Northside SF  

Pearls of comedy wisdom

S.F. comedy legend Steven Pearl
(shown here with his friend's dog Mushroom)
co-headlines "Paws for Laughter" on Jan. 15

Comedian Steven Pearl’s high-energy standup act has been described as “out of control,” “beyond bizarre,” “over the top,” “crazy,” and “frenetic.” But no one has ever accused Pearl of not being completely hilarious. If you’ve ever seen him perform, the experience is still probably fresh in your mind, because Pearl’s unique style of comedy sticks with you for a long time – like a fender bender or a surprise birthday party. If comedy is the cure for  what’s ailing you, Pearl is a toxic mixture of Freud, Dr. Seuss and Dr. Demento – all rolled into one. 

After hitting the stage in comedy clubs in his native New York for less than a year, Pearl journeyed to San Francisco in 1979. He quickly blew up in the comedy scene and was often on stage cracking up club audiences and performing 8–10 times per week. In 1987, Pearl moved to L.A. and was soon working extensively as an opening act for Sam Kinison. During that period, he also worked with Bill Hicks, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Rodney Dangerfield. Several years ago, he fled the Hollywood scene and has reemerged as one of the funniest comics in the Bay Area. It definitely debunks the old adages about not going back to the past.

Pearl is happy to be donating his time to Rocket Dog Rescue because he believes in the cause and loves dogs. “I am a major, major dog guy, believe me!” he says. “I want to get a dog bad, but right now we can’t do it here where we live, but the first chance we can, we’re going to get a bigger place and a dog.”

Pearl’s dog history contains beagles and the dog of his life, a blonde retriever. “I had a blonde Labrador retriever named Tracy, and she was my best friend from 1969 through 1983, and I still miss her every single day. … She was unique; the sweetest, smartest animal I’ve ever known. As a kid, first we had a beagle named Daisy, when I was probably around 5 years old. Then later we got Cindy, another beagle, and then Tracy. I love all animals, but I have a real affection for dogs.”
Many comics leave the Bay Area for bigger things down south, but while Pearl was there the industry changed, and not for the better, he said. “I worked with Sam Kinison in the Bay Area in the mid-’80s, and he liked me, so he got me into the Comedy Store in L.A., and it was great. So in ’87, I moved down there, and I started hanging out with Sam and his wild gang. I partied way too much; I didn’t sleep in 1987, and I didn’t blink in ’88. At first it was a blast, then it was just fun, and then eventually it turned into a nightmare. They changed the rules on us midgame, because talent scouts and network people don’t go out to comedy shows like they used to. Everything is all about reality TV right now, and standup isn’t the priority it used to be down there.”

And then love brought Pearl back to his second home, San Francisco. “Coincidentally, I got back into contact with an old girlfriend who lives in the Bay Area. I hadn’t seen her in 22 years and we started talking again, and I came up here. We reconnected, and I’m with her right now, and everything’s great. It was a good time to get out of L.A., and I couldn’t be happier. Life is very good right now.”

Pearl has always loved San Francisco and remembers his early years here as a fledgling comic in the early ’80s. “I came out from New York and I didn’t know anyone,” he said. “I wanted to do standup and the scene was very friendly. I was an oddball, and I ran into a bunch of oddballs just like me, Robin Williams included. I started making a name for myself; the audiences were amazing, and I could make some dough. So, it was a great place to be, and I always felt accepted here. And now I’m back. I really feel like I’m coming home and I love it!”

                                                                         – E. Attanasio




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