An AmericasComedy.Com Interview
Ngaio Bealum is one of the funniest comics in Sacramento. A San Francisco native, Bealum started out as a young street performer at Pier 39 in 1988. Bealum fell in love with indoor stand-up comedy when he started hitting the open mic. He got his first paid gig at “El Rio” on Mission Street in San Francisco. Since then, he has been having an ongoing love affair with indoor stand-up, has had had some TV action and is a prolific writer and publisher. Bealum’s four favorite comedians of all times? Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart and Steve Martin.
“I fell in love with indoor standup comedy because they pay you whether or not a crowd shows up and you get free beer and sandwiches.”
Comedy and pot are Bealum’s passions. He performs his stand-up regularly in Sacramento and takes it on the road, on occasion. This is in addition to writing for, publishing and publicizing West Coast Cannabis, the premier cannabis magazine in the cannabis industry.
While he’s got a rep as a “pot comic,” he talks about a lot of other things, too. He’ll be at “The Punchline” in Sacramento, Aug. 13, 14. AmericasComedy.Com caught up with Bealum at “The Urban Hive” in Sacramento yesterday.
As a “cannabis comedian,” have you found that pot jokes are the Calif. equivalent of a dick joke, which always gets a laugh? Have you run into any problems talking about pot?
“When I switched over to being a cannabis comedian, I found it was a little harder to get gigs. But I do talk about a lot more than pot . . . quantum physics, poetry and being a nerd and all kinds of other stuff. And there’s lots of sex, but all they hear is the pot. It’s like anchovies on a pizza; it’s all they see.”
There have only been a handful of successful pot comics, you’ve got Doug Benson, Craig Shoemaker . . . So you’re the OG here.
“Yeah, I’m the double OG.”
When did you move to Sacramento?
“I just moved out here a couple of years ago to establish myself as the funniest person in Sacramento. It’s working out so far, from LA where I was ‘the funniest person you never heard of.’”
You did a couple of TV gigs? You did “Sarah Silverman” and weren’t you the host of a show called “Pot TV?”
“I was on ‘The Sarah Silverman Program’ twice for two seasons, random bits. I was the former host of ‘Cannabis Planet’ on television. Now I just like to tell jokes, write magazines and travel around.”
Do you want to go back on TV?
“I like to do TV every year or so just to keep my hand in it. It keeps the credits fresh, so the kids know who you are. Apparently, I need to come up with a YouTube video, something that can go viral.”
You have very little on YouTube, by the way.
“It’s half-way on purpose. I’m not trying to burn all my jokes. I’m a very slow joke writer. I should be faster, I suppose, but that’s just how I am. So, I like it always to seem kind of fresh and new when you see me. Although, if you come see me two times in a row, you’ll hear a bunch of different jokes. It won’t be the same.”
What is your creative process?
“Weed. And mostly hanging out and talking to people is how I come up with jokes. I try to remember them to write down later. Or standing on stage riffing. Or, if something happens, where you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to have a joke about that,’ then you try to figure out your take that nobody else has jumped on, which is really the hardest part. Something will happen and five jokes will occur to you right away and you’ll realize that everybody is going to have at least one of those five jokes and you’ve gotta try to find the sixth joke, which will be the one that will be good for you.”
Where will you be performing?
“I’ll be at the Punchline in Sacramento, Aug. 15. I also produce ‘The Cannabis Comedy Festival.’ I am the producer, the originator and the organizer of ‘The Cannabis Comedy Festival.’ We’re doing it this year, Oct. 12 and 13, at the ‘Punchline’ in Sacramento and then on Oct. 19 at the ‘Punchline’ in San Francisco. The Oct. 19 show will be a benefit for Proposition 19, which is to legalize cannabis in California.”
Any plans to take it on the road?
“We’ve taken it to a couple of spots. We did it in Portland two years ago. We did it in New Orleans five years ago. And, we’ve done it in LA a couple times. It’s the ‘occasional’ comedy festival. It’s not the ‘annual’ comedy festival. This is the ‘tenth occasional,’ maybe the eleventh. My co-producer, Amanda, calls it the ‘tenth-ish.’”
How do you handle hecklers?
“It’s voodoo, not math. It’s a vibe. My motto is, (if you’re going to heckle) ‘Be funny and do it once.’ If you have something funny to say, say it and then shut up.”