Sylvan Productions: Communal Comedy

“Yeah. I’m a 24 year old... wait... how old am I? I’m 23. I’m a 23 year old... rebellious... grassroots... cool guy. I’m just a doer.”

Justin Gomes first started performing in high school after his drama teacher took a vested interest in him. He had always been a creative person, but up until that turning point he had never thought of himself as a person who belonged on the stage.

“I wanted to play baseball in high school. One day, my friend Miriam grabbed me and said, ‘HEY! Join the theater!’”

Justin’s career didn’t start there. He failed horribly at his audition and wasn’t cast in the play. It wasn’t until he showed his dedication in class that his drama teacher resolved to cast him, but from that point on Justin has continued performing in some form. His sophomore year of high school, he met Andrew Moore. He didn’t know it at the time, but Andrew would become one of the key members of what is now called Sylvan Productions.

It first started out as friends wanting to do sketch comedy together. They would assemble on the weekends with a video camera and a computer and create rudimentary comedy scenes.

“We would always into these problems. We would never write and we would never rehearse, but it would always come out great because we were just some friends having fun together.”

The sketch comedy may have been sub-par, but Justin and his friends had an undeniable chemistry together. They would always perform improv and sketches together in their high school’s theater arts showcase, and little by little they reinforced a symbiotic stage bond. When they performed their sketches, they called themselves: “Sylvan Productions.”

After high school, Justin and the other members of the group resolved to go their separate ways. Andrew went to San Francisco State to study business, and Justin enrolled in San Joaquin Delta college in Stockton to study Theatre Arts. After about a year there, Justin found himself extremely unhappy.

“I got really sick of theatre, and I realized that I shouldn’t be focusing on just trying to start a theatre. I wanted to find something I really enjoyed, and I realized that I enjoyed nothing more than making people laugh with my high school friends.”

So, Justin chose to uproot his life as a college student and relocate himself to San Francisco. His new life-goal became to build a high school brain-child into a real business. He wanted to make something out of Sylvan Productions.

Justin and Andrew moved in together in a flat located in the outer sunset of San Francisco with another mutual friend named Ash Clayton. Their first big push together was to reorganize the old gang and start filming sketches again. After that proved to be a fruitless endeavor, they returned to brain-storming.

In this time, Andrew had started frequenting the local comedy clubs of San Francisco and immersing himself in the comedy culture. He started making friends with some of the rising stars and original hustlers of San Francisco’s modern comedy culture. What both Justin and Andrew learned was that there wasn’t any structure to San Francisco’s comedy scene, and it seemed like nobody was doing improv.

“I found super poor people, some with serious problems. An unorganized community, with alot of dreams, where nobody was really pushing the envelope.”

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