In San Francisco’s Mission District, Mutiny Radio offers a physical port and place for comedians to ride the waves of digital radio telling jokes, making political statements and commiserating with fellow creatives in a city where the creative class has been forced to walk the plank.
“I like providing a platform for people to share their unique voice and vision to the world through comedy. I love comedy because it is political. It’s like poetry, except you’re trying to craft an emotional response of laughter,” says Pam Benjamin, the station’s captain who’s at the helm of this weekend’s two-day Mutiny Radio Comedy Crawl.
Starting at 6 p.m. Friday in the lounge of the Barbary Coast cannabis dispensary, the festival hosts 20 performers doling out bite-sized sets at five locations in the Mission and South of Market.
The eighth annual lineup includes Benjamin as well as Brady Pearson, Colin Braun, Connor Lonsdale, Dakota Price, Dan Lewis, Dash Renaud, Emily Rudolph, Emma Brennan, Honotan Ortiz, Ira Summer, Joe Hill, Josh Katzki, Karen Braswell, Loren Kraut, Mark Noyer, Mike Evans Jr., Rachel Pinson, Terry Dorsey and Tony Sparks.
After the Barbary Coast, Friday performances continue at the nearby Club OMG! at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, a daytime Mission stroll at 2 p.m. starts at Atlas Cafe, moves to Asiento, and finishes at Mutiny Radio.
The station, on the corner of 21st and Florida streets, hosts over a dozen events a week, onsite, online and at venues across the city. They include joke workshops, open mics, music DJ shows and movie commentary. People who want to start their own show simply pay $100 a month for a two-hour slot.
In 2015, Benjamin established the Mutiny Radio Comedy Festival, a weeklong comedic voyage that wrangles comedians both local and far-flung for a week. Last year, there were 44 shows with more than 100 comics. This year’s full festival is slated for Oct. 8-15.
Benjamin has been at the station’s bow for a decade. She joined its predecessor, Pirate Cat Radio, in 2008 while getting her master’s degree in fine arts from San Francisco State University, where she found community with fellow poets and, later, comedians, she says, “because there wasn’t enough stage time in poetry.”
Pirate Cat, founded in 1996 by then-teenaged Daniel Roberts, was forced off the airwaves for operating without a Federal Communications Commission license. Rather than paying the $10,000 fine, the station reimagined itself as Mutiny in 2011 as a collective digital station. It became a business in 2013 when Benjamin stepped up to save it from dissolution.
The headquarters seats about three dozen, and features a modest stage. Inside the recording booth are a myriad stickers with subject ranging from cannabis brands to comedians to taggers to local brands.
The waters have always been a little choppy as a small business in San Francisco, but the infusion of new artist grants from the city and steady community support give Benjamin hope that people are listening, and ideally, laughing along.
“We have problems here. And I think we have to continue having a medium for us to address that,” says Benjamin. “I’m a practicing socialist. I believe that everyone should have access to entertainment.”
Mutiny Radio Comedy Crawl is at 6 p.m. June 16 at Barbary Coast, 952 Mission St., and 7:30 p.m. at Club OMG!, 43 Sixth St., followed by June 17 shows at 2 p.m. at Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St.; 4 p.m. at Asiento, 2730 21st St.; and 6 p.m. at Mutiny Radio, 2781 21st St., San Francisco. Tickets are $30 and include a Mutiny Radio T-shirt; visit Mutiny Radio Events | Eventbrite.