Comedians travel the busy Sonoma County open mic circuit, sometimes just for laughs

His new method for meeting women, he said, is going to the dog park, but sometimes he’s embarrassed by his pet’s aggressively amorous advances on the other dogs.

“My dog is part Rhodesian Ridgeback and part rapist,” said Mike Olson.

A 36-year-ancient insurance claim adjuster from Petaluma, Olson has been performing stand-up comedy locally for more than a year. his dog’s name is Dutch, which was Ronald Reagan’s nickname.

“he runs to the right and can’t remember his name,” Olson clarified.

He was one of 14 comedians who performed on a recent Wednesday night at Guayaki Mate Bar in Sebastopol. Three nights later, he was back onstage at the Rapture in Santa Rosa, along with eight other comics.

Some of them were from San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, some of them perform professionally, and several are Sonoma County people with regular day jobs and a lust for laughter.

“it never ceases to amaze me the caliber of talent that we have locally,” Olson said.

One of his favorites is Helen Pachynski, 66, a financial adviser from Santa Rosa who was widowed two years ago. now she shares the humorous side of her reticent re-entry into the dating scene.

“I do my comedy without the F word. After a while, the shock value wears off,” she said during a interview last week.

But even though she doesn’t talk dirty, she does joke about sex, as most of the performers do.

“sometimes I despair. Then I tell myself, ‘Helen, you can have the body of a 30-year-ancient. you just might have to buy him a few drinks,’” she said onstage.

“There was ad in the paper for a local doctor who does breast implants, so I cut out the coupon because it’s ‘buy one, get one.’”

Pachynski got her start as a comic a couple of years ago at a friend’s birthday party. Olson started by putting on amusing slide shows for co-workers.

“I’d have a screen behind me and show a slide and make a joke about it,” he said. “I basically became the Stephen Colbert of insurance luncheons.”

Juan Carlos Arenas took a different route.The 32-year-ancient construction and winery worker from Santa Rosa studied acting at Santa Rosa Junior College, and got some jobs in commercials and film.

He has a small speaking role as a cook in the comedy movie “Trattoria,” due out later this year from Fog City Productions in San Francisco.

Arenas also produces the monthly comedy shows at Rapture in downtown Santa Rosa. And he has performed not only at Guayaki and Rapture, but also at comedy clubs scattered around the Bay Area, including the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where he will return in August.

“I’m leaning toward the comedy a lot more because I love that immediate audience reaction,” Arenas said. “I grew up in a really poor family. whenever we didn’t have any money, we could amuse ourselves by making ourselves laugh.”

His specialty is taking Hispanic stereotypes to absurd extremes.

“I take the sexy Latino thing and really embrace it,” he clarified. one example is his tale about standing under a young woman’s window and singing to impress her.

“in Mexico, we call it serenading. in court here, they call it stalking.”

Guyaki also stages monthly comedy nights with an open microphone, organized by part-time comic Heidi Bartlett and supported by Guayaki owner David Turconi.

A number of other venues also stage occasional comedy nights, including the Bear Republic brew pub in Healdsburg, and the HopMonk Tavern and the Aubergine vintage clothing store and cafe in Sebastopol.

Weekly Monday open mic nights at the Coffee Katz coffee house in Sebastopol also feature some comedy. Even the Hawley Winery tasting room in Healdsburg puts on comedy nights.

As long as people keep coming out to see the shows, the comics pledge to remain upstanding.

“People do want go out and have fun,” Pachynski said. “I get joy out of making people laugh.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or see his ARTS blog at

<a href=”,2005:cluster=, 11 Jun 2011 19:12:42 GMT 00:00″>Comedians travel the busy Sonoma County open mic circuit, sometimes just for laughs

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