At the first Mutiny Radio Comedy Festival in 2016, a storm nearly stole the show.
“We had a tent outside, and our entire tent blew into the cosmos,” says Pam Benjamin, the festival’s artistic director. “We had people holding it down, and it literally launched into the air.”
The festival, which kicks off Friday, is keeping the action on the ground this year with dozens of shows, podcast tapings and more.
Fifty up-and-coming comics are performing at the five-day event, with half coming from the Bay Area and the rest from across the United States and Canada.
On Saturday, Oakland comedian Gary Hughes is hosting several out-of-town comics for “Underwear Only,” which will feature performers of all shapes and sizes in (almost) all of their glory.
“When you do public speaking, you’re supposed to imagine people in their underwear to make yourself comfortable,” Benjamin says. “But this is the opposite — it’s the comics onstage in their underwear.”
Other shows pay tribute to pets (“Fur Babies Are Better Than Real Babies” at 9 p.m. March 3); youth (“23 and Meh” at 6 p.m. March 4), hilarious childhood trauma (“My First Barbie” at 6 p.m. March 3) and more.
Almost all the events will be held at Mutiny Radio’s 30-seat venue in the Mission; the internet radio station was born there in 2011 after splitting off from the former Pirate Cat Radio.
The festival is a vital fundraiser for the nonprofit, which averages about 500,000 downloads from listeners every month.
“Mutiny Radio is a shoestring operation,” says Benjamin, who is also director of the station. “I haven’t paid myself for January yet. It’s hard to keep the doors open.”
Podcasts, a new addition to the festival this year, are an outgrowth of Mutiny Radio’s grassroots ethos.
“The station really is a community effort,” Benjamin says. Podcast hosts rent recording space for $100 a month, including equipment. “If you want to become a podcast DJ, I can teach you.”
The festival’s podcast tapings include “Spiritual Psychology” at 10 a.m. on March 5, in which licensed therapist Renee McKenna will give a free therapy session to comedians Karl Berger and Geulah Finman. Another podcast, “Cage Match” (at 9 a.m. March 2) will probably be a lot less therapeutic.
“All the comedians are different Nicolas Cage characters,” Benjamin says. “They don’t know which characters they are, and they have to figure it out. It’s kind of like a dating show with Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage.”
Benjamin, who will be hosting “Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse” at 8 p.m. March 1, says The City is still a good place for comedians even as longtime venues like the Hemlock Tavern and the Elbo Room have shuttered.
“San Francisco is probably one of the best places to start doing comedy,” she says. “In Seattle, you have one open mic a night. Here, on a Tuesday, you can hit four without even trying.”
IF YOU GO
Mutiny Radio Comedy Festival
Where: 2781 21st St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 1; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 2; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 3; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 4; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 5
Tickets: Comedy shows $10; podcast tapings free with registration at www.eventbrite.com
Contact: (415) 550-0511, www.mutinyradio.fm