You might not know it if you passed him in the grocery store or saw him at the gas pump, but Jim Richardson is a master of the art of comedy.
In a time of YouTube video pranks and memes, Richardson is a throwback. He teaches the art of stand-up comedy, sketch comedy and film/TV acting to anyone who wants to learn, from amateurs to those looking to become the next comedic guest on “The Tonight Show.”
Richardson, 72, hails from Burlingame but now calls Santa Rosa home. His background is in English and fine arts. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in creative writing along with a master’s degree in fine arts from Carnegie-Mellon University.
It was in 1976 that comedy inspired him to delve more into the humorous side of the arts. That was when he reviewed the 1976 San Francisco Comedy Competition as part of his duties for a local paper called The Sonoma County Stump. His job also entailed reviewing plays and other stage performances, including comedy.
He wasn’t enthused about driving all the way to San Francisco just to review a comedy show in a bar. Of course that show, the first year of the competition, featured a very talented lineup, with Robin Williams finishing second to Bill Farley and Bob Sarlatte coming in third.
The seed that was planted that night took a few years to germinate. At the time, Richardson was teaching off-campus acting and production classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and working with the Redwood Empire Players. One class consisted of performing four one-act plays, but he opted to turn the last one into a “skits and songs” experiment that was very well received.
That led to teaching a Stand-Up Comedy Workshop course at Sonoma State University in 1980, believed to be the first stand-up comedy course taught for college credit in the U.S.
“This (teaching comedy) is more fun than teaching acting, although I love acting. This is emotionally more appealing,” said Richardson.
From there, he developed his comedy teaching into a course that was taught at various locations and times, in some cases to meet the needs of comedians who wanted to work on classic fundamentals.
Since launching his Organized Comedy business, Jim has produced over 1,000 comedy shows in Northern California and taught thousands of people about the art of comedy and speaking.
His instruction uses many of the greatest comedians as examples, from Harvey Korman and Joan Rivers to David Letterman and Robert Klein.
These lessons have helped numerous comedians find success, including David Feldman, who has done stand-up on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” along with writing for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
With over 30 years’ experience teaching in and around Sonoma County, Richardson, who is also a filmmaker, still enjoys teaching the art of comedy.
According to Richardson, Sonoma County is a great area for comedy primarily because the audiences are smart, which means comedians can use a greater range of material.
“Acting is dealing with emotion. Comedy appeals to the intellect,” Richardson said.
What: Afternoon of Recognition hosted by Amaturo Sonoma Media Group
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 30
Where: Old Courthouse Square
More details: heroesofoctober.com
What: Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together. All-ages event to with art activities, musical performances, guided hikes, and food.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 6
Where: Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, 5750 Faught Road
More details: https://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Play/Calendar/Wildfire-Anniversary-Event/
What: Museums of Sonoma County opening reception for “From the Fire: A Community Reflects and Rebuilds,” which runs through Jan. 27
When: 3-6 p.m. Oct. 6
Where: 505 B St., Santa Rosa
Tickets/more details: museumsc.org/events.
*The event is the first in a larger series through the month of October, including an Oct. 25 event from 7-8:30 p.m. at 505 B St. featuring Press Democrat journalists discussing the fire coverage that earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize.
What: Together in Hope, a prayer gathering in solidarity to honor and remember the resiliency and recovery from the North Bay Fires.
When: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 7
Where: Cardinal Newman High School Field, 50 Ursuline Road.
More details: http://santarosacatholic.org/TogetherInHope
What: County of Sonoma and City of Santa Rosa’s ceremony, featuring chalk for artistic expression on sidewalks around Courthouse Square.
When: 4 – 8 p.m. Oct. 8, with a ceremony with a reading by Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, and a firefighter memorial bell ringing begins at 6 p.m. Chalk will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 9
Where: Old Courthouse Square
What: La Luz Center’s appreciation of community resiliency, featuring food, art activities, resources and a listening session in Spanish conducted by Sustainable Sonoma.
When: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 8
Where: La Luz Center, 17560 Greger St. Sonoma
What: Honoring Loss, Rising in Hope – an evening of singing, prayer and reflection.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 9
Where: First United Methodist Church, 1151 Montgomery Drive
More details: Contact Pastor Lindsey Bell-Kerr at Lindsey.Bell-Kerr@fumcsantarosa.org
What: One-year remembrance gathering hosted by Coffey Strong
When: 7-8 p.m. Oct. 9
Where: Near the intersection of Hopper Avenue and Coffey Lane
More details: facebook.com/events/2123622767957025