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Small Town Comedy Festival comes to Healdsburg

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 | Posted by

Former Healdsburg residents Cory Loykasek and Sal Costanzo are bringing 20 top comedians from San Francisco and Los Angeles to perform for one night only, Friday, July 26, in Healdsburg.

The comics slated to appear include Andy Haynes, who has performed on Comedy Central Presents, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon; Emily Maya Mills who has performed on Parks and Rec, Ellen and Conan O’Brien; Chris Garcia who is a headliner at San Francisco’s Punchline Comedy Club and has performed on WTF with March Maron. According the event website, Robin Williams says Garcia is “Fearless, funny, and straight from the heart.”

Other comedians include Loykasek, with credits from Outside Lands in San Francisco, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and Healdsburg High School; and Kellen Erskine who appeared on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and was a finalist in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, along with many more comics.

Loykasek is the son of Healdsburg vintner Mike Loykasek who owns the Gunfighter label and Sue Singleton of Windsor, who is a speech therapist. Cory Loykasek  has already performed at several shows at the Hawley tasting room over the last few years.

He and Costanzo attended Healdsburg High School and they graduated in 2002. Costanzo is a teacher at Maria Carillo and Loykasek graduated from University of California Santa Barbara. He returned for a short stint as a substitute teacher. He spent four years as an organ transplant surgical coordinator. And now is a stand-up comic looking to break into writing.

While he was at the high school, he worked at Fitch Mountain Day Camp and while in college he worked at a Santa Barbara Boys and Girls Club. Loykasek insists that there is not a lot of difference between teaching and dealing with audiences in comedy clubs.

“In high school, I made people laugh. But I thought everyone was funny,” he said. “The difference between comedians and other people is that comedians write the funny stuff down.” He goes on to reflect, “Personally, I’ve always been kind of a sad person, so I think I was drawn toward humor as a way to combat that.”

He credits his aunt’s “amazing laugh” with creating his desire to draw it out. “My parents describe my little-kid-self as being ‘curious, serious and overly sensitive,’” Loykasek said and he admitted he cried easily.

Loykasek wants to share Healdsburg with the comedians, particularly the river, where he spent much of his youth.

The comedians are car-pooling to Healdsburg for the festival. His father is donating wine, as are the three wineries involved. Former Healdsburg High School drama teacher Brent Mortensen is supplying the chairs for the shows. They are building the stages out of pallets.

Loykasek has high aspirations for a bigger festival. “This can only happen in Healdsburg,” Loykasek said. “I’m drawing on friendships. The number of comedians I’m bringing is growing and there is no reason we cannot expand.

“Healdsburg is intriguing to people because it is such a cool spot,” he summed up another reason for the comics’ desire to attend for no pay. “They are going to have fun.”

“We never could have afforded these comedians, and Sal helped orchestrate the show,” said Loykasek, who now resides in Southern California. The comics are not receiving remuneration for doing the shows. Instead, they have agreed to come for the wine and food and a day on the river. Alderbrook Winery is providing a guesthouse for accommodations.

“I love going to Healdsburg and I wanted to bring these comics to town,” said Loykasek. “I feel lucky to have been from Healdsburg. On Saturday, after the shows are done, we are going to float down the river.”

Loykasek is enjoying Los Angeles. He says that it a “golden age” of YouTube and podcast comedy. While he’s new in the comedy world, in general it’s a prosperous vocation, though most people have second jobs, and the plum jobs are writing for the shows.

“People try to help each other – we’re a tight-knit group, and there is little sense of competition,” Loykasek explains. “People try to help each other and when one gets a job writing for a show, they’ll try to bring others in as well.”

But the job is tough – tough to learn and tough to get enough time to practice in front of an audience. Because of the numbers of comedians in Los Angeles, they are often limited to three minutes at an open mic. In San Francisco, though, that time may stretch to ten minutes. Groups regularly drive up to practice in San Francisco.

“It can be baffling,” said Loykasek. “People tend to think of comedy as one thing, but just as music has genres, so does comedy. Everything has to be right for things to go well – if they are not, you’ll bomb. Practicing comedy at an open mic is like practicing basketball with a bent rim.”

But at the small venues in Healdsburg, the comics can be “playful and off the cuff.” Loykasek characterizes it as “different and fun” for the comedians.

“You get to know the crowd more,” he said. “It’s more interactive.”

He’s also busy working on a feature film short with the working title of “Big Spoon and Short Straw.” It’s a dark comedy or a “dramadey.” They have gotten a volunteer director who to direct the film, which was produced in the local area.

“We’re in the final stage of editing,” Loykasek said. “My goal is to premier at the Raven in November. That will fulfill my childhood dream – a film of my own shown at the Raven.

Loykasek warns that the lineups are subject to change without notice.

The three participating winery tasting rooms are Alderbrook, Bergamot Alley and Hawley. Shows are at 7 and 9 p.m. at each venue. For a complete list of the comedians appearing or to purchase tickets visit smalltowncomedyfestival.com.

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Ann Carranza,
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