Halfway through last night’s My Funky Valentine event at La Pena Cultural Center, emcee and host Gina Gold responded to someone’s gasp in the audience that, after all, the series is called TMI for a reason, implying that if honest storytelling isn’t your cup of tea, nobody’s blocking your exit.
Gold is an African American Jewish comedian currently on tour with three other Jewish comics in a show called You’re Funny But You Don’t Look Jewish, but takes time to host this monthly storytelling event, described on its website as “unvarnished and funny looks at incendiary topics.”
La Pena seems an unlikely venue in some ways for a storytelling event. The café was still serving food, and, in fact, some of the audience members were duly holding their order numbers so the servers could find them in the crowd. And because there were no tables there in order to make room for more seats, people were eating from plates in their laps and trying to find places to tuck away their dishes under chairs when they’d finished eating.
When I’d learned that TMI would be at La Pena, I pictured it in the larger, separate space that is next to the eating area, but apparently they were screening an anti-Israel film there while we were listening to stories of love gone wrong. At one point, one of the other members of You’re Funny but You Don’t Look Jewish had us yell a cheerful Shalom, hoping the audience on the other side of the wall could hear us. (I hope they had a sense of humor.)
The evening’s stories were honest and raw and funny with occasional detours to more serious territory, but they all connected to love, dating, or sex.
Some presenters were more professional than others, but I got the feeling that it’s supposed to be a mix of veterans and up-and-comers who are still learning the ropes, which was okay with me. (Although someone should have clued in the young man who mumbles how to use the microphone. I don’t think I was the only one in the back who missed many of his quick one-liners.)
Because the raffle prizes were donated by a sex gear shop, there was extended discussion on each of the items, which included candy nipples, lubricant, and a chocolate penis. (When we awaited the number to be called for the lube, the elderly man sitting next to me quietly offered to give me the lube if he won it, saying that he didn’t use it.) Gold learned that one of the lube’s ingredients was algae and wondered aloud how someone figured that out. Did someone insert algae directly into a vagina to see if it worked? She also wanted to know why the store called its items sex gear rather than sex toys, to which the owner answered that some of her inventory was more in the adaptive category to enable people of all sizes to have pleasure. Gold pressed further—what kind of adaptations was she talking about? Apparently ramps play a prominent role. Of course, references to algae and ramps continued throughout the rest of the show as a huge inside joke.
Gold is one of those naturally funny people who can make just about any situation humorous and it seems very extemporaneous. At one point, she walked onstage, looked down at her cleavage in a pleased and almost surprised way, and remarked that her breasts were looking quite ample in the dress she was wearing, to which we all applauded.
Next month TMI moves to a space with a full bar in Oakland at 3000 Broadway, and the theme is Sex in the City. There may be more opportunities to discuss algae and ramps…