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A recent spate of car robberies, which has resulted in the theft of at least three "comedy bags," (Editor note: A bag that often contains a comic's personal effects especially comedy note books with jokes, ideas, concepts, and premises) has left many residents of the Greater Metropolitan Richmond District of San Francisco puzzled, confused, and just a little bit scared. Scared for the safety of the brilliant comedians who proudly call the Richmond district home, and scared for the future of art in the City by the Bay.
The break-ins occurred on consecutive nights last week. The victims, John Hoogasian, Lee Levine, and Jeff Kreisler all share a common passion: making the people laugh. . . often after several moments of awkward silence.
Perhaps this common bond explains the odd parallels in the crimes.
"You can't tell me it's a coincidence." said Pierre, an vagrant outside Cobb's Comedy Club and a Richmond District resident. "Kreisler, Levine, Hoogasian. . . when you think of San Francisco comedy, I mean, you think of -- you know, funny people -- but these guys are always hanging around, asking for sets, giving tags, and pointers. It's like they're comedians, too, or something."
On Thursday night, John Hoogasian's 1968 Oldsmobile York Avenue car was broken into at the intersection of Van Ness and Pine. The rear window was smashed and the bag where he kept his comedy notebooks was taken. Fortunately, Hoogasian wasn't in the car (he was getting pizza, no doubt), or he may have been taken, too.
"My car! My car! All my good jokes . . . are about my car!" Independent appraisers valued the notebooks and the jokes inside at "nothing" and charged Hoogasian $20 for wasting their time.
Friday night saw Levine fall victim to the smash and grab. His car, possibly a Volkswagen and definitely parked outside the Punchline, was violated, and his bag -- containing his comedy notebooks, a digital recorder, and sunglasses -- removed.
"Oh no, this is bullshit!" Lee stammered, with his wide how-can-you-not-love-me grin plastered across his angry happy face. "I played the parking game and I lost." Lee said "Welcome to stolen bag town, bitch!" He then burst into tears.
Aspiring hack political comic Jeff Kreisler, who is determined to earn at least one-tenth what he could have as a lawyer, went to his car at the intersection of Washington and Battery Saturday after a show at the Punchline. Jeff wasn't headlining this night at the Punch -- an oversight on management's part, no doubt -- but his comedy career was about to change nonetheless.
"When I closed the door, I noticed a breeze. I wondered, 'Did Speigelman forget to roll up his window again? Then I realized that Speigs had never done that before, so he couldn't have done it again."
"I turned to see why the window was open, and I. . . I. . . I saw. . . I saw that my window was broken. There was glass everywhere. My heart skipped. . . but just once. It's not weak and fruity, you know. I once had a three-way back in high school. Kinda."
"Anyway, I worried about my things. . . No, I didn't care about my radio or CDs or videos or Monty Python books or priceless family heirlooms and novelty items . . . I just cared about my art, my beautiful, beautiful comedy art."
"When I realized that my bag was gone, I just lost it. I almost showed an emotion. It was. . . tough."
The worst part for Kreisler was that "what had happened to 'Hoogie', I had taken as a warning to me. I had even taken the time to put my bag on the floor in the back, to semi-hide it. But, like my father says, semi-hide only counts in horse-shoes and hand-grenades and the Clement Street Thrift Shop Semi-Hide All-Star Celebrity Jamboree. But not in preventing thefts of comedy bags from cars."
When told that Levine has also been victimized in a similar way, Kreisler reacted passionately. "First of all, no one is ever a victim, I don't like that word. I could've put my bag in my trunk, or perhaps have brought my car with me into the club."
"And second, really? That's odd. Me, Levine, and Hoogasian. Broken windows. . . Only thing taken was comedy bags. . . hmm..."
This is clearly not the action of some crack-head. It's too methodical, too targeted. It's like a really bad joke being played on comics, an ironic twist.
There's a strong possibility that a former comic is doing this, perhaps a comic with confrontational material. A strong comic. Personally, I have a Hutch, er, hunch, that it could also be an old club booker, seeking to reassert his power.
They'll be after another comic, just like us. Think about it: Hoogasian, Levine, Kreisler. . . it all follows a pattern. Original, awkward, funny, emotional, brilliant, sad and needy comics. . . Whoever is doing this definitely has a plan. A plan to keep comedic artists down. Maybe it will be someone like Greg Proops or Dave Attell or Judy Tenuta. . . or you!"
"It's frustrating because they didn't take anything of real value, just the brilliant comedy and drama -- or dramedy -- that I'd been slaving over for weeks. Truly, the world's loss. I was working on a thing about how George W. Bush is stupid and how I can't believe he's President and all and wouldn't it be weird if George W. Bush was your high school gym coach -- 'Time for dodge ball! Everyone snort coke and pretend I'm not a lesbian.' Ha ha ha."
Kreisler put his head on the interview table.
"Oh g-d, my life has no meaning."
Because of the robbery?
"No, because of that joke. I can't believe I took the time to put those words together in that order, even if it was in a self- deprecatory way. 'Self-deprecatory?' Is that even a word?"
"My point is, if anyone does a bit about George W. Bush being stupid, I'll be very suspicious, and I'll be very pissed, and I'll write a limerick about it, call that a poem, then stew about stage time."
"Yeah," concurred Hoogasian. "Anyone doing straightforward stuff about men being different than women or anything about my roommate Colin better watch out. Don't touch me."
"Same with me and the penguins." Levine added, before his head turned all puffy red and he burst out "Tally ho, bitch!"
Anyone witnessing any suspicious activities should cower in fear and offer to give all of their stage time to Jeff, Lee, and John. Especially Jeff, he's really desperate.
Disclaimer: No names have been changed to protect anyone, this is based on true events, though much has been "creatively enhanced." It's comedy. HA!
"Personally, I have a Hutch, er, hunch" Cantu notes: Hutch is a former manager of the Punchline, one of San Francisco's main rooms.
Jeff Kreisler is a San Francisco based comedian, writer, and actor who's been performing for at least three long, tortuously funny years. He's a regular at Cobb's and The Punchline, and has appeared at top comedy clubs in Paris, France, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, and Austin, Texas.
To find out more about Jeff, see his schedule, or to catch a sniff of some of his other writings and creations, check out his web site: