There’s national-quality live comedy in Santa Barbara. Andrey Belikov and his gang take over the back room at the Downtown Brewing Company on Saturday nights for a fascinating look at what makes funny people tick. As the host, Belikov keeps his comedy patter to a relative minimum, and mostly stays focused on spotlighting the imported talent. On the Saturday night in late November when I attended, the audience was full of rowdy Caddyshack-themed birthday party attendees, and the atmosphere was rambunctious from the get-go. As far as the comics were concerned, it was hit and miss, but when they were on, these guys killed. The laughs take place every Saturday night at Downtown Brewing Company (3744 State St.) at 10 p.m., and it fills up fast, so be sure to arrive early. Call 682-7803 for information. And for an extremely subjective list of reasons to attend, check out our rundown below.

1) The Headliners: The top-billed comic every week is almost guaranteed to be good. Belikov is tuned in to the Comedy Central/HBO scene emanating out of New York and Los Angeles and he consistently is able to attract hot talent in the top slot. The headliner the night I was there, Kyle Cease, was great, especially when he went into his super-associative hyper-identification freak-out mode.

UCSB alumnus Chinedu Unaka

2) The Openers: I don’t know whether this is always the case, but in my experience, the opener was the second strongest comic on the program. On November 21, the opener was UCSB alumni Chinedu Unaka. His stuff on his dad was priceless. Apparently, his Nigerian father was very truthful in his marriage, leading him to make such remarks to Unaka’s mom as, “If anything, you make that shirt look fat.” Raised in L.A., educated in I.V., and ready for primetime, Unaka was terrific. He also had the funniest Obama bit I have heard yet. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I’ll never think of the phrase “Yes, you can” in quite the same way again.

3) The Audience Participation: You might want to think twice about sitting in the front row-at least if you are not in the mood to discuss your work and your love life in front of a roomful of irreverent strangers. Comics are used to working the room, and they love to confront. But since they also need to be liked, there’s usually something good in it even for the unlucky audience member who winds up becoming the center of attention. Roll with it and the laughs will follow.


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