Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cafe Nostra Triple Feature this Saturday night!


Triple Feature Event at Cafe Nostra in El Dorado Hills

Enjoy  a triple feature event at CafĂ© Nostra this Saturday night. Local comedians Mac McDonald, Roland Mothershed and Michael O’Connell will give your funny bone a workout.

McDonald and Mothershed have been tearing up the bay area comedy scene. They have the experience and stories that will let you know you found the funny. There is no need to go to the bay area for comedy, when it’s in El Dorado Hills.

Michael O’Connell is taking the comedy scene by storm. His recent successes have been the talk of the town and covered in the Sacramento Bee. Whether you found O’Connell as a finalist at Tommy T’s Comedy Competition, or working out at any of the great comedy venues, you are going to love this guy. 100% Comedy, 0% Stand-up That’s Michael O’Connell.

Enjoy the area’s greatest coffee, beer, wine, treats, and comedy! There is no cover charge.

Host Willie Mac has invited Mac, Roland and me up to play in his comedy room in El Dorado I've been dying to play, because every comic I know whose performed there has loved it.  I'm especially excited for the chance to work with Mac McDonald and Roland Mothershed.  Yes, they're both great comedians, but my memories of them are of more than just their work.  One Monday night not long ago up at Po' Boyz, after Open Mic Night ended, me and my pal A.T. hung out at the bar and talked and laughed and story-told with Mac and Roland until we closed the place down.  Two awesome guys who'd I'd love the chance to hang out with again even if they WEREN'T hilarious.  I've shared the stage with Mac before (just did so again at Tommy T's on Tuesday night, in fact), but haven't gotten the chance to pass the mic with Roland, so this ought to be a blast.

If you don't mind the drive up to El Dorado Hills, this could be an awfully fun Saturday night for you.  Show doesn't start until 9:00 PM, and there's no cover charge to worry about.  If you're free, and you're feeling the comedy vibe, feel more than welcome to join us at:

Cafe' Nostra
3907 Park Drive
El Dorado Hills, California 95762
(916) 933-3110

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Me (and lots of others) at Luna's Cafe tonight!

Big comedy night at Luna's Cafe in downtown Sac tonight!

Comedy Night at Luna's (which happens every Wednesday night, in case you're not hip to the news) proudly present headliners "Smooot Valley High".  Enjoy some "teen-friendly" musical comedy and wisdom from "fellow teens" (who happen to be, like, 30 years old, but who's checking ID, right?).  It's all wholesome and just gosh-darned American!

But before the big fun begins, you'll be treated to comedy sets from a number of local favorites, including Nick Aragon, Khulani Malone, Keith Lowell Jensen (your host), Zack Parrott, Nate Darling, Derek Byrne, and even yours truly (Michael O'Connell...nice to meet you).  It's comedy magic, I tell you! 

So drop on in by 8:00 PM at:

Luna's Cafe & Juice Bar
1414 16th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Six bucks at the door gets you all the hilarity you can stomach, but help digest it better, you can also sample some of the many fine eats and juices (and beers) that Luna's has to offer.

Come on in and join us!  Limited seating, so come early!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tommy T's Open Mic Finals - DECIDED!

After two months of grueling (yet hilarious) competition, the whole field of competitors for Season One of the 2010 Tommy T's Open Mic Finals came down to a final foursome - Willie Mac, Joey Gonzalez, Kristen Frisk and Michael O'Connell (pictured at left, minutes before showtime).  And the whole thing was decided tonight.

I came in second.

And I couldn't be in a better mood right now.

Three and a half months ago, I got up on stage for the first time ever to try comedy.  That stage was at Tommy T's.  Tonight, I returned to that same stage and, while waiting to go on, was able to reflect on how much my life has changed since that night, and how great of a night this truly was for me.

Tonight I returned to my comedic home, showing up extra early for the interviews to be done with each of us for the videotaping of the competition - something that's being packaged to be sold as a reality show.  I met up upside with my parents, who had driven all the way from Arizona to be here for this.  Also outside was my best friend Tim, who's my official stage-lifter (and has been lugging me up stairs for over 30 years), and my brother Tam, his wife Pam, and their son Patrick, the latter three of whom I haven't seen in almost three years.  They were the first of a herd of family and friends that would start showing up as the evening went along.  Some were folks that have been showing up to root me on in the previous three rounds of this contest.  Some had not been able to attend before, and were there to see me perform for the first time (my parents included).  Old, dear friends appeared.  Former co-workers showed up.  Buddies of mine from my cigar lounge made the scene.  And my newer friends - my comedian friends - also came to watch.  People like Jason Tate and Sam Key, who had been in the competition in earlier rounds.  Like Mac McDonald and Samatha Hickey.  And Ellis Rodriguez, who would be hosting the night, just as he did the previous round, and just as he did my very first night on stage.  And - of course - three of my best comedy friends...Willie, Joey and Kristen.

My fellow comedians.

Because tonight, at the end of this journey, I feel like I can finally call myself a comedian.

Things have moved very quickly since that first night.  I went from open mics to my first booked shows, and the Tommy T's competition forced me to step beyond the standard 5-minute set much earlier than expected, and to see if I had 10...15...20 minutes in me.  I had to find out...and I did.  This contest pushed me right beyond a comfort zone that I wasn't even fully comfortable in.  I learned fast - thanks to both onstage experience and the invaluable advice of so many helpful Sacramento comics - what it truly takes to put it all up on that stage, to trust yourself, to bounce back when it doesn't quite work, to push your limits, to face your fears, and to rewrite, rewrite, REWRITE!  My comedy education was an accelerated course.  Oh, it's far from over, to be sure.  But tonight, I have this feeling that I just graduated.  At least from comedy high school. 

The four of us who went on tonight chatted online between last round and this one, and agreed that 1) we were all rooting for each other, and 2) we all just wanted to go out there and give them the best show we could.  And so, once more, we all faced the mic.  And due to the video/photography limits, we will sadly not be able to share any YouTube footage of what went down (but hopefully you'll see it on TV one day).  But by the end of things, we were all back on stage together, after the group of judges backstage once more (just like last round) had to debate much longer than they thought.  And in the end, it was the amazing Kristen Frisk who pulled out the win...and earned every once of the trophy she was handed. 

I pulled the second place spot, and was thrilled to have it.  Thrilled because I went up on that stage tonight and did somewhere between 23 and 25 strong minutes of comedy - including about 3 minutes of all-new, untested material - and didn't choke.  I didn't leave the stage feeling I'd let myself down, as I have in times past.  I was very happy with my performance, and knew right when it was over that whether it was the top spot or the last that I walked away with, I'd done my best.  And, I should add, I did this not having eaten a bite of food for 24 hours (don't ask).  And with a sore tooth.  And in the middle of it, I came to realize how far I've come in my performing as I found myself making minor adjustments on the knowing when to walk away from a bit on the strongest laugh and moving on to the next one instead of forcing the follow-up joke that would bring it down.  I realized in the middle of my set that I've actually come far enough to learn when to do that, and to trust my instincts, which are starting to mature with each new performance.

I had a great night of comedy, personally, and got to spend it on stage with some of my favorite comedy people.  And in the audience were relatives from all three sides of my family (I have a complicated family), friends from every part of my life, and even my housekeeper - all people that mean so much to me and that I couldn't have been more pleased to have there to share the night.  And perhaps the best part of all?  The six different people who came up to me and introduced themselves, telling me that they were there that night because they had read the article about me in the Bee.  And the people who made that possible - Randall Benton and Darlene Ott - showed up to watch me close out this contest, too.

This was a perfect night.

And for me, the night was not and end, but a beginning.  Stay tuned here for details of a lot of new bookings that are about to start coming my way, as discussed with me this evening.  And for news of the status on the reality show being made of the 2010 Tommy T's Open Mic Finals (with two more sets of finals still to come before year's end), and whether it gets sold, and where you'll be seeing it.  The filmmaker behind this is going to be contacting me, as he's going to be filming me for a day or two to flesh out my "story" in this show.  And also stay tuned to find out the day and time next week when me and tonight's other three finalists will be appearing on KFBK Radio here in Sacramento.  Tonight was the end of chapter one of my comedy story.  The rest of the story?  Oh, it's just gettin' good.

Thanks, Willie and Joey, you funny, funny sumbitches.  Thanks Ellis for lighting up the show for us once more.  Thanks, Lou, and the whole gang at Tommy T's for giving us this chance to do our stuff and share it with Sacramento (and perhaps the nation...).  Thanks to everyone who made it out tonight to cheer us on.

And congratulations to Kristen Frisk - she who is the whole comedy package, and the funniest, classiest lady I know.  There's a reason why I've been such a big fan since the first night I saw her on stage.  Because she's everything every comedian should aspire to, and she's my idol.  You ROCK, Frisky...and your rise is only just beginning.  Go forth and do that voodoo that you do, and make us proud.

And I am officially emotionally spent.  Good night, comedy fans.  More to come.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meet the press! Me in today's Sacramento Bee

If you open up your copy of the Sacramento Bee this morning (which pre-assumes you're in Sacramento), chances are you'll come across a little article on yours truly.

The sitch: a while back, while hanging (as usual) at my cigar lounge, Tobacco Road, I met a guy by the name of Randall Benton (a.k.a. Bentoni).  It turns out Bentoni used to be a Sacramento stand-up comic, and did it full-time for a good two-plus years before turning back to the day job.  We talked for more than an hour about his experiences in comedy, and about my experiences just now breaking into comedy.  Bentoni had lots of great advice to offer up from his years on the road.  It was a great talk, and I learned a lot.

It wasn't until the end of the conversation that I found out that Bentoni's day job is being a staff photographer for the Sacramento Bee.  He decided that I might make a pretty interesting story for them.  So he started coming to my shows and taking pics of me, and managed to sell his editor on the story, which ended up written by the woman who interviewed me, Darlene Ott (who also happens to be Bentoni's wife).  The hope was to get the story in the paper prior to the big final round at the Tommy T's Open Mic Finals.  Mission accomplished.  Today is the day, and the online version of the article is already up and posted.

So feel free to check it out here:

...and don't forget to use the "slide show" button beneath the photo, which will let you see all 16 shots and get more of the story.

So hope you enjoy.  And thank you, so much, Bentoni and Darlene, for thinking me newsworthy, and thank you, Sacramento Bee, for agreeing with them.  My media blitz has begun!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tommy T's Open Mic Final - The Grand Finale! - Wednesday, April 21st!

It all comes down to this.

This is it, Sac comedy fans.  It's been a long road getting here, but finally, the winner of the Tommy T's Open Mic Finals will be decided on one night - this Wednesday, the 21st.

That's when me, Willie Mac, Joey Gonzalez and Kristen Frisk will by slinging our best on stage to see who emerges as the open mic champ.  If you've been to the other rounds, you already know what a great night of comedy you're in for, and I consider myself damned lucky and fortunate to be up there amongst such an amazing collections of comics.  And even luckier that the show will be hosting by none other than Ellis Rodriquez, all the way from L.A.!

For me, this is the culmination of a journey that started on January 5th of this year - the night I got on stage to do comedy for my very first time.  I was the winner of that night's competition, and there officially began my fledgling comedy career.  And what a journey it's been.  In the three-point-five months since, I've gone from open mic newbie to getting booked shows around Sac, from an outsider in the comedy world to making so many fantastic new friends with comedians all over the NorCal scene, from local wannebe to having my comedy videos watched and reviewed by some of my favorite TV celebrities.  Comedy has gone from being an occasionally-remembered personal dream to becoming my whole life (thanks, unemployment!).

And Tommy T's has made that happen.  The competition has not only given me the stage time and the exposure, but pushed me in ways most comics have to wait so much longer for.  How many comics have a twenty-minute set together within their first couple of months of starting?  I can tell's not that common.  This contest made me step up and meet that challenge early, and that's given me so much more confidence and experience than I should reasonably have by now.  Whatever happens from here on in, Tommy T's will always be my home.  Thanks, guys.

And as I said, I couldn't have asked for better company to be with in this final chapter.  Along the way I've not only become friends with Willie, Joey and Kristen, but have had the honor of sharing the stage with them in a number of venues, and have become lifelong fans of all of them and their work.  And I'm so grateful that all my wonderful people coming out to see me have had a chance to see them all and what they do, and have become big fans as well.  Anyone's who's seen them on stage knows exactly what I'm talking about.  These guys are all amazing, and have more than earned their place in this final stage.

To those who've been out to see me before, I sure hope you're able to make it for this final chapter in this saga.  For those who haven't, your chance is finally here to be a part of fun, and to see how it all finally plays out.  And if indications are correct from how the voting went down last round, it's going to be anybody's game.  But by the end of the night, the judges will be deciding who wears the crown.  Who will go home with the victory?  Well, my advice is to show up and find out.  I guarantee that you won't regret it.

So let me take this last pre-competition moment to thank everyone who's supported me - and by proxy, Sacramento comedy - along the way.  Thanks to all my friends and family who've taken their time out on weekdays to come and cheer me on.  Particularly, thanks to the members of what Ellis Rodriguez called my "entourage" - Vladimir (my comedy partner, my instigator, my coach, my photographer, my (his words) minion), Tim (my "lifter" of so many years, and my creative partner for as many), and A.T. (my booster both physically and spiritually, my big bald muse).  You guys are the greatest.  And thanks to all the long-distance friends and family who aren't close enough to make the shows, but have provided encouragement and love all along the way.  To all my fellow comics who've provided insight, motivation, inspiration and friendship.  And to Lou and everyone at Tommy T's for giving this chance to all of us to show what we can do, and to help make our dreams come true.

So don't miss out!  Be there at:

12401 Folsom Blvd (Hazel & Folsom, right above Spaghetti Factory)
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
(916) 357-LAFF (5233)
7:30 PM

Get ready for the final round!  The whole enchilada!  The final chapter!  The mother of all comedy nights!  Come early (because it's looking this one may actually be a sellout!), and come ready to laugh.  A lot!  We'll see you there!

Willie!  Joey!  Kristen!  Let's DO this thing!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tommy T's Open Mic Finals - Round 3! - OVER!

The Tommy T's Open Mic Finals competition has been moving steadily along, with Open Mic Night winners all going up against each other in elimination rounds.  The field has been shrinking as comics advanced through the first two rounds, throwing their best comedy bits out to packed audiences throughout.

Tonight, it was time for Round 3, the last of the semifinal rounds.  The list of comics was down to just six - myself, Kristen Frisk, Joey Gonzalez, Sam Key, Willie Mac and Jake Ward.  Tonight we each had to do 10-minute sets before yet another near-capacity crowd, and, more importantly, before a panel of judges who would decide which of us moved on to the final round, and which of us went home.

Willie Mac

The first thing that made this evening even more special was that the host for the night was comedian Ellis Rodriguez, back in town from L.A. for a few weeks.  Aside from the fact that Ellis is one of the funniest comics to ever come out of Sac, he was also hosting the Open Mic Night on January 5th of this year when I got on stage for the very first time.  He was the guy who introduced me then.  And now, on April 5th, he'd be doing so again, giving me pause to look back and reflect on all the amazing things that have happened in the past three months as I went from "I should try comedy" to becoming an actual working comedian.

I was also psyched because, once again, a lot my people showed up to see the show and cheer me on, as they have throughout this journey.  As ever, there were a few folks I knew were going to be showing up, but then a number of surprise appearances, too.  Friends (older and newer) and family started filling up my reserved tables, and this just put me in a fantastic mood.

 Joey Gonzalez

As did hanging out and chatting with my fellow finalists before the show started.  We all know each other, not only from the Finals, but from other open mics and different shows around we've either worked together or just hung out together at.  They're all great people, and all very, very funny people.  We knew that not all of us would be moving on by the night's end, but that really didn't matter there in that pre-show time.  We all just got to relax, joke around, and wait for the fun to start.  And wish each other luck.  And mean it...I swear!

Finally it came time to draw the names for the performance order.  Lou (the manager there at Tommy T's who runs all the open mic stuff) brought out the bucket, and as we all circled 'round in the back of the room, host Ellis drew the names.  The order ended up Kristen, me, Willie, Joey, Jake, then Sam.  Which meant that somehow Kristen had now drawn first spot in all three rounds (!).  But that was okay this time - Ellis would be going on first to do a set and warm the crowd up, so that wouldn't be all on her shoulders.  And so, the lights dimmed, Ellis got up and took the mic, and the show began.

Jake Ward

And what a show it was.

Couldn't have been prouder of this group of comics, man.  And couldn't have been happier for the assembled audience, because they got treated to a hell of a show.  Everyone brought their best stuff, and they played it to win.  There was loads and loads of laughs as each of us took our turn in the spotlight.  I got to hear people's familiar material - that I've heard multiple times on different stages around town - take on a whole new life and magically ignite the crowd.  Pride, again, is the word for what I was feeling.  Seeing favorite comedians of mine prove on stage what I've known since first seeing each of them made my heart swell.  I felt lucky to be a part of such a group.  I felt honored.

After we had all finished, and the judges went backstage for their deliberations and to compare the score sheets, we got treated to a guest comedy set by Sacramento comic (and one of my favorite Sacramento comics) Carlos Rodriguez, doing his usual job of winning the crowd (and with no cocaine,'s just the way he talks, I swear...).  Between his guesting and Ellis's bits between comics, it was just a damned fine night of comedy.  I almost hated to have to get to the voting part.  Almost...

Sam Key

That time did come, and Lou asked us all to return to the stage, where we all shook hands and exchanged hugs one last time before the news.  With results in hand, Lou explained that it was the prerogative of the panel of judges to either add or subtract a finalist from the originally-planned "Final Three".  It ended up being an addition.  Apparently, the judging was so close, in the end they decided the only fair way to work it was to turn the "Final Three" into a "Final Four".  Which they did.  And that foursome ended up being Joey, Willie, Kristen and me.   We will now be moving on the the Final, where - after we each do our best 20-minute sets - one of us will be crowned Open Mic Champion.

It appears the date of that final night is going to be Wednesday, April 21st, but I don't want to make that an official announcement until it's confirmed and put on the Tommy T's calendar (and it should be in the next day or so), so stay tuned here for news on that.  It's not only going to be a big night, but it's also going to be filmed for a documentary.  We're all going to have to come in for on-camera interviews before that night.  As I get more details on this, I'll be letting you know.  Sounds pretty exciting.

Kristen Frisk and me

So, I've made it out of Round 3, and I'm going to the show.  And it feels good...particularly for someone who's been doing this for a total of three months, you know?  The old "just happy to be here" cliche really does apply in my case.  I'm learning as I go and still have a lot to figure out, but I'm really grateful to have made it as far as I have as fast as I have.  But mostly what I'm grateful for is the people I've met along the way - the comics that I've shared the stage with, hung out with outside of clubs after shows, watched on stage or gotten advice from.  Since I've begun all this, many people I know have been surprised to find out that there's actually a big, thriving comedy scene in Sacramento.  Well, there is, and it's filled with hilarious, remarkable, friendly and captivating personalities, and the best part of this comic odyssey of mine has been to make their acquaintance, and become part of this little world that I'm trying to share with the rest of Sacramento. 

My congratulations to everyone who's been in the Open Mic Finals along the way, because you all got there for a reason, and deserved the recognition.  And congratulations to Kristen, to Joey, and to Willie, for making it all the way to the small feat considering the competition you've had every step of the way.  Well done, my friends.  And I know no matter what happens in the big Final, we're all going to have one hell of a good time being there.

Party at Willie's after.  I'm bringing the Guinness.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tommy T's Open Mic Finals - Round 3! Monday Night!

It is ON.

Finally, Round Three of the Tommy T's Open Mic Finals goes DOWN!  And it goes down this Monday night, April 5, at 7:30 PM.

The field is down to six comics: me, Willie Mac, Sam Key, Jake Ward, Kristen Frisk and Joey Gonzalez.  We'll each be getting up on the big stage to do our best 10-minute sets.  And at the end of the night, the judges will send three of us home...and three of us on to the final round!

There's some added fun to this round, as there's going to be a film crew there recording the competition.  I don't have the full details on that, but they'll be shooting it and doing interviews with all six of us, plus continuing to follow the competition all the way to the end, when the Tommy T's Open Mic King/Queen will be crowned.





(I just felt like writing a Michael Bay film trailer there for a sec).

So once more, I would LOVE to have any and all of you there for all the excitement!  And to assist with that, I've got a whole big bunch of free tickets to make available TO ya!  Instead of trying to get them to people ahead of time (which got a little complicated last time I tried that), I'll just be handing them out to arriving pals and fans at the door.  Just let me know that you're coming, and I'll have a ticket ready for you.  If you're a last-minute show...that's cool, too...just look for me at the door (or tell 'em at the door you're looking for me to get your ticket).

We're almost at the end!  This is a big night!  So don't miss out!  Come on down to:

Tommy T's Comedy & Dinner Theatre
12401 Folsom Boulevard
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742-6416
(916) 357-5233

7:30 PM.  Monday night.  Some will laugh.  Some will cry.  Some will burn the roof of their mouth on delicious chicken tenders because the batter-rich coating is deceptively cool.

And at the end of it all, three will move on.



Oh, you get the idea...