SAN DIEGO -- Live Comedy Live has brought the best national headliners to San Diego for intimate shows of non-stop laughter for over a year and is now taking its motto of “National Headliners, Cheap Booze, Rock-bottom Cover, No Drink Min... Seriously” one-step further by making Monday night shows 100% free.
Live Comedy Live kicks off at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill on Monday, Feb. 28, with San Diego-based comedians and hosts Christian Spicer and Rajan Dharni.
The show starts at 8:30 pm and just like past shows, this show will bring one of the best comics in the business to San Diego. Michael Kosta (NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central Presents”) headlines the night.
“He is charming, smart, quick, original, and absolutely hysterical,” Spicer said about Kosta. “He is a great guy off stage and a real professional. Then add to that that he is a veteran of the Tonight Show and just did a Comedy Central special and Michael is exactly the perfect comic for our first Live Comedy Live at Bourbon Street.”
There is no cover, and no drink minimum — even though Bourbon Street Bar and Grill has a full bar, great prices, and delicious food.
The comedic talent that Spicer and Dharni put together week after week is the reason the why all previous shows have practically sold-out and why theLondon Times listed Live Comedy Live as one of the things to do when visiting Southern California.
Past headliners, among others, include Taylor Williamson (semi-finalist from the most recent season of “Last Comic Standing,” appearances on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”), Rick Shapiro (NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” HBO’s “Lucky Louie”), Mo Mandel (ABC’s “Modern Family,” and E!’s “Chelsea Lately”), Ben Gleib (“Chelsea Lately,” named in Esquire Magazine as “one of the next big things in comedy”), and Paul Ogata (HBO and Showtime specials, winner of the prestigious San Francisco International Comedy Competition).
Both Spicer and Dharni have performed at clubs, colleges, and for corporations across the country, and through the success of Live Comedy Live, they have become San Diego favorites.
When Bourbon Street Bar & Grill management approached them a few months ago, Dharni tells San Diego Gay & Lesbian News that they, “hit it off at the very first meeting and decided it was a great move for the show.”
“Have you seen Bourbon Street?” Spicer asked. “It is a great neighborhood bar that has been a part of University Heights for years. It is absolutely beautiful and unique and intimate. People will be able to see comics from TV up close and personal.”
“Bourbon Street Bar and Grill offers a range of experiences, everything from a bar, to a lounge, to a dance floor, to intimate outdoor seating,” Dharni added. “Whatever you like, you can find it at Bourbon Street. We like knowing we can offer this added value to our comedy patrons.”
Both Spicer and Dharni also mention the great food and amazing drinks at reasonable prices.
“It has an excellent dinner and drink menu, which only makes the show that much better because our past shows didn’t offer food options,” Dharni said.”I’m a sucker for their fish and chips and you can’t go wrong with the drink menu.
“There is always great deals. Monday nights will offer half off any drink made with Svedka vodka.”
They are both looking forward to bringing a quality show to Bourbon Street Bar & Grill.
“I am most excited about the chance to convert those who don’t frequent comedy shows into happy comedy fans,” Dharni said. A sentiment Spicer shares.
“Aside from all the amazing comics we will be working with, we're also looking forward to becoming a part of the community and showing people what they have been missing,” Spicer added. “We want to produce shows that turn everyone into both Live Comedy Live regulars and lifelong comedy fans.”
Live Comedy Live History
Spicer and Dharni met a few years ago at a comedy open mic night at Winstons in Ocean Beach.
“I was fairly new to the San Diego comedy scene and I remember seeing him reading David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day’. I introduced myself and we’ve been friends ever since,” Dharni recalled.
They began car pooling to comedy events in L.A. During a drive home in November of 2009, they learned that their San Diego “home club” was unexpectedly shutting down.
Dharni explained that in addition to wanting more control, they both felt there were not enough quality shows in San Diego.
“That night we talked about what we could do to provide our own stage time and separate ourselves from the sometimes fickle and politics-ridden world of comedy clubs,” Dharni said. “And then we realized we had the power to create a show that could be everything we wanted it to be.”
“We had worked together before and knew we worked well together so we decided on the way home to take the plunge and try producing a show that (a) would be a great show for the audience and (b) be a great show we would be proud to be a part of,” Spicer added.
That same night they stopped by the Kensington Club located on 4079 Adams Avenue and discussed their idea with the owner.
“We pitched him our idea, he liked it and then we got to work that very night,” Dharni said. “We haven’t stopped since.”
Their main objective continues to be to bring quality, talented headliners to San Diego at rock bottom prices.
“We want the audience to experience stand up in a raw, intimate show. We want to make catching a headliner at a Live Comedy Live show be like catching Smashing Pumpkins or U2 in a small club again after they have already made it big,” Spicer said.
“We have built the show’s fan base by giving people what they can not get anywhere else: amazing comics for dirt cheap at a show where quality comes before anything else,” Dharni added. “We have come a long way since then. We have steadily built a loyal fan base for Live Comedy Live and every one of our past shows has sold out.”
Dharni fondly recalled when Ben Gleib, one of the nation’s hottest comics right now, headlined one of their shows.
“When Ben got off stage and told me, ‘Man, I really wish I could film my Comedy Central Presents special here.’ I thanked him and laughed it off as just a compliment,” Dharni said. “He then looked at me stone-faced and said, ‘No. I’m serious.’ That unfortunately never materialized, however it did tell us we were doing something right.
“As the show found its footing, we began to challenge ourselves to bring better comics with each show.”
Another sign they are doing something right, is that headliners like Rick Shapiro now contact them. They are both very proud that all of these comedians have at least one, if not a combination of the following accomplishments: “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Comedy Central Presents,” HBO, “Last Comic Standing,” “Chelsea Lately,” “SNL,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” the San Francisco International Comedy Competition and the Montreal Comedy Festival.
“These are comics who have packed auditoriums and now people in San Diego got to see them for in most cases for under $5,” Spicer said. “Things will only get better at Bourbon Street. That people get to see comics like Michael [Kosta] for free with no drink minimum is pretty crazy … like seriously crazy.
“Since we started Live Comedy Live over a year ago other comics have tried their hand at doing their own shows and while some are pretty good shows I am pretty confident none compare to the Live Comedy Live experience for both the audience and performers.”
“I think we’re giving selflessly to the larger comedy community,” Dharni added. “Thinking back on the level of comics we have worked with, it all seems surreal.
“One of my personal favorite performances to watch was when Rick Shapiro headlined Live Comedy Live at The Onyx Room. As a comic, I find his material the most intriguing. Rick Shapiro is a legend in the New York City and Los Angeles underground comedy scenes and is very well-respected among comics everywhere. He’s been called the “Miles Davis of comedy”, there is even a comedy club named after him in Australia.”
Spicer also fondly recalled Shapiro’s performance at the Onyx Room, but also stated that the Ben Gleib performance was a personal favorite.
“Ben did close to an hour on a random hot night in a room with no A/C and he crushed,” Spicer said. “He got off stage soaked in sweat and the audience had to have been feeling the heat too but no one left. How could they? Ben was that good.”
“As trite as this may sound, all of the comics we bring are amazing in their own way. In the end, comics are just people with unique sense of humor and talents,” Dharni added. “That’s what makes coming back so fun. You get the same quality of show every time but you never get the same ‘type’ of comedy. You will never tire of the Live Comedy Live experience.”
To date, most of the Live Comedy Live shows have left Dharni and Spicer about evenly, if not in the hole, financially.
“Why do we keep doing it?” Dharni asked. “Because we both love comedy and find immense satisfaction in bringing good comedy to the masses. We also really appreciate the opportunity to work with some of the best comics in the nation. There is nothing like the feeling you get when some of your favorite comics sincerely thank you for booking them on a great show that you produced.
“It is a three-way win. We are giving San Diego amazingly awesome shows, we give comics we love and respect great audiences and we give ourselves a chance to do more of what we love most: performing.”
“We encourage every reader to come check out to the show on the 28th and every show thereafter and we think they'll see why we feel so strongly about them,” Spicer said. “We are not doing these shows to make money.”
The shows are truly a labor of love. Both Spicer and Dharni have an immense amount of respect for each other’s work.
“I admire Christian’s assured stage presence,” Dharni said. “We have developed what I like to call a devil’s advocate relationship. We both have learned to feel completely comfortable with strongly arguing against each others’ ideas in order to test the validity of those ideas.
“We never take it personally because we both know we are able to set our egos aside and always keep the greater goal in mind. Christian has proven to be one of the most honest, fair, organized, professional and funny people I have ever worked with and I could not consider doing this with anybody else.”
“Day in and day out, Rajan is super funny and has a great unique view on the world that just cracks me up,” Spicer said. “He is also the ultimate professional. Live Comedy Live would have never happened without the two of us working so well together.”
Get to Know Christian Spicer
Christian Spicer spent most of his life in Houston, Texas, with the exception of a four-year stint in San Francisco when he was a young teenager.
Spicer obtained a law degree soon after college, but he gave up his attorney-by-day profession to pursue comedy full time.
“I no longer practice law,” Spicer said. “I was a good attorney but I did not want my late comedy nights to change that. When more and more comedy opportunities came up for me I realized it was time and I took the plunge. I have not looked back. I love comedy.”
Unlike Dharni however, Spicer cannot pin point a moment in his life where just knew comedy was for him.
“I am not sure if there was a definite point,” Spicer said. “I always liked making people laugh and kept notes of thoughts I had that made me laugh long before I ever took the stage for the first time.
“I kept putting off pursuing the arts for too long but I could not resist the "bug" forever.
“One thing that comedy and law have in common is they both require confidence and hard work.
“Being an attorney is not easy, it takes dedication, mental strength, and the ability to work tirelessly for long hours. Being a good comedian requires much, if not all of the same skills. Both also demand public speaking and being comfortable sharing your views with others. And lastly, both involve sometimes being full of shit (zing!)”
Most parents would not be pleased, much less encourage, their child to quit their law profession to pursue comedy, but that was not the case for Spicer.
“My parents were and have been very supportive, as has my wife who is absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me and such a strong support system for me. She is simply the best,” Spicer said.
Many of Spicer’s friends and family members are still in Houston, but he was ready to “escape to the west” four-years ago.
“I moved out to San for my wife's job and absolutely love it,” Spicer said. “While I still love the Houston Astros, San Diego really is America 's Finest city and with shows like Live Comedy Live we want to make it America's best stand up city too.”
“I just turned 30, which seems crazy to me,” Spicer added. “Usually when I'm on stage and I tell people that someone will call out something like ‘try turning 40’, to which I usually reply ‘I plan on it.’ Right? That is kind of the point of life. We get older. People should turn 40 if things go according to plan.”
Spicer’s plan is to continue working on his comedy and writing. In addition to his comedic writing, he also covers the latest video game news for the gaming website Game Rant, and writes sketches for Cool Party Guys.
He draws inspiration from the entire writing staff of “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation," “The Daily Show” and “Conan.”
While he refers to comedian Louis CK as a genius, Spicer finds it hard to name only a few favorite comedians.
“I have had the pleasure of working with so many great San Diego based comics every week.It is the best part of the job,” Spicer said. “Looking forward though, one comic I would love to work with would be a tie between Marc Maron and Aziz Ansari.”
When Spicer takes the stage, he said any topic is fair game.
“A lot of my jokes focus on video games and pop culture, but they are presented in a way that make them approachable for almost everyone,” Spicer said. “I also find humor in the every day. There is so much life out there and so much of it is funny. Just keep your eyes open. From growing up in the 80s, to politics, to what was on TV last night, it is all relevant and fair game.”
Spicer on Fun-sized Candy
The Opposite of Metrosexual
Get to know Rajan Dharni
Rajan Dharni is 27 and grew up all over Southern California.
“I was born and raised for the most part in Los Angeles,” Dharni said. “I went to high school in the very exciting and cosmopolitan city of El Centro, just two hours east of San Diego.
“People like to give East County a hard time. Yeah, well try east of East County … two hours east.”
Dharni moved back to L.A. for college and work opportunities, and relocated to San Diego roughly three years ago. Prior to heading off to college, his father sat him down for the “what do you want to do with your life?” talk.
“It was during that conversation that I realized I wanted to be a comedian,” Dharni recalled. “But I thought it was silly and impossible so on a whim I told my dad I wanted to be a lawyer. Ten years later, here I am in the comedy business, co-producing shows with someone who left his job as an attorney to pursue comedy full-time.
“I’m lucky though, because my parents are very supportive, although a bit nervous as is expected. I mean, I do not have a day job. I support myself by a means of… how do you say… oh yes, robbing people.” (he is kidding of course)
As a comedic writer, Dharni finds inspiration in other writers who can “artfully combine sadness and hilarity.”
“One of my favorite writers is David Sedaris,” he said. “I also like sharp, smart writing in television. In my opinion, few things come close to the writing of ‘Arrested Development’,‘Flight of the Conchords’ and ‘Bob’s Burgers.’
“I am quickly becoming a big fan of the new sketch show ‘Portlandia’, and I am a huge fan of the British sense of absurdity, found in shows like ‘The Mighty Boosh’.”
As far as fellow stand-up comics go, Dharni said he has too many favorites to list, but mentions comedians like Louis CK, Bill Burr, Rick Shapiro, Bill Hicks and Bob Newhart.
He shares Spicer’s sentiment that when it comes to comedy, any topic is fair game.
“I am still exploring my ‘voice’, so I go through phases with my subject material,” Dharni said. “Right now, I am having fun exploring real, personal events and relaying them in a narrative style on stage.
“Prior to that, I had fun evoking laughter by getting angry on stage and pointing out what annoys and upsets me. I once went through a three-month period where all I could write about were aliens and outer space. I have fun changing up the topic matter often. I see it as a sign of growth.”
If you visit Dharni’s website, you will learn a thing or two about him, such as the fact that he is constantly fighting off gorgeous women, and he loves burritos.
“Yes, I am currently single, so hollaaaaa!” Dharni said. “I fight off hordes, and I mean HORDES of gorgeous women everyday with my trusty flamethrower ‘Flame.’ She’s seen me through some tough times.
“Once, I found myself in Pacific Beach (accidentally) and an army of bikini-clad women blocked all exits out of PB. ‘Flame’ helped keep the army of tanned flesh away long enough for Christian to airlift me out of the “sh*t” with his military chopper, which I had insisted he keep for this one reason alone. Thanks to Christian’s heroism that day, I remain 100% STD free.”
As far as burritos go, his favorite is the California burrito, with the Surf and Turf coming in at a close second. Dharni considers his passion for them has reached a spiritual level.
“Like most followers of polytheistic religions, I don’t worship one God over another. Instead, I recognize each one as a facet of something larger that is beyond my comprehension.
“I don’t have a favorite burrito place, although I do have my secret top five list: El Zarape, Luche Libre, El Cuervo, Colima’s all earn my homage. And, yes, I purposely left one of my top five out.”
Dharni still feels like he is learning a lot about the comedy “game” but does have this advice for aspiring comedians:
“Just get up on stage. Do not wait for ‘that moment’, just get up there and tell your jokes. Then get off, re-write your jokes, write more jokes and repeat for, what I can only imagine, the rest of your life.”
Indian Kid on the Playground
Bad Roommate and Hookers
Additional Comedic Productions
Both Spicer and Dharni also enjoy writing pitches for TV shows and sketches and blogs for the comedy website Cool Party Guys, which produces a weekly podcast that can be found on iTunes: Stand Ups Sit Down.
Live Comedy Live is not their only production though. Both of them also produce Lestat’s Comedy Night, which takes place every Tuesday night at 9 pm at Lestat’s West, an intimate theater located at 3343 Adams Ave.
“We are grateful to have inherited it this past summer and take pride in our meticulous efforts to make it an even better show,” Dharni said.
“It has been running strong for seven years. It attracts a loyal, hardcore comedy fan-base week after week. We bring amazing comics down and give them a full hour to explore in front of a smart, hip and all-around amazing audience.
“It is widely known among comics as one of the best stand-up comedy shows in all of Southern California. Because of the smart, and honest audience, some of LA’s best comics come down to hone their material in preparation for appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Comedy Central Presents” and national tours.”
The production is an all-ages show, so no alcohol is served. The audience is there strictly for the comedy.
Dharni is quick to warn that the all-age restriction does not limit the material. He states comics are given full freedom on stage to explore whatever topic and use whatever language they want.
“We also work in conjunction with a great San Diego organization, So Say We All, to produce the monthly F*ck Alt Comedy shows the first Wednesday of the month at the Whistle Stop,” Spicer added. “These shows are geared to giving comics a little longer sets than they would otherwise get and encourages them to push boundaries and explore comedy. Lots of fun and also free.” (Next one is March 2, and will feature Rick Shapiro)
“That is three free top-quality shows,” Dharni stressed. “San Diego needs to come out and support these amazing shows.”
Live Comedy Live