SoCal Slideshow Tour” (in the hellish “Heart of the Valley,” Van Nuys) and a new original video; not an “Outrageous Animated Short” but something even zanier.


The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, February 2nd, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 9th time.

Pre-order tickets on Brown Paper Tickets, or pay $10 cash at the door. Your choice.

Cavern of Whimsy: the only thing more Super than the Super Bowl.


Cavern of Whimsy #8 Recap


One of the great joys of hosting a variety show is seeing performers from different mediums enjoy and respect each others’ work. I loved hearing Don from Four Clowns laughing behind the curtain at my slideshow tour of Koreatown because he lived there and could picture each location just by my description/mockery of it, and I especially loved how Brian paused before his standup to acknowledge the unique brilliance of Four Clowns, and how Marie complimented Brian’s performance and later traded arrhythmic clapping with her banjo accompanist during a song breakdown as a homage to Four Clowns’ set. You can’t plan for things like that to happen, but if you’re lucky, sometimes they do.

All in all, one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of. The whole was truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Here were some of the parts:

–I gave a tour of Koreatown around Christmastime, where Red Ginseng is the gift of choice and you can pre-order KFC weeks in advance.

Four Clowns did a sublimely ridiculous set top-to-bottom. A microphone was romanced, singing and clapping and tap-dancing were done with varying degrees of competency, and the entire audience got involved unfurling a giant bed sheet.

–I did some standup, then Brian J. Hunt did some standup, riffing on being hungover in old folks’ homes, weirdos he meets on dog walks, and everything between.

–The premiere of a NEW animated short, part 3 of 3, “New Years Party.”

–Finally, Marie Clare Halpin, with guest banjo/guitarist Gian Carlo Trinidad, performed a handful of “new” songs that sounded suspiciously good for being first-time performances, and even threw in a cover of Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” with an amplified kazoo.

Cavern of Whimsy #8 was awesome. Can Cavern of Whimsy #9 possibly top it? Come back February 2nd to find out.


CoW #8 – January 5th, 2015

CoW - January 5th

2015 is coming! Here’s what’s new for the new year:

First, I’ve been at my parents’ house in Connecticut for the holidays, sketching the above poster and seeing friends in New York, and tomorrow morning I’m leaving for an extended family vacation that lands me back in LA on January 4th, the day before this show. I booked all the performers extra early for this one and prepped like crazy so I can have a clear conscience during a lovely 16-hour flight tomorrow.

Second, I’ve changed the text on the poster quite a bit from last month. Some things made the cut, some things didn’t.


“$10 Cover” (because “cover” sounds cooler than “cash at the door”)
“Free Drinks” (because there are free drinks after you pay the “cover”)


“Ruby Theatre at The Complex” (because if you go to the address, you’ll find it)
“SoCal Slideshow Tours” (because I do this every month)
“A New ‘Outrageous Animated Short’” (because I do this every month also, and casual fans have no idea what this even means)


This month’s show features some seriously heavy-hitters, all of whom you’d probably pay more than the $10 “cover” to see solo, all gathered in The Cavern on January 5th:

Standup comedian Brian J. Hunt has performed at The Comedy Store, The Improv, Jon Lovitz Club, The Westside Comedy Club, and more. He’s also a sketch comic, improv comic, actor, and children’s book author, but we’ll just be enjoying his standup on this particular occasion, thank you very much.

Marie Clare Halpin played The Cavern once before as part of bluegrass quartet The New Historians, but January 5th she’s going solo. Fortunately she’s been a touring musician for years, presumably to prepare for this specific show.

David Anis directs Corey Johnson, Dave Honigman, and Don Colliver of Four Clowns, an absurdist theatre troupe that specializes in “live action cartoons.” They perform all over town, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to shower you in their ridiculousness.

–And as stated above, there’ll be a new “SoCal Slideshow Tour” (Christmas in Koreatown) and a new “Outrageous Animated Short” (new character: a deceitful pimp named “Señor Zebra”). But that goes without saying.

Also, I’ll throw in the 10-minute standup set I premiered at The Revision Lounge in NYC this past Thursday night, assuming I survive the 16-hour flight home.

Enough! The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, January 5th, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for an 8th time.

Pre-order tickets on Brown Paper Tickets, or pay $10 cash at the door. Your choice.

If you were planning to miss it, make it your New Years Resolution not to!