Perhaps after Gonzaga finally wins the NCAA national men’s basketball championship Monday night, everyone will know that the Bulldogs are based in Spokane.
If Chris Franjola knew beforehand that the Zags were here, he wouldn’t be delivering his take on pop culture Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Comedy Club in five shows.
“I wouldn’t be flying into Spokane if I knew Gonzaga was from Spokane,” Franjola said while calling from his Los Angeles home.
It’s notable that Franjola, who is a huge sports fan, doesn’t know where the Zags campus is located. Much of the country has no idea where Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few’s student-athletes attend class. “There’s no doubt that Gonzaga will impact ticket sales,” Franjola said.
Franjola is spot on. A generation ago, I experienced “Saturday Night Live” since Game 1 of the 1986 New York Mets-Boston Red Sox World Series was played just before the iconic NBC show aired.
It was evident that much of New York would be hanging on every pitch of that game, so I walked into “SNL” without a ticket since a healthy portion of those slated to attend were obsessed with the possibility of a championship.
Franjola, who hails from Long Island, was one of those fans wrapped up in that epic series. “I can go on and on about the Mets,” Franjola said. “I love the Mets. They’re my team! I’m excited about the Mets season, which is starting this weekend, and I loved the ‘86 Mets, who were tremendous.”
The ‘86 Mets came back to win one of the greatest World Series of all time. That Mets squad continued the Red Sox streak of championship futility after the franchise made arguably the worst trade ever, dealing the legendary Babe Ruth after winning the World Series in 1918.
Franjola jokes about sports and pop culture and loves cracking wise about anything from his beloved Long Island. This week, he waxed about Billy Joel, who is arguably Long Island’s favorite son.
“Billy Joel said trouble in the Suez 40 years ago, and you’re going to pretend he’s not a witch or something?” Franjola recently joked via Twitter
Franjola was goofing around about the recent finding of shrimp in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch that was connected to the Suez Canal. Joel riffed about the Suez Canal in his 1986 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
“Who would ever guess that Billy Joel could predict the future?” Franjola said.
It’s not surprising that Franjola is adept at pop culture comedy since he was a writer and performer on “Chelsea Lately.” Franjola created some of the E! series’ most memorable characters such as the gay caveman and Bieber Man.
“I had so much fun on the show,” Franjola said. “It was such an important outlet for comedians.” That’s not an exaggeration. “Chelsea Lately” became a comedic launching pad, much like “The Daily Show” was the prior decade.
Comics such as Jo Koy, Sarah Colonna and Franjola became headliners after regular appearances on “Chelsea Lately.”
“What was great about ‘Chelsea Lately’ is that comics were allowed to do what they did, which isn’t easy on television,” Franjola said. “Normally, you have to go through a number of gatekeepers to deliver your comedy on television shows.
“We could just be us on ‘Chelsea Lately.’ So many comics went on to bigger things after appearing on the show because we were all around for a while. We honed our material and were ready for the next step.”
Franjola, who performs in theaters and clubs, is thrilled to be back on stage. “It’s been so difficult for comedians,” Franjola said. “It’s not the same performing virtually. It’ll be good going back to Spokane. I played at the club there once before and had a great time. I have so much to talk about in terms of pop culture.
“We’re living in some strange times with celebrities and the pandemic. I’ll have plenty to talk about when I get back to Spokane.”
Franjola is excited about the vibe he’ll experience in a town on the cusp of winning its most significant championship. However, he hopes fans come out for some laughs in between basketball games.
“It will be great if people go to the club,” Franjola said. “I understand that many people there will have Gonzaga basketball on their mind. I don’t see anyone stopping the Gonzaga basketball team. It’s going to be exciting to be there this weekend. It’ll be the place to be for basketball fans.
“But for those who want to experience some comedy, come out and see me.”
If you go: Franjola is performing five shows Thursday through Saturday at the Spokane Comedy Club, 315 W. Sprague Ave. Tickets are $10-$28. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information: (509) 318-9998 and spokanecomedyclub.com.
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