Wonder Dave's Safe Words: new comedy night at the SF Eagle

  • by Christopher J. Beale
  • Monday March 20, 2023
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Wonder Dave at the SF Eagle's Safewords Comedy Showcase (photo: Christopher Beale)
Wonder Dave at the SF Eagle's Safewords Comedy Showcase (photo: Christopher Beale)

Have you ever seen Shaggy from the old Scooby-Doo cartoons?" said gay standup comedian Wonder Dave, "I look like that."

Wonder Dave is the host of Safe Words Comedy Showcase at San Francisco's iconic leather bar The Eagle. The standup comedy night was once booked by straight people, and featured a number of them as well. Then in 2022 Dave and his boyfriend Jonah were offered the chance to take over the showcase.

"If I'm gonna run a showcase at the Eagle, I want it to be a queer showcase," Dave said. When they took over as host and booker in late 2022, they wanted to create an admittedly rare, queer comedy space.

"I remember growing up with comedy in the household," said Dave. "My parents were not restrictive about what we were allowed to watch. Rated R? Good enough!"

Through TV and comedy records Dave discovered masters like Richard Pryor and George Carlin. But it was the LGBTQ comics, "like Jim David, Elvira Kurt and of course Sandra Bernhardt," Dave said, who inspired them most. The early queer Comedy Central specials, something Dave theorizes were designed more to fill programming slots than anything else, were the first time he remembers seeing himself represented in the media.

"I don't think I saw another queer person on TV until Ellen came out," he laughed.

Wonder Dave at The Oakland Ruckus and Rumpus Revival in April 2020 (photo: Jody Lyon)  

Asked if being gay makes people funnier, Wonder Dave agreed. "Yes. Gay people are better. That's what I'm supposed to say," Dave joked, continuing, "In my experience, where traumatic things happened to me, being funny was a good way to get out of it. And I think that this is true of a lot of comedians, where they had something bad happen to them when they were young and they found out that being funny was a coping mechanism. It's a way to not get bullied."

In recalling early efforts, "I think the first time I went up at the San Francisco Punchline," he said, "I got just one laugh during my set. I think that's probably the worst I've ever felt after a show."

Wonder Dave has since performed all over, honing his craft, hustling from show to show to establish themself. But thinking back to the Bernhardt comedy specials of his youth, the modern day stand-up scene was decidedly less gay than Dave expected.

"It's kind of bro-ey," Dave quipped. "Even now, with as much progress as queer comedians have made, it's hard to talk about your life without people thinking all of your jokes are about being gay. That's true of women, and people of color. You're just talking about your life, and suddenly you are that thing. But people don't question a straight white guy talking about his life because they are like, on a default setting."

The decidedly queer Safe Words Comedy Showcase soft-launched at the end of 2022, and had a packed launch event in January 2023. The diverse lineup of comedians that have already graced the Safe Words stage reflect the Bay Area, and perhaps more importantly the queer Bay Area.

"I love having a queer event in a queer space," said Dave, and the Eagle has not disappointed. Each month the team has to add chairs, filling the main room and then some. Safe Words plans to expand and grow — think performances on the patio in the summer, and special events at other venues — but relies solely on ticket sales for financial support.

"The funds at this point are going exclusively to the comics and promoting the show," said Jonah Price, Wonder Dave's boyfriend and the show's producer, adding that tickets are pay what you can ($15-25 suggested). "There's no limit on how much or how little you can spend."

Safe Words Comedy Showcase takes place on the fourth Wednesday of the month. The March 22 lineup features Bay Area-based comedians Ashley Monique, Kurt Weitzmann, Jean Yee, as well as Mac Ruiz, and Angie Crass.

The April 26 lineup features Emily Van Dyke, with special guests Edna Mira Raia, Justin Lucas, and Marcus Williams. 7pm at the SF Eagle, 398 12th St.

For more information on lineups and tickets visit www.teamwonderdave.com

Hear Wonder Dave and Jonah Price on Christopher J. Beale's podcast Stereotypes, at www.christopherjbeale.com and www.stereotypespodcast.libsyn.com

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