|By Alfredo Camacho|
I felt a bit foolish once the reason behind the name for the Pawns of Comedy was explained to me by DNA, who, as his own name implies, really is the comedy troupe’s nucleus (as well as its founder). As he says, he does just about everything for the troupe.
“I do an opening act and MC, I pick who goes on tour, I drive them, feed them,” he ends with a laugh.
DNA first got his start in comedy in 1990 when Showtime hosted the College Comedy Lay-off at CSU, Chico. DNA wanted to watch the competition but he didn’t have any money for tickets to the show. What he did have was willpower, determination and creative spirit that comes with an acid trip. This was how he went from not even being a spectator to being a competitor.
“I was tripping backstage when I realized that my initials were DNA. So after that, I changed my legal name to DNA; it’s my stage name, and that’s how I got started in comedy.”
In spite of (or because of) his trip, he won and his lysergic start reflects his comedic style.
“I’m a rambler, and I love pop culture, I love politics, so you get a good mix of both,” says DNA. “The problem, though, is my material is good for a couple of weeks, then it expires. Juxtapose that to three comics whose work is polished and won’t go stale as quickly.”
Those three comics are this year’s Pawns of Comedy: Kellen Erskine, Paul Herzog and Brendan Lynch.
DNA described Lynch’s style as “abusive, especially in Chico” and perhaps for that reason, I was forbidden from interviewing him.
“It’s like seeing a championship boxer go at it with his audience,” explains DNA, “but he’s actually a comic that’s in demand in the Bay Area and really funny.”
Herzog describes himself thusly: “…a bit like Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg, but a bit more aggressive. I like being the butt of my own jokes.”
As for Erskine, he, along with Herzog, was described by DNA as a “clean comic.”
The recent increase in comic venues in Chico (Blue Room, and recently Last Stand as a dedicated comedy club) is attributed in part to what DNA calls “ripples” of the scene in the Bay Area.
“There’s been an explosion in stand-up in the Bay lately,” notes DNA. “Every night, there are clubs or entire rooms dedicated to comedy, and that’s starting to trend here.”
As for the Pawns’ name, it’s a self-deprecating joke about their being in the lowest rung of comic stand-up, a gag on The Kings and Queens of Comedy. But that’s not to imply the Pawns aren’t funny.
“At the moment, comedy is just like everything else. In basketball, you only hear about .5 percent of the players, and it’s always the same names,” says DNA. “But previous Pawns have been featured on Comedy Central, and Kellen’s getting up there himself; he’s one of the best in the Bay.”