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I learn that particular tidbit from Gill, who has made a study of such things. “I’m hugely influenced by Mitch Hedberg as far as the kind of comedy I write,” says Gill after the set, standing in the cool outside the bar for a minute before heading back in to sing bawdy, comedic songs under her own persona. “I just don’t do heroin. I think he’s one of those accidental geniuses, like the Beatles. There are tribute bands — I figured, why not tribute comedy?”

Adopting the Mitch persona, says Gill, takes little more than “a couple of drinks. If you f*ck something up, well, Mitch messed up all the time because he was so fcking high. So you can just be, like, ‘Ah, fck, I fcked that up,’ and people will be, like, ‘That’s so right!’ When, actually, I fcked it up.”

But then, there is that inflection, and you don’t get that out of a couple of drinks. “I have a freakishly good memory, and it’s auditory,” Gill says. “If I hear something once, I’ve got it. When I was four or five, I started doing talent shows, memorizing Shel Silverstein poems. But I had to have someone read them to me to memorize them, and in a very overacted manner. The inflection makes it almost like a song, and I’m good at imitating that. If a comic has that sort of thing, there you go.”

Gill saw Hedberg perform once at Spreckels in 2004, six months before he died. By that point, she was already working Sunday nights here at the Blarney Stone. “They had an open-mike night, and I came in and performed. There were, like, six people there,” but one of them was the owner, “and he said, ‘You’re hosting open mike from now on.’ ” (When she starts into her own set, it becomes clear that she’s developed a following of her own. When she launches into a song about one-night stands, a trio of young women at the bar roar out responses to each line: “Well, it’s 2:00 a.m. and I don’t know your name [KNOW YOUR NAME!] You might think it matters, but you’re all the same [ALL THE SAME!]…”)

These days, she says, “I’m pretty selective. I had some people who weren’t that great, and they drove people out of the place, so now it’s more ‘I’ll book you to play on Sunday and you won’t get paid, but the owner is usually here, and if he likes you, he’ll book you to play on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. And they pay really well.’ ” Customers get a dose of free comedy from up-and-comers, and comedians get a lesson in working a bar. “People come here to try out comedy because when they come here, they can get good at dealing with hecklers and dealing with a room that’s not set up for comedy. It’s just a regular open mike at a bar — it’s not the Comedy Store, where everybody’s laughing because it’s nice to do that.”


I watch most of my TV and movies on a 15-inch computer screen, which makes the promise of seeing Terminator 2 at something approaching cinema-size up in the Loft at UCSD pretty tempting. Yeah, I’ve seen it — twice — but it’s a durable action movie and would make for a fun run-up to Terminator: Salvation. On the other hand, I’ve seen it. Twice. A better call: Special. “This darkly comic riff on our relationships with our heroes and our medicine cabinets, starring Michael Rapaport, screens for Film Forum, 6:30 p.m., San Diego Public Library, downtown. Admission: Free.”

Whatever charms the New Library (of Happy Anticipation) may eventually possess, I’m betting it won’t be able to match the old main branch for stubborn charm. The term “stately pile” is usually reserved for old English country houses, but it’s what I think of every time I behold the library’s façade, with its faux-stone front, its glassy entry level, its short columns below the roofline. And my favorite room in the stately pile, hands down, is the third-floor lecture hall, tucked behind a single door framed with smooth wood paneling. It’s dated, but in the best possible way — there’s not a trace of wear on the wainscoting; the movie-style seats are still springy and comfy, and the acoustic beveling of the ceiling still looks futuristic. Pull down a movie screen in front of the stage curtain, fire up the overhead projector, and you’ve got a fine free movie house.

“I work on the idea that if something intrigues me, there will probably be others who feel the same way,” says Ralph DeLauro, who runs the library’s film program. “And because it’s free, you can go for art with a capital A and see what happens. Special seemed like an oddball film that fit in with what we do.”

DeLauro started screening films in the early ’80s, “on the rooftop of a Fifth Avenue artists’ colony.” In 1984, he walked into the library, proposed running a film series, and got the go-ahead from PR officer Lois Hyman. Over time, he developed relationships with community groups, political organizations, and various film festivals, so that now he finds himself premiering PBS-bound POV films like Tintin and I, hosting director Grace Lee for a screening of The Grace Lee Project, and welcoming scholars to discuss films like Crips and Bloods: Made in America. And thanks to a screening license, he can show films from most of the major studios, as well as “smaller labels like Lionsgate and FirstLook.”

The hair on every head among the first arrivals is gray; some of it is more kempt than others. A carefully assembled couple take their seats near the front; the gentleman in front of me is less put together — white French cuffs jutting from the sleeves of his blazer, an incongruous web belt around his waist. “How do you like the movie so far?” he calls to a friend across the aisle, though of course, the movie hasn’t started yet. “I thought I’d add a little humor,” he adds, “because you might as well be happy.”

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