“The Blarney Stone doesn't care about black people!”
It's about 10:30 p.m. The Blarney Stone Irish Pub in Clairemont is near capacity, and the first comic of the evening has just been introduced. Brian Moses has been allotted three minutes to joke over the din of several softball players at the bar, telling loud, post-game tales about 10 feet from the stage. He's playing the race card.
The rest of the bar is equally split between patrons who are politely hushed and those who are completely unaware there is a performer on the stage.
Moses half-shouts the obviously ad-libbed, Kanye West-inspired opener into the mic. Two middle-aged ladies playing darts yell “Nooo!” without even looking at the stage, so it's unclear if they constitute an actual audience reaction. A few of who get the joke smile, but that's about it—for most of the next three minutes.
Moses finishes his time with hardly a break in the noise—maybe two polite rounds of considerate laughter from the six or seven tables that ring the Blarney Stone stage. But he's just fine with that.
“I've been doing open-mic comedy for about nine months now,” he says after his set, which is one of the only two comedy-only acts on the open-mic roster tonight—both of whom are sacrificed early to the raucous crowd.
“Sometimes it's a little quieter, but there's always some kind of challenge here,” Moses says. “I'll keep getting up there and working my set out as long as Allison lets me.”
Allison Gill is the host of the Sunday night open-mic here at the Blarney Stone, a strip-mall bar about a mile from Mesa College—and miles from its ostensibly cooler sister pub in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter. Gill has toiled here for more than three years now, and it's beginning to pay off.
By most accounts, she's been single-handedly responsible for the surprising success of the evening—and despite first impressions, the weekly show is a success.
“It's all Allison,” gushes owner Martin Kilgallon in a thick Irish accent. “I'm never going to do karaoke—never. So I'm lucky to have her.”
“We don't advertise at all, except for the occasional contest,” Gill says, adding that this particular Sunday night is pretty much like most have been for some time: “Packed.”
Gill—a 30-something, ex-corporate accountant and one-time aspiring actress—is undeniably an impressive master of ceremonies. She sports dark, auburn bangs, glasses and just enough tattoos to emit a hip-yet-motherly grad-student authority. Every week, she opens the night with a set of simple, Irish-based comic ditties about drinking, drugs and fucking. They're deceptively clever and suitably interactive.On the liner notes to her self-produced CD—under the name Allison Gill is the Crooked Bush—she explains: “I sing songs about vaginas.” While predictably the most polished set on any given night, Gill claims, “We have had a bunch of real artists come play, like Steve Poltz and Anya Marina, Gregory Page, Sean O'Donnell from Reeve Oliver and the guys from Bad Credit.”
But even during the weekly talent crapshoot, there are golden moments. Whether it's listening to Reeve Oliver drummer Brad Davis crooning a chorus about paying for “an a-bor-or-ooortion” to discovering a striking, 6-foot-tall acoustic talent named Karissa Harvey, the rewards are worth the awkward, embarrassing missteps in-between.
A 20-something New Jersey transplant, Harvey strums simple songs and melodies with lyrical themes that fit the Irish pub crowd just fine (when they can hear her). “If There's a Hole There's a Way” is one title. “Telebone Me” is another. Some songs are about sex, others about partying—though Harvey swears her latest CD has a broader range of topics.
“Still, I don't think that the [coffeehouse open-mic] crowd is really up for any of my stuff,” she laughs. “But booze, drugs, sex—the Blarney Stone gets me, I guess.” The Blarney Stone Clairemont's Sunday open-mic signups start at 9 p.m. Music and comedy starts at 10 p.m. 858-279-2033.