Community Commentary Inside Oceanside

Inside Oceanside: Sharing a laugh or two

Oceanside and greater North County has gone for years without a live comedy venue.

And then on Jan. 18 there were two separate Oceanside shows with major name comics.

The 440-capacity Star Theater downtown hosted “Comedy Unplugged,” with Doug Williams, Rodman and Oceanside’s own Vicki Barbolak. Tickets for the Star Theater show were $25. A full bar and catered food were available.

Then for those who only wanted to spend less ($10) and didn’t mind bluer, racier humor, there was the “Comedy Jam” at the 200-capacity Rookies nightclub on El Camino Real. That show featured Shang, Tommy Chunn and Cookie Hull, whose work has appeared on HBO and BET.

Longtime locals will remember that Rookies on El Camino Real was once known as Comedy Nite, Oceanside’s first (and last) five night a week comedy showcase. Comedy Nite, which was around in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, hosted Gabe Kaplan, Paula Poundstone, Brad Garrett and other big names.

Mike Bishop, the promoter of Star Theater’s “Unplugged” show says he has produced four comedy shows at the Star so far and has plans to do at least three more at the Star this year. The Oceanside-based promoter staged big-name comedy concerts at the 4th & B nightspot before that 1,500-seat venue in downtown San Diego closed in 2012.

Bishop started doing stand up12 years ago. He started his promoting career by presenting comedy shows at a Mexican cafe in Lake Elsinore. He came to Oceanside about ten years ago when he brought comedy to the now defunct La Mision restaurant on Mission Avenue near Airport Road.

Bishop is in the process of booking the next Unplugged show at the Star Theater set for April 19.

“It’s hard to get a date there since they have so many children’s plays.” He says putting shows on at the 50-year-old landmark with excellent acoustics sure beats hosting comedy at a “buck buck bar” (his phrase for a bar with a mechanical bull).

“You have to have a theater because these people are TV comics and they don’t do it for free… We had everyone, blacks, white Hispanics…”

Meanwhile Rookies works in its comedy events in between its nights dedicated to televised fights, cover bands and DJs. “We do comedy once or twice a month,” says Rookies manager Jose Rios. “We have families so we ask that the promoters bring in comics who would be respectful of our guests. But then again, we are a bar.”

The next Rookie’s (all ages) comedy show has not yet been booked.

The Star Theater shows are 21-plus.

Beach shorts

Coca-Cola has purchased a lot on Ocean Ranch Road, which is adjacent to its current warehouse facility. The plan is to build a 193,000-sq. ft. expansion to house more offices and warehouse. This will surely bring more jobs to Oceanside. But what we really need is more quality retail that isn’t Walmart.

Just as Harney Sushi is bracing for the opening of the nearby Summerhill Suites, the Asian eatery is undergoing a major change with its staff of sushi chefs. It seems head chef and Oceanside native Robert Ruiz is leaving this week to launch the new restaurant within the former Twin Inns in Carlsbad, and he is taking a good number of chefs with him. Other chefs are moving to Oceanside to replace the departing chefs (rumored to be seven) who are leaving Harney’s staff.

While there are plenty of sushi, Mexican and pizza joints in Oceanside, I think it’s safe to say there is only one place in all of North County where you can find authentic German food.

Burgers and more traditional bar fare is available at Irina’s, a family oriented restaurant/sports bar on Copperwood and Mission Avenue. But first time visitors are surprised to discover authentic Deutschland fare created by namesake Irina Ewing who brought the recipes with her from Minden, Germany. Everything on the German menu — stuffed cabbage, bratwurst with homemade sauerkraut and Jaeger Schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet) is made from scratch.

Reader Rick Seely says he is not to happy about the in-construction one-way streets being built downtown, “…especially since those quaint little lanes lead us to an intersection of discount, low-end clothing, stereo shops or other less-than-quaint businesses.”

 Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at

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1 comment

Trending Now February 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Ken….Tell Mr Seely to open up one of those fine retail establishments himself right on Mission or Coast Hwy we all crave!!

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