Standup comics appear live, in unique El Rio patio show

After months laughs on Zoom, in-person performances return

In attempts to assure her safety-concerned audiences, San Francisco comic and comedy booster Lisa Geduldig repeatedly stresses that this week’s live presentation, her first in nearly 18 months, will be outdoors.

It’s even in the name: Comedy Al Fresco will be onstage Sept. 2 in the (outdoor) patio of El Rio in the Mission, starting at 8 p.m., featuring standup by Karinda Dobbins, Judi Leff, Arjun Banerjee, Bob McIntyre and Geduldig herself.

“It’s live — that’s part of the promotion,” Geduldig says on the phone, calling the concept “radical” as the COVID era and its uncertainties continue.

“What used to be abnormal now is the norm,” Geduldig, said, referring to doing her act for patrons on Zoom.

“I haven’t performed in front an audience that wasn’t on a screen in a year and half,” she adds, mentioning that none of the comedians on the upcoming bill have appeared in Lockdown Comedy, the monthly virtual show she started producing from Florida during the pandemic.

Noting that Comedy Al Fresco will have a streaming as well as live component, Geduldig has been inspired by the success of her online venture.

“We have a sizable audience and community,” she says. After the performances, some people stick around (“Where are they going?”) to chat, she adds.

Her Lockdown show on Aug. 19 was unusual in that it was the first ever from her Mission district apartment. She recently returned from a longer-than-planned, 17-month stay with her mom Arline in a retirement community in Boynton Beach, Florida.

She says she felt like Rip Van Winkle and Goldilocks as she tried to figure out the best setup for the Zoom event, finally deciding on the kitchen. Still, viewers of the show will see her signature brick wall backdrop behind her.

This week’s El Rio patio show is also notable for Geduldig, because it’s where she made her standup debut in 1989, having been invited by then-owner Malcom Thornley, who, among others, thought she was funny. (It was after she saw a sign that said “Would you like to do standup comedy?” that led her to Lee Glickman’s class in Bernal Heights.)

Years later, Geldudig went on to produce Comedy Returns to El Rio!, her third-Thursday-of-the month standup show that unexpectedly, she says, continued for 12 years — until COVID hit.

Describing this week’s show, whose performers have appeared at El Rio before, Geduldig says, “It’s me coming home to San Francisco, my home stage where I started my career in comedy.”

At the same time, her new pandemic lifestyle has expanded her notion of home, place and time, and it can be confusing.

She says, “I’ve been living in two time zones; I can’t remember which coast I’m on.”

IF YOU GO

Comedy Al Fresco

Where: El Rio, 3158 Mission St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 2

Tickets: $10 to $25 (live or streaming)

Contact: cityboxoffice.com/comedyalfresco

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