Comedian Juan Medina believes nobody can truly bond with their pet cat until they scoop their poop for further inspection. “I look forward to [it]. You want to check out how their health is. Are they hydrated? What are they eating? It makes me feel connected to him.”
Medina is talking about his cat, Chubbs. Chubbs is a rescue, 11 years old and orange, both a “clown” and a “little beast.” It’s just after 7 in the evening on the third Saturday of the month. Medina is on Zoom addressing his fellow feline fans for “Cat People: Felines Online.” It’s the third iteration of the show Medina has done virtually, but pre-pandemic he’d hosted the “Cat People” comedy show for three years, every month at the Layover in Oakland. As many Bay Area performers have found, it’s harder to connect to an audience through a screen in their living room.
“I was no longer limited by logistics, but it didn’t feel right, like I could transmit the same level of excitement. At the time, I didn’t do it,” Medina says of the first months of shelter-in-place.
But his fans persisted, so like most outdoor cats, the show had to come back. And the attendees are enthused. The Zoom-savvy have customized their backgrounds with images of their own cats, like Armen Hov’s longhair rescue, Holloway, named after the street he was found on. One attendee, Maree, even brought her baby. But don’t worry, even dogs are welcome.
“Comedians are cynical, sardonic, so if they really like cats, they will go out of their way to tell you they don’t like your dog. I hold space for dogs. And a baby is a higher-level cat. It’s a cat who can vote, eventually,“ Medina says. Even on mute, people are laughing.
Medina, a Bay Area native who grew up in San Francisco’s Mission district, has been performing standup comedy for almost a decade, and began producing shows shortly after he started performing. His best bits, he thinks, are his dissections of superheroes like Batman, his commentary on the Chicano experience, and his thoughts on, duh, cats.
But not everything has to be feline-based at “Cat People.” Lillian Sam, a performer on the bill, doesn’t have a cat, but like most of us, she has quarantine woes and a dysfunctional family. While sheltering-in-place with her parents, allegedly, “my aunt pooped in our bathtub!”
On top of that, someone stole all the tires off her car. For the second time. In her defense, “people tell me I should park in the garage, but this is San Francisco,” she says. “I live in the garage.”
The traditional, in-person “Cat People” show usually comes with pizza and incorporates audience participation to find the most realistic meower and best cat haiku. Standup comedian Amanda Simons is a teacher by trade and, by now, seasoned at keeping her students engaged via Zoom. She brought visual aids, including X-rays of her cat, a rescue named Scootch. Scootch was named eponymously for her primary means of transportation; the X-rays show her hindleg bones are akimbo.
The headliner, Marty Cunnie, “gives great noogies and appreciates a good noogie,” according to Medina. He may have garnered that slot because he has four cats. Technically, two are his and two are his girlfriend’s, whom he is sheltering with during the pandemic.
“It’s like the Brady Bunch moved into a bomb shelter. Try having four cats watch you have sex. They don’t blink guys, it’s scary,” he laments.
As San Francisco and other Bay Area counties creep cautiously toward reopening, Medina is hopeful the live shows will be possible again.
“We’re gonna keep it online until the Layover gets permission to reopen the bar,” he tells me. “If we can do the show safely, we will consider it.”
The next show is coming Saturday, to a cat tower and litter box near you, and you can follow Medina on Eventbrite for details. As an animal lover, he hopes his human friends will feel compelled to help out the furry ones.
“In addition to jokes, storytelling and poetry about cats, we want to encourage people to adopt animals, neuter and spay animals and foster animals,” he says. “They change people’s lives, especially now, people are so stressed. If they can open their home for these animals, they need it.”
* Tickets to the next “Cat People: Felines Online” happening from 7-9 p.m. Saturday are $10 and available here.