Almost Famous


By Cookie “Chainsaw” Randolph
Photos by Leetal Elmaleh
(Published in the July 2010 Issue)

“It’s cool being half black and half Asian, because I get to pick when I’m black and when I’m Asian. If I’m at a park and they’re picking teams for a basketball game, I’m black. I always get picked. But if I’m at a college during finals week outside a library, and somebody needs some help with their Mac book or some calculus...I’m still black. I suck at math.” -Mal Hall

Comedian Mal Hall is mad at me because I’m always saying that within 12 months he’ll blow up so big in Hollywood, he’ll forget all his friends in San Diego.

In the meantime, while he still remembers our names, Hall books and hosts The Gaslamp Comedy Show, held the last Thursday of each month at The Tipsy Crow (formerly Bitter End) on Fifth Avenue. The venue’s downstairs showroom has a big-town feel: bar in the back, great sound system, brick wall with iron beams and, thanks to Hall’s network of comedian friends, a dependably excellent night of comedy.

On this night, Hall presents Rajan Dharni, Geoff Keith and Michael Kosta, all professional touring comics.

During his 12-minute opener, Dharni wonders why we don’t use homeless people for advertising. After all, they already have signs: “I’m homeless, but my feet are warm-UGGs.”

Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson veteran Geoff Keith follows with a mischievous 25-minute set, in which he explains to his girlfriend why he acts so differently around his buddies: “Babe, that’s just me being happy.”

Headliner Michael Kosta, who’s appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, begins by reliving the horror of removing contact lenses while hammered, and finishes by admitting his mom thinks he’s way too cocky up on stage: “So I told her-look, Janice, nobody speaks to Kosta that way.”

Maybe you had to be here. Maybe next time, you will be.

The real star of the show is Hall. He not only cajoles his comedian buddies into coming down from L.A. to perform, but also puts out an L.A.-ready 15 minutes himself. His descriptive tale of sitting next to a double-wide lady on a plane flight has the packed house rolling. His style is one part Cosby and one superstar Ichiro Suzuki?

“That’s real cute, Chainsaw. I’m way funnier than Ichiro. Tiger Woods also-then again, most trees are funnier than Tiger. More faithful, too.”

Mark Christopher Lawrence, a regular on the NBC sitcom Chuck and frequent Gaslamp Comedy Show performer, says, “Mal Hall is one of the brightest rising stars that I have had the pleasure to work with since [late cult comedian] Mitch Hedberg.”

Such praise makes Hall uncomfortable as he battles the typical comedian’s schizophrenia: self-loathing one moment, and “I rule!” the next.

But mostly, Hall rules, booking, hosting and performing at a club Lawrence calls “the grittiest, dopest, most fantastic place to get down in San Diego.” Hall compares The Tipsy Crow’s downstairs comedy showroom to The Comedy Cellar in New York City, where Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock once had the honor of performing.

“Sometimes I don’t get to pick. I was driving up to LAand forgot I had my blinker on. That’s Asian. Apolice officer noticed and pulled me over-now I’m black again.” -Mal Hall

Make no mistake: it’s Hall’s relentless energy that packs the room for two shows on the last Thursday of each month. Catch this rising star while you still can.

“Oh, I’ll still do The Tipsy Crow as long as I’m able,” says Hall.

I hope so, because a year from now I want to bring this PacificSD article to one of Hall’s shows so he can autograph it. I already know what he’s going to say:

“Oh, cool, I remember this article. And who can I make this out to?”

Next Gaslamp Comedy Show:
Thursday, July 29, at The Tipsy Crow, 770 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
Purchase $10 tickets at