We previously promoted Ester Steinberg’s live taping of her comedy special “Schmear Campaign” and we are happy to report that it went spectacularly. With her infectious energy and specific brand of intergenerational family-focused comedy, the show was not only a great time but also delivered on our expectations for what the show would be like.

Hosted by Nicole Blaine and The CROW Comedy Theater, Ester was introduced by Blaine who waxed poetic about their ongoing professional and personal relationship as comedy partners and friends. With both of them starting to make it big at about the same time, Steinberg and Blaine took turns elevating each other’s careers. Steinberg previously hosted her own comedy mic that ran for eight years at Canter’s Deli’s Kibitz Room. When she needed some help, she reached out and connected with Blaine who was immensely helpful. Unfortunately, the mic shut down during the pandemic, but soon after, Blaine called Steinberg to announce she was opening her own comedy club and wanted Steinberg to be involved. Steinberg describes Blaine as the “Most supportive and amazing comedian and comedy club owner she has ever met.”

After Blaine opened with this charming backstory peppered with plenty of jokes, Steinberg’s show openers came on. Janesh Rahlan was a delightful host who really hyped up the show and Steinberg while also getting to perform some of his own set. He touched on his own upbringing and his more current escapades as a transplant to Los Angeles. Overall, he was a great addition to the show. Next up was Christine Little, whose jokes focused on racial relations and garnered enough laughs to be relatable. That said, there was an awkward moment or two with nervous tittering instead of boisterous laughter. Rahlan came back for one final promotional push, and then Steinberg entered.

Steinberg’s set landed about as well as she predicted and in a crowd of friends, fellow comedians, and matriarchal figures. She began her set with a song about the dissatisfaction of dating twenty and thirty-somethings who lack motivation and are generally disappointing companions. She also heavily featured her own intergenerational family drama, easily switching between her trials as a new mother of two children born during the pandemic as well as her own hectic childhood. She touched on the rather disheartening L.A. dating landscape she experienced before her marriage, her experiences trying to keep the bedroom spicy post-pregnancy, her overbearing and neurotic parents, and how she came up in the comedy scene. Equal parts hilarious, engaging, and understandable, the set received the appropriate amount of laughter and applause one would hope a taped stand up special would receive.

Less than two weeks later, The CROW hosted a week-long comedy festival. The Bergamot Comedy Fest featured free panels by industry professionals followed by comedy showcases for budding comedians. Often accompanied by food trucks, the overall feeling of the festival was one of community building and good vibes.

We attended two out of the six nights of performances, including the first night with the “Tomorrow’s Ladies of Late Night – How to Make Your Tight 5 Tighter” panel followed by the Top 10 Finalists from the Tomorrow’s Ladies of Late Night talent search. On the fifth night, we made it to the early evening panel focusing on transitioning from comedian to writer. We were supposed to attend the later show in either the Main Room or The Nest, but unfortunately, there was a mix-up with our ticketing, resulting in a full house and no seat left for Westside Voice. That said, we believe this is a fantastic sign for The CROW for having sold out both rooms.

The first event, the panel How to Make Your Tight 5 Tighter featured speakers Michael Cox, a booker for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Emilie Laford, director of talent at The Comedy Store, and Zoe Friedman, with Comedy Gives Back and formerly The Improv. In a Q-and-A style panel with some prepared and other live questions as well as on-the-spot answers, the three panelists discussed everything from what they look for in a submission reel, how much time they watch a reel before they turn it off, what not to put in a reel, how to gain representation, and the importance of networking. During the final half of the panel, three brave comics showcased a recent set of theirs and were critiqued in real time by Cox, Laford, and Friedman. The comedians, Sherry Bright, Raye Schiller, and Jamie Hendrix each had distinct styles and received individual notes regarding their sets. As intimidating as that must have been, it was a thrilling and informative experience for everyone in the audience, the comedians included.

The later show, featuring the top ten finalists from The CROW’s talent search was chock full of outstanding up-and-comers in the comedy scene. Led by a friend of The CROW’s, Nthenya, the show featured twelve other comics, including Bri Giger, Brittany Ross, Heather Pasternak, Kiki Andersen, Kazu Kusano, Jessica Saul, Lisa Chanoux, Madison Bakich, Tatyana Komaguchi, Reem Edan, Olivia Hill, and Macey Issacs. Altogether, their sets featured on marriage, pregnancy, family, race, sexuality, upbringing, financial woes, dating, and other touchy subjects made light and funny by these hilarious blossoming performers.

The final panel we attended focused on going from a working comedian to a working comedy writer. Led by Mike Lawrence – once a traveling comedian – now a writer for everything from roast battles to late-night talk shows, he talked about everything from breaking in and networking to what to put in your writing packet and submission reels. He took live questions from the audience, answering questions ranging from what kind of experience or schooling one needs to break into the merits of individualizing one’s writing per audition. A self-deprecating comic himself, he managed to provide a depth of knowledge full of fantastic advice for eager comedians and curious audience members alike.

The festival was a solid addition to The CROW’s line up while Steinberg’s special was a smaller but nonetheless endearing event. All said and done, it seems The CROW is the place to be for hungry comedians and comedy enthusiasts alike.

Photo by the author.

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