The Killing Room 

Bay Area's top comedians gather for campus humor and more.

Sean Keane was what you might call a maverick English major. He spent the bulk of his UC Berkeley career writing for and eventually commandeering the famed Hueristic Squelch, a campus humor magazine that features sardonic commentary on pop culture and current events (a recent issue took on the annual City Crime Rankings, Hillary Clinton, and the alleged "greening" of Wal-Mart). Keane served as the Squelch's editor-in-chief in 2000, and contributed sporadically until his graduation in 2005. He cites, among the halcyon moments of his career, an in-depth analysis of the song "Regulate" by Nate Dogg and Warren G. Arguing that Warren G was "kinda worthless in that song," Keane substantiated his point with textual evidence: "He gets jacked, he gets his Rolex stolen. Nate Dogg does all the work, basically."

Once he'd cut his teeth at the Squelch (after years of squandering his best lines in funny e-mails or fake letters to newspapers), Keane decided to try his hand at stand-up. The transition was a little rougher than he'd anticipated. Though Keane won a few fans performing at a Squelch-sponsored open mic in 1999 (the magazine used to host showcases), he got his come-uppance at Brainwash Cafe and Laundromat in San Francisco. "The same golden jokes just died," he said. Granted, it may have been an issue of quality control, Keane surmised. "There's no sobriety checkpoint at the Brainwash. If you have five minutes of material you can say just about anything." Thus, poop jokes often get the most mileage, while anything that goes beyond the simple setup-punchline format meets a lot of blank stares.

Thankfully, Keane has got an ear for comedy. Since graduating, he has sustained an amicable relationship with the Squelch, mostly by recruiting some of the best comedians in the Bay Area to perform for the Hueristic Squelch Comedy Experience. Next Wednesday's showcase features the brilliant, self-deprecating Kevin Avery, cohost of Live 105's movie review spoof Siskel and Negro (which offers all the pop culture commentary and clever asides that Nancy Franklin didn't give you in her latest New Yorker column). The bill also stars Sheng Wang, Boomtime! sketch artist Alex Koll, "Ebony & Irony Presents" founder Joe Tobin, and "Blah Blah Blah" talk show host Kevin O'Shea. Each of them is a headliner in his own right; to get them all in one room together is, well, almost frightening. The show kicks off at 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 5, at Blake's on Telegraph, and caps off with an open mic. Tickets cost $8.

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