Robert Mac has appeared on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and tours regularly at comedy clubs across the nation. He is also the owner of FOOT! Tours, a comedian-led walking tour company that was recently voted Best of San Francisco in the SF Weekly.
What led to you starting FOOT! tours?
It all began way back in the 1900s. I was hired to shoot video footage of different parts of the City and edit some voiceovers for a youth hostel. They wanted a tape to show their boarders, so they could get an overview of the City. In the process, I learned a lot about the history and other fun facts. Meanwhile, my stand-up act turned into a game show: lots of questions and answers. Slowly, San Francisco history crept into the act–I was doing lots of shows at the old Cobb’s, in the touristy wharf area–and that cemented the format: a fun game show. Finally, a friend coming to town with a convention asked me to lead them on a tour. I put what I knew about the City into a tour in a fun Q and A format, and viola–FOOT! was born. We’ve done more than a thousand tours since then.
What kind of work goes into setting up each tour?
Lots of research and lots of foot work. And lots of bouncing ideas. The tours are themed; for instance, we have one about important women in SF history. We try to find physical locations to tie into the themed “lessons” that we are presenting. So we have to incorporate creative ways to present that info with a physical location and tie those stops together into a tour that’s not too long or too hilly. Usually the best solution comes from a lot of trial and error, and bouncing ideas between creative folks.
How do audiences on a walking tour compare to those in a comedy club?
Our audiences skew a bit older and tend to be more sober, since they aren’t at a club. They are less demanding for humor, because they are also expecting history. At a comedy club, they just want the jokes. And plenty of booze, of course.
Why should someone take a walking tour when they can relax in a big comfortable bus and watch the city go by?
A lot of the fun of our tours, I think, is that we go into places you wouldn’t go on your own. Rooftop parks, back alleys in Chinatown, bars, etc. A bus is great if you want to cover a lot of ground, but for the sights and sounds and smells, you have to be on foot.
Which tour do you recommend the most for comedy fans?
A true comedy fan would appreciate the NUDE, LEWD, and CRUDE tour of North Beach, which talks a bit about the evolution of socio-political comedy of the late ’50s, guys like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. It also talks about Beats and the Stripper scene. Basically, the nightlife from the ’50s to the ’70s.
For more on FOOT! Tours, visit foottours.com.
Robert Mac will be performing at Rooster T. Feathers on November 30th- December 2nd.