Pondering a 2012 disappearance from your family Christmas or weary of the holiday season hard-sell? Why not head to San Francisco in December for a gay ol’ time and some secular seasonal fun.
Yuletide entertainment in the Bay Area ranges from a Jewish comedy dinner show in a Chinese restaurant to drag queens performing episodes of The Golden Girls.
The rooster has balls
The only place you’ll find Yiddish proverbs in your fortune cookies, the 20th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy (KPKC) show answers the age-old question: “What are Jews supposed to do on Christmas?” And it’s held in a Chinese restaurant, of course.
There are eight shows over four days (Dec 22–Dec 25) at the New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Each day features an early dinner show and a later cocktail show. Seating is tables of 10, Chinese banquet-style. The dinner show features a seven-course meal (“kosher comedy, not kosher food”); it’s veggie egg rolls at the cocktail show.
Entertainers scheduled this year include headliner Judy Gold (The View, Comedy Central, Emmy Award-winning actress and writer) share the bill with Scott Blakeman (political comedian, talk show host, and nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn); Fort Lauderdale condo-circuit maven), Mike Capozzola (San Francisco comic and cartoonist) and Lisa Geduldig (San Francisco standup comic, Kung Pao creator, producer, host).
“Gays coming to our fair city will be happy to know that two of the comedians are lesbian this year — I always am, and the headliner, Judy Gold, certainly is, and she’s a riot,” says Geduldig, who stresses that you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the show.
“It’s the bar mitzvah you never had,” Geduldig says. “All ages are welcome — except for screaming babies, please and thank you.”
Geduldig, a former New Yorker, invented Kung Pao Kosher Comedy in 1993 quite by accident when she traveled from the west coast to South Hadley, Massachusetts, to perform. Arriving at the Peking Garden Club she soon discovered it was actually a Chinese restaurant — not a comedy club. Inspired by the ironic experience of telling Jewish jokes at a Chinese restaurant, KPKC was born. Since then it’s grown into an annual San Francisco institution that entertains more than 2,000 comedy aficionados while providing an annual reprieve from Christmas mania.
Over the past 20 years, KPKC has entertained more than 40,000 people, and its audience has expanded to include Chinese-Jewish couples, interfaith couples, singles, families, gays, straights, those far from home and Europeans who find out about the show from the internet (and fly to San Francisco). One of KPKC’s claims to fame is that Henny Youngman (1906–1998) performed his last shows there in 1997.
Other KPKC stories include a couple already together for 20 years that was married after the show by a rabbi they just met at their table and the rare sight of a rooster brought to the show as a service animal.
In keeping with the Jewish tradition of tzedakah (charity, in Hebrew, tied in with a sense of duty and social responsibility), Kung Pao donates part of its proceeds each year and has raised tens of thousands of dollars and awareness for various organizations and causes.
Golden t-girls & wacky nutcrackers
Also catering to San Francisco’s sizeable gay and lesbian population is The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2012, an annual all-drag X-mas Exdrag-a-ganza (Dec 6–Dec 30; tickets $30). This is one of those “only in San Francisco” events where Heklina and three other world-class drag queens perform two episodes from The Golden Girls TV show, live onstage. You won’t find this kind of entertainment at your local theatre.
Meanwhile, the wacky Dance-Along Nutcracker Goes Hollywood is a rollicking event that will have you kicking up your heels. Playing Frtiz is William (Billy) Sauerland, professional countertenor, Chanticleer veteran and artistic director of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. Performed by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Dance-Along Nutcracker at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will feature an adults-only evening gala on Dec 8 with a groovy DJ (tickets $50) and an afternoon show on Dec 9 ($26 adults, $16 children/seniors).
Mormons & Lions
The holidays are a time for giving back, so the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, a non-profit arts/AIDS organization dedicated to raising funds for AIDS service organizations in the Bay Area, will hold a special holiday benefit concert on Dec 10 at Marine’s Memorial Club. The charity event will feature the touring casts of both The Book of Mormon and The Lion King. Tickets start at $40.
San Francisco’s rowdy past comes to life this holiday season in a display landscaped with hundreds of dwarf plants and several water features in which model trains wind their way along miniature docks crowded with replicas of the clipper ships that brought fortune seekers to California.
The Conservatory of Flowers’ newest garden railway exhibition, Boomtown: Barbary Coast, runs until April 14 in Golden Gate Park. Tickets $1.50–7.
Trains will then zip past miniature recreations of the city’s most important landmarks: Portsmouth Square, Chinatown’s Waverly Place, Maiden Lane and many others. The exhibit will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, so take note, season escapees.
Kwanzaa in Sausalito
Lastly, here’s an event in nearby Sausalito on the same day as our Boxing Day that will wipe away any memory of a stressful Christmas season with a free, open-to-the-public event. The Kwanzaa celebration on Dec 26 is an African-American celebration of family and community where attendees experience the rich traditions of Kwanzaa. The Bay Area Discovery Museum, in Sausalito (Marin County), presents this African-American cultural event through hands-on art activities, performances and a traditional Kwanzaa altar on display in the Museum’s entry pavilion. Two free performances, by the African Roots of Jazz and renowned jazz drummer EW Wainwright and his ensemble, will take listeners on a musical journey that traces African-American musical forms (jazz, gospel, spirituals) from their earliest beginnings in African cultures to today. The program features instrumental music, songs, theatre and audience participation.