Cavern of Whimsy #7 Recap

Although I produce and host every Cavern of Whimsy — alongside my trusty sidekick / confidante / tech-booth-babe Jill — it’s the featured performers who make the night, and Cavern of Whimsy #7 was no exception.

–Standup Avery McKinney recounted his personal struggles as an ethnically ambiguous man, then riffed on everything from Al Qaeda training videos to how food works.

“The Hip-Hop Holiday Showdown” happened, with guest performers Brenton Trueblood, BJ “Honkey” Lange, and Derrick Matthew Gary. Each free-styled to their own holiday-inspired beat (from Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka”, Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and Dean Martin’s “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, respectively). When the audience was unable to decide a winner, Brenton and Derrick went on to compete over a remix of Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” while BJ beat-boxed for a surprise bonus round. Brenton finished 1st and received a DVD copy of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but we all walked away winners.

Little Red Feathers performed their one-act play “Baptize the Devil” a second time, after their smash debut at Cavern of Whimsy #3. Wisely I made them the headliners of the night, because the show is so off-the-wall as to be impossible to follow. If I explained it to you, you wouldn’t believe me; luckily I got it on video.

Speaking of “video,” you may notice the site now features two new links in the column on the left: “videos” and “poster art.”

“Videos” aggregates all the video content from past shows, including “Christmas Party” (An Outrageous Animated Short) from this show, plus live content.

“Poster Art” is poster art; but it’s nice to have it all in one place, don’t you think?

I’m leaving for the holidays mid-December so I’ve got a lot to do before January 5th. What’s January 5th, you ask? The next Cavern of Whimsy, stupid!


CoW #7 – December 1st, 2014

CoW - December 1st

Little-known fact: up until this month’s poster, I’d drawn all the text completely by hand. Except for the title “Cavern of Whimsy,” I’d sketch words and phrases like “Ruby Theatre at The Complex” and “Featuring” anew each and every month, as I’d done the month before and the month before that. This process took hours, and, if I did it properly, it wouldn’t look any different than the text from the previous month.

Why did I do it? Because I have no common sense.

This month I got smart. I created a show font template so I can copy and paste each letter into place, because no one really cares that I did the font by hand (send all hate mail to As a general rule of thumb, if you can streamline things and repeat what works, it frees you up to try new, bigger, better things.

Which brings us to this month’s show:

–Repeating what works, there’ll be a new edition of “SoCal SlideShow Tours”, the segment where I walk around different districts of LA and take photos and we all laugh at them. Also, after the success of last month’s “Outrageous Animated Short,” Costume Party, I’m making another of those too.

Little Red Feathers are back! You may remember them from CoW #3; I sure did — I named it my #1 highlight of the first five shows — so I booked them again, because I didn’t have the heart to make their performance a “one-time-only” deal. If you don’t offend easily, you need to see their show.

–What’s completely new this month? Avery McKinney is a seriously popular comic in my NoHo neck of the woods, and I’m thrilled to have him at the Cavern.

–And finally, there’s The Holiday Hip-Hop Showdown. What is it? I’m remixing Christmas and Hanukkah songs, getting two battle rappers to freestyle over the beats, and having the audience declare a winner. Why? Because I have no common sense, and I saved all that time by making the new poster font template.

This is the last Cavern of 2014, and it’s going out with a bang. The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, December 1st, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 7th time.

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

Something old, something new. Something cavern, whimsy too.


Cavern of Whimsy #6 Recap



Last night was the best Cavern of Whimsy yet. No disrespect to past performers, but this one worked like gangbusters from beginning to end, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I’ll say this: I’m a lousy promoter and I can’t get butts in seats. I’m hoping to turn that around, but until I do, I’ll be satisfied that those who do attend get a phenomenal show, which this was.

Above is a painting by storyboard artist Dan Murphy. He got the suggestions “Rice-A-Roni” and “X-Men” and imagined a film in which Magneto hijacks a Rice-A-Roni truck, Wolverine defeats him, and Cyclops celebrates with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. If my girlfriend weren’t a diehard Dodgers fan I’d hang it on the wall with the rest of my past-show artwork. As it stands, I’m expected to find a location for it that she doesn’t ever have to look at.

What else happened?

A lot:

My SoCal Slideshow Tours segment hit the Sunset Strip for an in-depth look at the most rock ‘n roll part of LA during the Halloween season.

–Dancer HeavenNezCree did a delightful routine with a broken radio that kept changing songs, forcing her to switch dance styles spontaneously. It also included a minute of silence for an A Capella solo. I’ll definitely be featuring more dancers in the future, because this was whimsical as hell.

–Standup comic Yedoye Travis killed for 12 minutes straight with really sharp, funny material. I don’t want to give away any of his bits, I’ll just suggest you go see him live. He’s gonna be huge.

–I made a cartoon! I’ll post it on the Cavern of Whimsy YouTube page later this week, but for now I’ll say it’s either the worst or best thing I’ve ever done, and seeing it played live for an unprepared crowd was enormously satisfying.

Meredith’s Facebook Photos did an improv set based on an image of a Dad and a young girl at a computer, which involved a power struggle at a tattoo parlor, a genius 11-year-old who hates his kickball friends, and the sexual predators of Silicon Valley. They’re the host team of the Same Same show, usually on the first Sunday of every month; a fitting double feature with the Cavern.

–Finally, Diego Davidenko had a stellar performance of one song featured on his EP and two brand new ones. There was also a moment of unintentional comedy right before his set, where I awkwardly attempted to assemble his microphones for him, and who doesn’t like that?

What a night. I’ve literally never been happier than I was after this show.

Won’t you join us December 1st? It’s going to be huge, packed house or not.


CoW #6 – November 3rd, 2014

CoW - November 3rd


For the first time in my life, I’m behaving like a proper standup comic.

I’ve been going to open mics a couple times a week rather than a couple times every six months when I need to warm up for a big show, and even with the worst open mic lottery luck of all time — I’ve performed 23rd or later on three of the four nights — my comedy chops are coming back.

However, since I’ve recently been to several in a row, now would be a good time to explain the difference between the Cavern of Whimsy and an open mic. Because there are differences, and they’re substantial:

1. Rather than 23+ standup comics in a row, or 4-5 improv groups in a row, the Cavern of Whimsy is a variety show. VA-RI-E-TY. As the new poster makes plain, this month features an improv group, a standup comic, a dancer, a musician, and an artist performing live. Next month’s show will feature a different dancer, a one-act play (Little Red Feathers, newly re-booked), plus a standup or musician or both. Let’s all say it again: variety.

2. It costs money. $10 at the door or $8 at Why? VA-RI-E-TY. Plus a quality theater and FREE DRINKS.

3. Consistently great performers. The system isn’t perfect, but the goal is always to book strong performers that fit that night’s program. Not to disparage the process of picking strangers’ names out of a hat — I love hats — but I put a little more thought into it than that. Very rarely (hint: never) have I booked someone I didn’t believe would deliver the goods.

This month, “Meredith’s Facebook Photos” will perform improv, Yedoye Travis will do standup, HeavenNezCree will dance, and Diego Davidenko will play some original music. (I’m being purposely vague because I plan to write up some extended profiles for each on


– A new edition of “SoCal Slideshow Tours,” the segment where I walk around different districts of LA and take photos and we all laugh at them.

– Live art by professional storyboard artist Dan Murphy. He’ll take a suggestion from the audience and craft it into a cinema-style narrative before your very eyes.

And more!

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, November 3rd, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 6th time.

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

Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy: “not an open mic; a phenomenal show.”


Cavern of Whimsy #5 Recap

Cavern of Whimsy #5 began, unexpectedly, with a video. First, Matt Noonan in “The Metamorphosis” – a harrowing depiction of his recent decision to shave an 8-months-in-the-making beard — followed by the above clip. After trading emails with an animator friend and realizing I was woefully lacking in experience and equipment, I went ahead anyway and made it anyway. You’d be surprised what you can do with a digital camcorder on a tripod, a pen, a notebook, a music stand, and an hour and a half. The song, also an original, is a remix of Bing Crosby’s “Some Enchanted Evening” (now in the public domain, unless YouTube says otherwise).

What an enchanted evening it was!

– This month’s Socal Slideshow Tour took us to Downtown LA, where we saw the fashion district, the toy district, and other places LA doesn’t put on postcards.

– Standup Aaron Black did a tight ten, on, among other things, the super depressed whales at Sea World.

– Based on the audience’s suggestion of “hot dogs,” Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy’s Cavalcade of Weirdos showcased Katie Cunningham as a crazy lady who throws secret parties, Landon Kirksey as the owner of a single-sourced dry-aged vegan hot dog establishment in Venice Beach, and Alex Nelson as a stay-at-home dad who strongly resembles a chronically-masturbating loser.

– Immediately afterward, Katie sang about merkins, Landon about probing humans (from an alien point-of-view), and Alex sang about sexy fraternity hazing in this month’s Filthy Parody Karaoke.

– Finally, Caroline Ashkar sent us all into the night with a gorgeous set of songs and a free iTunes download of her last EP (with a new one to follow).

Did you miss it? Judging by a simple comparison between LA’s census records and Monday night’s attendance, you did.

Don’t worry. November 3rd is right around the corner.


CoW #5 – October 6th, 2014


My usual preamble includes a whole lot of nonsense before I get to the show. Not this time!

This month, Aaron Black of BrewHaHa will be our stand-up comic, local singer/songwriter Caroline Ashkar will make beautiful music, and bunch of random improv comics will participate in all kinds of nonsense.


– A new edition of “SoCal Slideshow Tours,” the segment where I walk around different districts of LA and take photos and we all laugh at them.

– The return of Filthy Parody Karaoke, where performers attempt to sing obscene parody versions of their favorite karaoke songs, LIVE!

And more!

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 8:30, Monday night, October 6th, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 5th time.

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

Enjoy the finer things in life, at Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy.©


Cavern of Whimsy #4 Recap

YarbroughHow cool is this?

At the start of Cavern of Whimsy #4, Yarbrough got a pair of suggestions from the audience — “crayons” and “shave your beard” (directed at me; I haven’t shaved in a week and a half) — walked to the back of the stage, started “painting” (with markers), and revealed this brilliant piece of art at the end.

Check out Yarbrough’s Instagram, above, or his Tumblr. Follow him, like him, share him; whichever. After the show, several attendees offered to buy the painting (this month’s $10 gift card winner, Ben, suggested we “trade”), but it’s not going anywhere, except on the wall of my apartment, and into Cavern of Whimsy lore with the rest of the night’s performances:

– The artists formerly known as “Well Done” (they changed their name during the show!), Matt Noonan and Mike Trehy strung together a hilarious sequence of scenes, including a pitch for satanic whiskey and a dramatized meeting of a pair of Robert Loggias (Loggi?).

– After this month’s SoCal Slideshow Tour of North Hollywood, I hosted Filthy Parody Karaoke, a completely original segment in which comedians and singers perform karaoke to their favorite songs with one small twist: the lyrics have been replaced with ultra-crude parody lyrics.

Nick Luciano did “Psycho Killer” by The Talking Heads re-imagined as “Hippo Fucker.” No explanation necessary. We also viewed an alt take of a classic Friendboat sketch written by Nick. LIKE their page and see them LIVE later this month!

Muriel Montgomery, a member of iO West’s The Deltones making her Cavern debut, sang beautifully on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with the subject matter changed from “unrequited love” to “penis-shaped vegetables.”

And David Croom’s version of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” turned into a lurid tale of pornography and poop. Also, he did a tight 5-minutes of standup, and was really funny. The whole time.

– Finally, we watched Clem Darling’s first music video, We’ll Be Fine, to cure our summertime blues (not to be confused with “summertime sadness”), then sat down to discuss, in full, that time he got pulled over on the Texas border, detained at a private jail, and learned from fellow inmates how to make moonshine with fruit punch, among other things.

Big thanks to everybody who came to see the show. Labor Day weekend is a long and torturous three-day holiday, but I hope I was able to make it just a bit more whimsical. Whimsy like that doesn’t come around very often.

Except once a month. First Monday. October 6th, specifically.

See you then.


CoW #4 – September 1st, 2014

CoW - September 1st


When you stop to think about it, you do most things for arbitrary reasons, then decide after the fact that you had a great reason to do what you did, to the point where you — I mean “me” — wrote “Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy is not, nor will ever be, on Facebook” in the “About” section. You (“me”) do this because you didn’t, for some reason, have a personal Facebook account in June 2014, so you couldn’t make a Facebook page for your (my) show when you sent out your first announcement about it (the show).


Starting now, Cavern of Whimsy is on Facebook. And I’m on Facebook.

Like us! Friend us!

Also new: Cavern of Whimsy tickets are now available on Brown Paper Tickets. With added fees, the $8 turns out to be $9.27, the price of a drink and a half at any local bar. (Our drinks are free.) You can still pay cash, but it’s gone up to $10, because saving $.073 is a good enough reason to plan ahead.

And now, the show…

We will see the return of Well Done, the sketch comedy duo with Matt Noonan and Mike Trehy, with new sketches and classics never performed in the Cavern. Also, Singer/Songwriter Clem Darling will join us to talk about his recent arrest on the Texas border and two nights in a private jail, not unlike Cool Hand Luke.


– A new edition of “SoCal Slideshow Tours,” the segment where I walk around different districts of LA and take photos and we all laugh at them.

– The return of live painting, with local artist Yarbrough.

– A brand new segment called Filthy Parody Karaoke, where beloved performers from past shows – David Croom and Nick Luciano — attempt to sing obscene parody versions of their favorite karaoke songs. LIVE!

– A pair of end-of-summer-themed sketch comedy videos.

And more!

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 9:00, Monday night, September 1st, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 4th time.

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

Close out Labor Day Weekend with a Whimsy and a Bang.


Cavern of Whimsy #3 Recap

Cavern of Whimsy #3 officially marked the end of an era for me, Mike Critelli.

After years of avoiding Facebook (having included the phrase in the About section, ““Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy” [...] is not, nor will it ever be, on Facebook…”), I’m making a compromise. I took down my personal page in 2009 after deciding I didn’t want the general public to know about my various creative pursuits, but that stance doesn’t make sense now that I’m hosting and producing a live show.

So while I may never personally return to Facebook, Cavern of Whimsy will.

What made me change my mind? For starters, there wasn’t a packed house to witness some of the best and boldest performances ever.

But if you were there, you saw…

– My continued rampage through Los Angeles via Slideshow Tour, skewering hipster central Silverlake.

– Special guest Adam Trent bringing a French girl onstage, and magically, bilingually, predicting her future marriage prospects with an envelope of mystery.

Landon Kirksey giving us his perspective on growing up in Texas, and a voice acting career that has him gradually turning into Winston Churchill.

Little Red Feathers debuting a completely original one-act play about a preacher and his assistant and the Devil, incorporating elements of The Exorcist and The Lion King.

Nat Iosbaker and Sarah Winters’s poetic vignette about two disgruntled office workers on their cigarette break.

The New Historians closing with a set of stomping bluegrass numbers rooted in historical fact (and Disney’s Robin Hood).

As with all Caverns of Whimsy, they come around once and then they’re gone. It’s cruel to not do everything in my power to get the word out. So stay tuned for a link to a Facebook page, and updates on next month’s show. September 1st can’t get here soon enough.



CoW #3 – August 4, 2014

CoW - August 4th


This month’s show is packed with performers. Again. And they’re all new. Again.

Don’t be alarmed. This was supposed to happen.

Attending “Mike Critelli’s Cavern of Whimsy” month after month is the sort of activity for which you deserve a reward, and not just free drinks and a chance to win a $10 gift card (though there is that). The reward is this: you get to see a completely new show every time. Not the same performers doing slightly different acts, but completely new performers doing completely unique acts. I may bring back a handful of favorites every few months, but so far it’s been all new.

This month, in descending poster order:

Landon Kirksey does standup. He’s from Texas and reminds me of a young Bill Hicks. You do the math.

Last month’s dinosaur-painter Nat Iosbaker joins Sarah Winters for a slam poetry duet.

The debut of an original one-act play from the theatre troupe Little Red Feathers, which was promised to me to be “extremely psychotic.”

A tight bluegrass set from up-and-coming local band The New Historians.

Plus, visual artist SPARC takes over the live-painting duties this month, and I present another installment of my now-famous (and newly named) “SoCal Slideshow Tour.”

The facts are on the poster, and here:

At 9:00, Monday night, August 4th, at The Ruby Theatre, inside the double doors at The Complex, on the right, Cavern of Whimsy will begin for a 3rd time.

$8 at the door, CASH ONLY.

Arrive 20-25 minutes early to grab a seat and a free drink. Then sit back and bear witness to the whimsy!


P.S. How does “bear witness to the whimsy” sound as a catchphrase? Let me know. It’s one of several I’m working on…