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Comedian Neel Nanda to perform at Drive-Up Comedy show in Escondido

Comedian Neel Nanda.

Let’s face it: 2020 is unlike any other year in recent memory. From the coronavirus pandemic to the racial injustice protests, we’re living in unprecedented times. Life is different now, and the way we experience live entertainment is different, too.

Enter Drive-Up Comedy, a concept started by three local comics – Jim Pine, Chris Espinoza and Alexander James – to provide a much-needed outlet for the local comedy scene.

At the end of March, after the stay-at-home order in San Diego had been in place for a while, the three began realizing that live stand-up comedy probably wasn’t going to be around for the foreseeable future. And they decided to do something about it.

They started organizing weekly open mics at various, rotating parking lot locations throughout San Diego and Los Angeles. “The open mics were more or less for the comedy community, for people to be able to get up and start doing stage time,” Espinoza says.

“We held the first open mic in front of a Target out in Kearny Mesa. This is a passion project that came about as a way to give back to the community. And sure enough, people showed up and it was amazing,” says James.

James says he knows many comics were grateful for the chance to be back on stage, even if that stage was in a parking lot.

“A lot of comedians are generally depressed or have a lot of things to deal with internally,” James said. “And this is a way to keep their mental health good. And we started to hear that story time after time, when we would speak with people. They were so grateful that this opportunity was there and we realized wow, we need to keep going.”

The open mic concept is simple: The audience and comics are informed of the location of the event on the day of the show. Just like you would at a drive-in movie, at a drive-up comedy show, you stay in your car. The organizers use an FM transmitter to broadcast the show to a designated local station, and the audience tunes in from their car radio.

It’s not quite the same as a true stand-up comedy experience. The laughter and applause from the crowd is replaced by honking cars and flashing lights.

Drive-Up Comedy poster.

But the open mics have proven to be successful. And safe. They take sanitation measures seriously, with mics being wiped down between comics, and social distancing being enforced.

“We were able to provide a safe way for people to do it and also a comfortable way for people to be in the community again, because a lot of people had been just isolated,” James says.

And now, the group is producing a drive-up comedy show featuring a headliner, Neel Nanda, this Saturday, June 27 at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.

Nanda’s TV credits include “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Adam Devine’s House Party,” “Inside Joke” and “Garfunkel and Oats.” He’s appeared on Comedy Central, MTV, IFC, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Also appearing on the Drive-Up Comedy show billing are comics Joe Sib and Steven Briggs. San Diegan Chip Nicholson will host.

As for the future of Drive-Up Comedy, James says they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. “We’re going to continue to do it as long as it’s needed,” he says.

Tickets for Drive-Up Comedy featuring Neel Nanda are $45 per car, with $5 per ticket being donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Escondido. For more information or to buy tickets, visit driveupcomedy.com.


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