Comedy is hard. Yet, somehow, at a little bar on Stevens Creek Boulevard dozens of folks attempt it every Monday night.
At the end of the worst day of each week, the patron saint of new comedians sits one step inside Woodhams Sports Lounge. Pete Munoz has spent the last 500+ Monday nights at Woodhams, where he introduces comedians—honoring some, mocking the rest—for now a decade of comedy.
Half rabid, half sage, Munoz is one of the most acerbic comics to come from the South Bay. Each week, his Technicolor cast of open mic-ers show up to work new jokes and regurgitate the old, testing their mettle against one of the toughest, yet most forgiving audiences in the Bay Area.
Munoz first hosted an open mic at Seniore’s Pizza in Santa Clara, getting paid in slices and beer. The wage was not unusual for an open mic host, but a pizzeria is also not exactly the best venue for uncensored comedy. So, Munoz approached Amanda Cunningham, owner and bartender of Woodhams, about starting a comedy open mic on their stage. He asked for their slowest night of the week. Woodhams Comedy Open Mic debuted on Monday, April 8, 2013.
Cunningham knew immediately that Munoz was onto something.
“Mondays were dead and suddenly I had a full bar,” she says.
By now, she has some of the comedians’ routines memorized.
“I can recite their jokes right along with them,” she admits. “I’m not allowed to take a Monday night off. The comics don’t like it when I’m not bartending.”
However, everyone credits Munoz as Woodhams’s main ingredient. No one is turned away from his mic. It’s a safe space for every comic to try to turn lead into gold. For every good joke there are many more that need work. Munoz is known to give new comics advice when asked.
Jeff Cirv has been performing comedy at Woodhams since the beginning. He says that starting is the hardest part about comedy.
“We always find our comfort zone,” he says. “It’s truly different from other scenes. I know everybody’s not as lucky as we are.”
Like Cirv, amateur comedienne Leslie Lang has enjoyed watching the comics improve. She calls Woodhams her Monday night therapy. When her name is called, she lets it all out.
“Whatever happened the past week and over the weekend, I tell them everything. The good, the bad and the sexy,” she says.
On stage, Munoz is acrobatic, able to riff without a safety net. Off stage, however, he is driven to build community, especially among the curious.
In 2019, Alex Torres came to Woodhams with a friend to get drunk and watch the comedians. As some heckling began, he joined in. Munoz took notice and challenged him to take the mic, pointing out the $1 drink discount for comics. Torres took to the stage and bombed terribly.
“Not that easy, huh?” Munoz retorted.
Ever since that night, Torres has been performing comedy, now organizing a comedy showcase at the Branham Lounge.
This is a common theme. Many comics say Munoz not only gave them their first shot, but also got them their first paid gig outside of Woodhams.
“Pete creates an environment that you don’t see in a lot of places,” says Sam Schmidt, a new comic and a recent addition to the South Bay from Oregon. “You’re given the space to make mistakes, the space to mess up. I think that’s really valuable. To airball some shots and know we’re still going to be let back in the gym.”
Rock drummer Sean Boyles did his first comedy set at Woodhams seven years ago. He says comics don’t bomb or murder there. “It’s batting practice. See what sticks and what doesn’t. The home runs don’t count.”
Consistency is a crucial ingredient to community. Comics in the South Bay find their way through Woodhams because it is always there.
Monday night’s Tenth Anniversary celebration is set to be one of the biggest in Woodhams’ history. There, Mondays belong to Pete Munoz, Amanda Cunningham and all the names on the sign up list—a registry of folks willing to make the worst day of each week end on a good note.
Comedy is hard. Woodhams makes it easier.
Woodhams Comedy Open Mic 10 Year Anniversary
Mon, 8pm, Free
4475 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95051