Then and Now: San Francisco has always been funny

Nato Green

Nato Green, a Jewish comedian who was raised in San Francisco, has carved a niche for himself combining humor and social critique. His album, “The Nato Green Party,” was released in June. A former labor organizer, Green tours with W. Kamau Bell and Janine Brito as Laughter Against the Machine, a guerrilla stand-up comedy ensemble described as “Doctors Without Borders with jokes.” This collaboration has led to the new late-night show, produced by Chris Rock, “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” (premiered this week on FX), for which Green writes.

Mort Sahl

San Francisco is famous for combining humor and politics. Mort Sahl, whose bold and brainy politically insensitive style influenced Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen, got his start doing stand-up at San Francisco Hungry i nightclub in the 1950s (he now lives in Mill Valley). Soon after, Bruce released a performance recorded in San Francisco that led to his famous obscenity troubles. Bruce’s last album was recorded in Berkeley in 1965, and his last live performance took place in 1966 at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

This column is provided to j. by Daniel Schifrin, writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where stories of local Jewish life are explored in “California Dreaming: Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present.”

Dan Schifrin
Dan Schifrin

Daniel Schifrin, a local teacher and writer, is writing a play about medieval Jewish Spain as a LABA Fellow at the JCC East Bay.