It’s a question Dominic Del Bene never gets tired of answering.
“Where did the name ‘Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival’ come from?”
Del Bene, a Petaluma resident of 4-1/2 years, is the founder of the inaugural comedy event bearing the above-mentioned name, and he is careful to give credit where it’s due. In this case, credit goes to 6-year-old son.
“When he was 4-years-old, he suddenly noticed how ‘Petaluma’ sounds like ‘pet a llama,’” explains Del Bene. “He thought it was hilarious. He couldn’t stop saying it. ‘Pet a llama! Peta a llama!’ So I made a mental note that ‘Pet a Llama’ would make a great name for … well, for something. I just wasn’t sure what that something was yet.”
Still, a good name is a good name, and must be jealously guarded. So, in preparation for the day when inspiration might strike, Del Bene went ahead and registered the web domain ‘Petallama.com.” After that, the whole thing went dormant, as Del Bene became caught up in a number of projects.
A professional promoter of comedy events, with years of experience producing stand-up stage shows and comedy albums, Del Bene had only just departed his job with the comedy album-producing Rooftop Productions in San Francisco — then launching a new production company, called Blonde Medicine, out of his office in Petaluma last September — when the notion of launching a local comedy festival crawled out of his brain and firmly attached itself to his imagination.
“I’d tried to book comedy events at the Mystic,” he says, “but they were always booked up months ahead. So I started thinking about planning a show for 2018, and suddenly figured that, if I’m booking one night, I might as well book three, and make it a full on comedy festival.”
At that point, though he had no acts lined up, and only a vague idea what the festival would look like, Del Bene knew that at least he already had the most important element of the whole project.
He had the name.
And thus was the Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival born. Now all he had to do was book some venues and recruit some comedians.
“It was not really hard getting top talent to come to Petaluma,” Del Bene allows. “The lineup is mostly all comics I’ve worked with over the years, and they know I live in a place called Petaluma, and that it’s a town I’m very proud to show off.”
The festival runs for three days this month, from Thursday, Aug. 16 to Saturday, Aug 18, and features more than 40 comedians from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Individual shows will take place at the Mystic Theater and The Big Easy, with one additional Saturday event unfolding at Copperfield’s Books. Tickets can be purchased on a show-by-show basis, so attendees can build the kind of comedy experience they want. While some shows take place simultaneously, De Bene says most of the shows will alternate between the two main venues.
Kicking off the fest on Thursday night is comic actor Brian Posehn (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Sarah Silverman Show”), who grew up in the town of Sonoma, and still feels close to Sonoma County.
“When the fires hit last year, Brian made a podcast about what was going on,” says Del Bene. “So when I asked him to do the festival, he was really eager to do it. But he has to be on the other side of the country on Friday morning. So that’s why the Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival runs Thursday to Saturday instead of Friday to Sunday.”
PLANNING TO GO?
What: The Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival
When: Thursday, Aug. 16 – Saturday Aug. 18; Thursday & Friday, 6 p.m., 8 p.m., and 10 p.m., Saturday, 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m.
Where: The Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd., and The Big Easy, 128 American Alley.
Cost: $15-$20 per show.
Information and tickets: Petallama.com.