2nd Place: Tyrone Hawkins (Cincinnati, OH)
3rd Place: Mark Smalls (San Francisco, CA)
4th Place: Matt McClowry (Dearborn, MI)
5th Place: Chris Bennett (N. Hollywood, CA)

With three wins out of five shows in the Finals Week, Ellis Rodriguez survived a fifth place finish on the last night to claim top honors in a hotly contested year.

Congratulations to all our finalists and to our new champion, ELLIS RODRIGUEZ!

Old Friends

With the cares of the world briefly kept outside, comedy competition alumni occupied the intimate confines of the Variety Club and its adjoining bar in the Hobart Building on Market Street to welcome five promising new members into their ranks. Past competitors who were present included Tim Babb, Charlie Ballard, Clara Bijl, Michael Davis, Krista Fatka, Shawn Felipe, Matt Gubser, Aundre Herron, Vahe Hove, Anthony K., Edwin Okong’o, Jason Resler and Shane Rogers.

And there also was the legendary Johnny Steele, the 1992 champ, hosting and talking up the crowd on a variety of personal topics including career frustrations and the art of investing for retirement. Onstage, he demonstrated his considerable capacity to remain enthusiastic and creative.

Knowing he had the championship locked up, Ellis Rodriguez chose not to run up the score with his final set so the audience could be excused for perhaps feeling a bit surprised that the last place finisher for the night turned out to be crowned the 2017 winner. Ellis had certainly earned it though with first place finishes Thursday, Friday & Saturday at Howden Restaurant in Oakland, MontBleu Casino at Lake Tahoe & the Gallo Center in Modesto, respectively.
Presenting an engaging personality, strapping presence and killer take-off on Walmart’s policy of deleting swear words from the cds it sells, Ellis was not to be denied. From the producer’s point of view it was very gratifying to see him and another youthful finalist, Mark Smalls from Walnut Creek, blossom and grow in front of the amazing crowds at places like Gallo, the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, the Marin Showcase Theater in San Rafael and, of course, the jewel in the crown, the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa. And let us not forget the private performance at Rossmoor whose knowledgeable audience of senior citizens was not to be underestimated.

Runner-up Tyrone Hawkins made a strong push down the stretch by polishing and reshaping an act that has served him well for many years. Coming in fourth, Matt McClowry is also already an established headliner who had to grab his check and beat feet to LA. to catch a plane to a gig in the Bahamas.

The poster child for this year’s contest was the highly visible Chris Bennett, who, while finishing fifth, had the satisfaction of closing strong by coming in first at the last show. This was Chris’ second attempt in the event which prompted the memory of Jim Short needing six tries before becoming the last San Francisco resident to win, back in 2004.

All in all, the talent this year was superior. Kudos to Talent Director Peter Greyy who had the dedication to watch hundreds of videos before putting together a diversified field guaranteed to entertain. He’ll be more in evidence next month when the Seattle International Comedy Competition occurs during November.

Until then, the memories of this year’s San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition will be relished and plans made to make it even more successful next year with some reworking of the venues and an increased prize fund.

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