Archive for September, 2014


Healing Hilarity Of Comedy

The Ventura Comedy Festival runs Sept. 22 to Sept. 28

The Ventura Comedy Festival runs Sept. 22 to Sept. 28

Exploring Ventura Comedy Festival’s Ojai Connecters

Recently  friends invited me to attend a comedy competition at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club.  I was so impressed I contacted Randy Lubas, owner of the club and asked him about his upcoming event, the Ventura Comedy Festival.  We sat down last Monday afternoon at the club and had a chat.

Demitri Corbin:  It’s Demitri , I’m sitting here with Randy Lubas and we’re here at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club and here to learn more about the comedy club and to learn more about the Comedy Festival that’s going on.

Randy Lubas:  Yes, absolutely.

DC:   So, we do want to do Ojaicentric — let’s go back now when you said the Rainbow Comedy Show, that is spearheaded, the people coming,  by Lynn Doherty and Helen Allen.

 Randy Lubas:  That’s right,  The Lavender Living Room.

 DC: They are the grande dames and the keepers of the gay gates of Ojai.  So, they’re always listed on the things that the gay and lesbian community can do.

 RL:  They have been big supporters and publicize our Rainbow Show and as a result of that we get a very large contingency of people from Ojai, they come once a month to see our Rainbow Show and during the comedy festival we have a second Rainbow Show which will take place on Thursday September 25th at seven o’clock.

DC: Okay.  And with that, let’s get to the festival.

RL:  Yes.

DC:   I can’t remember which night, it must have been Thursday or Friday night, I was with friends and you had  the ten comedians?

 RL:  It was actually close to 15 and seven made it to the semi-finals.  The comedy festival, this is year four, it will take place September 22nd through 28th at 6 locations here in Ventura with over 200  comedians performing at 32 shows.

DC:  What are those locations?

RL:  The locations are right here at Ventura Harbor Comedy Club, in our new lounge, The Green Room, which is attached to this club, right next to it;  at the 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, which is right here in the harbor; at The Greek in the Harbor, all those right in Ventura Harbor.  Then we have shows at The Players Casino on Friday and Saturday; and shows the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Top of the Harbor Ballroom on Wednesday with Adam Carollo and his guest Steve-O (of “Jackass” fame) and on Sunday with YouTube sensation, Miranda Sings and her show is already sold out with over 550 tickets sold.

DC:  That’s incredible.  Okay, I’m going to ask these questions, just some random ones: how did you recruit the comics for the festival, how did the word get out and the selection?

RL:  Well, we … first of all I’ve been doing comedy myself for 30 years.  So, I know lots of comedians.  And I book the harbor comedy club and my other comedy club, JR’s Comedy Club, in Valencia.

Also, I’m a partner in an agency that books comics on cruise ships and colleges and I’ve produced thousands of comedy shows in my career …

DC:  Comedy is your life?

RL:  It is, so I know a lot of comedians.  But in addition to that this club and the festival reputation of the club has grown and people really enjoy the festival, so word of mouth spreads.  And so, there is a submission application on the website for the festival, which is venturacomedyfestival.com.   And comedians can go the website and submit themselves to either just participate in one of the showcase shows or we also have a comedy competition.  You saw one of the preliminary rounds of the comedy competition.

DC:  Which was wonderful, by the way, really enjoyed it.

RL:  We had a hundred and eight comedians in total decided to participate in the competition.  We split them up into 6 shows and 7 or 8 comics from each those shows move onto the semi-finals which takes place the week of the festival, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at nine o’clock and each of those shows we’ll narrow down to two plus one wild card.  So, seven comedians will make the show which will take place  Saturday the 27th at  9 o’clock here at Ventura Harbor Comedy Club and the winner will get $1,500  cash plus bookings, plus some other cool stuff.  And second place will get $500 and there will be some consolation prizes for the other five.  So the all entered with the hope to not only get some exposure,  and meet us and possibly get work from us, but also to possibly win and win a nice big cash prize.

DC: Okay, so I don’t want this to be anything that gives anyone an upper hand … from your point of view who are the ones from the semi-finalists, just give me some names of people who are…

RL:  Well, there are a couple of people who have entered this competition — there was no restriction.  You could be a national headliner, there was no judgment made as to who could enter.  Everyone who entered sent in a video, I personally looked at every video and from those videos, I let people know if we were able to accept them into the festival or the competition.  So, with that said some people who entered the competition are seasoned veteran headline comics, like Greg Wilson, Tommy Sabat, Robert Zapata, those people have headlined this club.  So, those people have, you know got a track record.  But it’s all going to boil down to 3 independent, three, possibly four, independent judges on the finals and I have seen it where the person who’s won is not a national headliner and they actually beat national touring headliners.  So, it really is going to depend on what happens that night, cause they’re only going to do about 10 minutes in the finals.  So even if, for example, someone may have only 10 minutes but it could be a killer 10 minutes, they could beat someone who has a killer hour, just because of the luck of the draw – being in the right place at the right time.

I would say that the people who’ve headlined here have, you know, a slight leg up.  But last year the young lady that won it, Myunda, we had never heard of her, she won the contest.  And Amed Barucha, he won it the first year.  He was, again, we didn’t really know him.  He just came in and won and he beat two national touring headliners that year.  So, it can happen and it very well may.  And then every year we see someone that blows us away that’s new.  There’s a new young girl in the competition named Taylor Tomlinson who, when I saw her video, I called her up immediately to see if she had an agent for colleges.  She was excellent and perfect and young, she’s 20 years old.  So, it was amazing.  That’s one of the things I love, I discover new talent every year this way.

DC:  That’s really exciting.  And with that, the judges, the judges process, can you say a little about that?

 RL:  Yeah, the preliminary rounds were judged by myself and either two other comedians or a comedian and an industry person who is familiar with comedy and they were judged on the criteria of their material, their stage presence and audience reaction.  They each get five minutes.   The semi-finals they’ll move that up to 7 minutes and it will be a different panel of judges.  One of them will be Tom Spence from KBTA, he’s the host of the morning radio show but he’s a huge comedy fan and a pretty savvy veteran of comedy and we’re waiting to see.  The booker for the famous comedy and magic club was here last night and he may be coming to judge.  We haven’t locked in the judges for the semi-finals yet.  And then for the finals we’ll have a panel of judges, as well.  But they will all be people connected to the entertainment industry.

DC:  How long have you owned the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club?

 RL:  We just celebrated our 6th year anniversary in July. The Comedy Club has existed in some shape or  form for 30 years.  The first time I performed here was in 1985.  And it was called Horn Blowers.  And it was connected to the restaurant which is now Brophy Brothers and there was a hole in that wall back behind you which is no longer there.   See that square that used to be a hallway and you would come in that way .But now, as of about 8 years ago, they tried to turn this into a comedy club and didn’t do it successfully and the person who was trying to do it eventually sold it to  myself and my partner and we’ve managed to turn it around an make it succeed.

DC:  And your partner is…

RL:  Andreas Fernandez.

DC:  That was the gentleman who left?

RL:  Yes.

DC:  He was good, too.  He closed the show the other evening.

 RL:  Yes.

 DC:  I really, really enjoyed this evening.  I needed a good laugh, too.

RL:  Good.  You know, that’s the beauty of my career.  First of all, I’ve always gotten paid to do what I would do for free, cause I love performing standup comedy.  And second, you know, we try to touch people’s lives.  Laughter releases endorphins in the brain, which heal you.  Some diseases have been cured through laughter.  There’s some times when someone will say, “My mom couldn’t get out the house, my dad died and we brought her here and she had the time of her life and I just want to say thank you.”  And that’s when you say, ‘Wow, I did something worthwhile today.’ There are blessings out there that you don’t readily see but they’re taking place.  And it’s a gift, you’re bringing the gift of laughter to the world and spreading it.  Especially in difficult times, it is the reward.

DC:  That’s a good note to end on.  Thank you, Randy.

RL:  Thank you.

After my conversation with Randy Lubas I spoke with Lynn Doherty and Helen Allen of the Lavender Living Room who had this to say about the club’s monthly Rainbow Show:

Lynne Doherty:  We look forward to having laughs and seeing our friends, the camraderie … we send out the notice in our monthly newsletter and we can get anywhere from 7 to 85 people.  We enjoy going to the monthly shows.  It’s wonderful to get out.

The Ventura Comedy Festival takes place from September 22 through 28.  For more information visit venturacomedyfestival.comventuracomedyfestival.com.


Changing Faces of Ojai

Photo by Dewey Nicks/Conde Nast Traveler

Photo by Dewey Nicks/Conde Nast Traveler

Conde Nast Traveler featured a lyrical, upbeat and yet slightly disturbing story on Ojai in its latest issue. Wonderfully written by Hugh Garvey, the article talks about Ojai’s latest wave of solace-seeking hipsters.

While very glowing in tone, the article does chronicle the rather rapid (by Ojai standards) change to the next generation of people to discover Ojai. Any glance down Ojai Avenue confirms this – with the new galleries, shops and pop-up events that are defining our culture for the newcomers.

Money quote: “It’s as if northern and southern California called a truce, started a new republic, and named it Ojai.”


The Artists' Reception will take place Oct. 4 for Amaranth Ehrenhalt and Craig Stockwell.

The Artists’ Reception will take place Oct. 4 for Amaranth Ehrenhalt and Craig Stockwell.


galerie102 is pleased to present “Colorimetry,” featuring paintings by Amaranth Ehrenhalt and Craig Stockwell. “Colorimetry” opens Sat., October 4, 2014 with an artists’ reception from 5-7 pm and is on view through Nov. 9.

“Colorimetry” (pron. Color..ih..metry) is the scientific term in chemistry used to quantify and describe human color perception. galerie102’s “Colorimetry” exhibit celebrates the bold use of color that both artists Ehrenhalt and Stockwell employ in their paintings – often substituting color for line and whitespace;   dynamic color-forms interact with linear overlays, creating a tension that evokes the energy of life itself.

One of the few living abstract expressionists of the New York School still working, Amaranth Ehrenhalt was born in Newark, N.J. in 1928 and raised in Philadelphia.  She lived in New York City in the early ‘50s and knew Al Held, Ronald Bladen and Willem de Kooning. In the mid-50s, she left for a three-week visit to Paris and stayed for over 30 years. As an expatriate she exhibited with such contemporaries as Sam Francis, Joan Mitchell and Shirley Jaffe.  She returned to New York in 2008 and has established herself as a multifaceted artist with many solo and group exhibitions in Paris, Italy, New York and California. Her work extends beyond the canvas to include drawings, prints, watercolors, tapestries, mosaics, murals, sculptures, poetry, prose and more. Today she continues to live and work in New York City.

“My work is abstract expressionist. I try to create that which does not sleep, but rather looks like it is constantly in motion:  dancing, vibrating, gyrating, shimmering,” says Ehrenhalt   “Joan Mitchell once asked me in Paris, why I want to paint. I do not know if I “want to paint” or do not “want to paint.” It is just something that I do like breathing and moving, walking and talking. I cannot imagine my life without it.”

Painter Craig Stockwell (b. Cambridge, MA 1952) began his studies at Dartmouth College and Rhode Island School of Design. At RISD he studied with glass artist Dale Chihuly and went on to work in glass in Minneapolis, MN, Boulder, CO, and Boston, MA. His work moved on to conceptually based sculptural installations and was shown in New York, notably at PSI (MoMA). In 1988, after living in Spain with his young family, Stockwell returned to the United States and settled in New Hampshire where he made an intentional decision to confine his work to painting as a method of creating a sustainable daily practice.

“I work with a serial/conceptual process in order to base the painting on something that I can return to repeatedly and keep it going. The purpose of my painting is to elicit exchange:  ideas, objects, installation, writing, teaching, and talking. The purpose of exchange is to counter hoarding.”

Stockwell received an MFA degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2000.  His drawings and paintings have been exhibited extensively in New England and nationally including the Nielsen Gallery in Boston, the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts, Marlboro College, The Fitchburg Museum, The Painting Center in NY, among other venues. His work is in many permanent private and public collections including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 2014, he was the recipient of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation’s – The Space Program – and spent a year in Dumbo, Brooklyn creating new works. The large paintings in Colorimetry are a result of his time spent in Brooklyn. He currently is the Director of the low residency visual arts MFA program at New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Stockwell currently lives and works in Keene, New Hampshire.

Conveniently located in downtown Ojai, galerie102 is dedicated to thought-provoking contemporary art. Gallery director, Jolene Lloyd considers the gallery a small piece of the vibrant New York, Chelsea art scene thriving in bucolic Ojai. Her program focuses on painting, mixed media, sculpture, photography and video. The gallery is located at 102 W. Matilija St. Hours are Thursdays through Sundays from 11 to 4 pm or by appointment. Visit galerie102.com, call (805) 640-0151 or email hello@galerie102.com for more information.

Nic Pizzolatto, center, with "True Detective" stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Nic Pizzolatto, center, with “True Detective” stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Few recent shows have made a lasting impression so quickly as “True Detective.” The police psychodrama, with star turns by Matthew McConaughey as troubled detective Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson as his beleaguered partner Marty Hart, drew 12 Emmy nominations, including best actor nods for both leads, along with best dramatic series and an outstanding writing credit for creator Nic Pizzolatto.

The show’s dark atmosphere and hyperverbal dialogue have earned it devoted fans, and earned Pizzolatto a reputation as a rising force of sharp writing and intriguing plots. He has built a place where Schopenhauer, Cormac McCarthy and H.P. Lovecraft meet police procedurals, and where humanity itself is the prime suspect.

The show will return to HBO next spring with another eight episodes, though with an entirely different cast and directors. Casting for Season Two has been daily star-studded grist for the rumor mill. While many A-list names have been bandied about, none have been confirmed as of press time. This we do know. The series will be “set in California, not Los Angeles. Viewers should expect a very strict character point-of-view, and a similar aesthetic, genre and authorial voice as Season One,” said Pizzolatto, who has called Ojai home for nearly three years.

Pizzolatto is also the author of the novel “Galveston,” a finalist for an Edgar Award as best mystery novel. The film version will start shooting in October with actor Matthias Schoenarts, the Belgian star of “Bullhead” and “Rust and Bone” as the lead.

The OQ interviewed Pizzolatto in person and by email. Here’s a few excerpts from our wide-ranging discussion.

OQ: Let’s begin at the ending. As a viewer, the final scene of season one of “True Detective” felt like a gut punch. Visceral.  It was so unexpected, and yet, upon further reflection, it seems as if all eight episodes were leading up to it. Was that the ending you had in mind from the start, or did the characters reveal it to you as you were writing?

NP: The story was built toward that ending, and it was the one that was always intended. I think it’s important to have an ending in mind, and that it’s just as important to be fluid and willing to change your ending if characters and circumstance dictate something other. To begin a difficult journey with no destination in mind seems fairly foolish to me. The ending returns us to the intimate depiction of a character relationship which has been the entire subject of the season, while refining the various juxtapositions and mirror-reflections that layer the series into their most fundamental binary incarnation: dark versus light.

OQ: Ojai has long been a retreat for writers. Writer Mark Lewis made a persuasive case that Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” was influenced by his stay in Ojai, for example. Authors Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley and Bertolt Brecht wrote some of their major works here. Blacklisted screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson wrote epic films like “Spartacus” and “Lawrence of Arabia” at least in part while living in Ojai.

What all these very different works share is that they are deeply human. The characters, even the antagonists, have depth and complexity. So the question is, do you find that “far from the madding crowds,” with its endless distractions, you can tap into something universal about the human experience. Has it helped your writing — its depth and flow?

NP: I love it here. I need nature and sunlight, and I don’t like crowds or feeling fenced, can’t stand congestion. I like open space, peaceful routine. The calmer and more regulated my life is, the more I’m free to indulge myself and go wild on the page. You can really adjust your reality here, and I prefer the pace of life as opposed to the pace of business. I haven’t done great in cities, traditionally. Paris strikes me as the only city in which I could conceivably be happy and at peace for any length of time. It seems like writers have always sought retreats — peaceful, bucolic settings with a contemplative rhythm that’s in tune with the natural order. There’s a number of them in our country, and writers flock to them. So maybe it’s the same urge; I just live in my writer’s retreat.

OQ: Is it a challenge to write with such great familiarity with the darkness, while living in this beautiful place with all this glorious sunshine? I’m reminded of that Spanish aphorism, “La mejor parte del sol es una la sombre.” The best part of the sun is in the shade.

NP: I don’t find it hard at all, to tell you the truth. Which perhaps speaks more to the specific nature of my imagination than anything else. The inner darkness of certain knowledge never goes away, and the brightness of a light correlates to the darkness of its shade, so even metaphorically, it’s fine. Perhaps it can be a good idea to work in juxtaposition to one’s surroundings. Or maybe the peace and tranquility free the mind to go places it would ordinarily not be open to imagining.

OQ: Does that particular ending, that optimistic note, give us clues to the next season? Or will we be back in the dark and delicious murk this coming season?

NP: The optimistic note at the end is extremely cautious. Maybe even false, given that the historical perpetrators of the crimes from which (serial killer) Childress resulted and which he was enacting are all free from prosecution.

In “True Detective,” the world is the crime. That’s why the level of texture and attention to detail. Characters exist against the backdrop of a malignant universe, and yet that universe, that world is a reflection of those characters, and they are a reflection of it. And at the end of the day, you don’t beat the world.

The show suggests a poisoned garden, but the root of the poison is humanity. We corrupted the world, it’s suggesting, and now we live in the ruins of our fall, in a place where perfidy can enter every crack of our lives like smoke. These characters are a coagulation of historical culture and crimes.

So [McConaughey’s character Rust)] Cohle’s cautious optimism is no more valid, and perhaps less valid, than Cohle’s pessimism. It is only important for the character that his perspective widened enough to admit the unknowing, and the potential of love. The character earned that. Certainly he didn’t find anything like ‘god’ or ‘heaven’ — he just remembered the experience of love, and so was able, finally, to unleash the pure grief which sat at the heart of his hard-boiled pessimism. The stars are fading, too, at the end.

That’s a long way of saying, ‘optimism’ is a little strong. And Season Two will involve the dark and murky parts of human character and civilization, but still with the possibility of redemption and, I hope, humor.

OQ:  The show became part of the national conversation quickly (President Obama is among “True Detective” fans, for example.) How does that feel as a writer to know you’ve entered, even helped create, this zeitgeist?

NP: I don’t know, really. I don’t know how true any of that is, although it’s very flattering. I’m not online much, and I have trouble calling what I find there ‘conversation.’ Definitely don’t read blogs and only take my news from a couple places. Add to that that I don’t live in L.A., but in a small town in the mountains, and it hasn’t been difficult to escape the noise. I’ve been kind of a recluse, too, just enjoying my family and working, so my day-to-day reality hasn’t had much to do with the show or people’s reactions to it. But I and every artist I respect just want to keep doing our work, and whatever noise it creates isn’t really our province.

OQ: Any future collaborations with Matt McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the works?

NP: Matthew and I are going to be working together in the future, we just haven’t decided on what. But that is definitely a relationship to keep active — he’s a good muse for me, and I really like working with the guy. So I’d bet you see the two of us together at some point.

And I’d work with Woody anytime, of course. I have a one-man play I want to do with Woody one day.

OQ: Any anecdotes about working with them that you can share?

NP: Plenty of anecdotes. None to share. That’s what friendships are for.

OQ: Do you see your role as a showrunner along the lines of Matthew Weiner (“Mad Men”) with meticulous attention to detail, or more of a David Milch (“Deadwood”) type, who focuses on great writing and so lets the memorable characters emerge from that?

NP: That doesn’t describe Milch, who is as attentive to detail as any TV creator in history; and Milch works closely with actors on set, which not all showrunners do. My role is as the overall voice, vision and decider. I was on set the entire time, worked closely with the actors on set, had approval over every creative decision, including casting and the hiring of [Season One director)] Cary [Fukanaga], and I took my own edits. The writing of the scripts actually represents maybe 30 percent of my total work on the series. So the only word I think for it is “showrunner,” but without a writer’s room.

OQ: Who are your influences or people who you respect in the business? Screenwriters, genre writers, directors, actors?

NP: In television it’s Dennis Potter (“Singing Detective”) more than anyone, and I have an intense respect for David Milch and a love for all his work.

OQ: What do you find compelling about Dennis Potter? (I’ll bet Michael Gambon hasn’t had so much fun before or since “The Singing Detective.”) Potter was definitely not afraid to mix things up. Is that what you identify with? Can we expect to see you break the 4th wall in future seasons of “True Detective?”

NP: The uniqueness and uncompromising nature of his vision is very compelling to me; his work is as personal and layered as any great novelist’s, these psychosexual melodramas full of such human pathos and love. He broke open what television can do and created works that are only at their most effective as serialized television, and he was a great writer in many forms, not just television, but he made this populist art for the most inclusive medium there is.

OQ: Some call this the “Golden Age of Television.” But doesn’t it seem like those things can only be judged in retrospect? By the time our cultural awareness catches up with the moment, it’s passed?

NP: No idea. I don’t know about Ages of anything, but I think television is on average far better and smarter than movies right now.

OQ: Do you ever see us going back to the tepid five-camera sitcoms of “Happy Days?” Or is television now and in the future the metiér of choice for our best and brightest talents?

NP: I think television is the place to be if you’re a writer-producer, absolutely. It’s an auteur medium for storytellers. I’ll be honest, I’d love to do a series set in a closed set with just a couple cameras. I know just what it would be. But I can’t see the future, and I can’t even guess how long television and film have left as viable mediums for artists.

OQ: Any new projects you can talk about?

NP: “True Detective” is taking up all my bandwidth right now. But there’s at least a few more shows I’d like to make, and a couple films I’d like to make. Whether I get to do any of that is, of course, unknown. But lots of stories to tell, lots of characters to portray.