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