Pinball Enchantress and Comic Nina G was looking for an opportunity to combine two of her passions and raise awareness for a new cause—hence the pinball and comedy event she is co-producing at Kimball’s Carnival in Oakland on Wednesday.
The Pinball Outreach Project is ramping up to bring the machines—with all their bells and whistles—to kids in hospitals to play in between treatments.
“Sometimes, those kids are in there for months,” Nina G told me. “This program will also make the machines accessible so kids can roll up to them and play.”
Beginning at 7 p.m., Kimball’s will feature some fantastic machines for play—with proceeds going to the cause—and while the comedy event is free, donations for the Pinball Outreach Project are encouraged.
The line-up features Nina G; show co-producer, OJ Patterson; Caitlin Gill; Jason Dove; Christopher John and headliner, Jesse Elias.
Jesse also holds the honor of being the inspiration for the benefit’s pinball-themed poster art—even if he doesn’t exactly consider himself to be a pinball wizard.
Corey Andrew: What did you think when you saw your image made into a pinball machine?
Jesse Elias: I thought they dug through some vintage pinball designs and found something that happened to look like me. There was some confusion over that.
Corey: Were you disappointed that there wasn’t an old pinball machine that looked like you?
Jesse: It was drawn by my friend, OJ Patterson, and I was very honored by all the work he put into it. It came out looking nice.
Corey: Is there any pressure on you as you’re the face of the show?
Jesse: Not really. Well, not the face thing, but headlining is always a big responsibility.
Corey: Have you decided what your portion of the show is going to be like?
Jesse: Yes. I’m gonna bring out my best stuff. I am writing some stuff about pinball because that’s why people are gonna be there.
Corey: Are you a pinball fan?
Jesse: No, I hate pinball. It’s no fun for me. I don’t see the appeal. I like to look at the flashing lights and stuff, but it’s no fun to play. I’ve gotten into arguments before with people who say I’m not doing it right. To me, you just launch the ball, and you hit it when it lands on the paddle, and sometimes it lands out of reach of the paddle, and you lose the ball. Then it repeats. To me, it’s completely random and chaotic.
Corey: Why did you agree to do the show?
Jesse: I’ve done the open-mic at Kimball’s before, and I’m good friends with Nina, who is putting it on. It’s not like I have to play pinball. I have nothing against people who do enjoy pinball, but it’s not my cup of tea.
Corey: Do you see any parallels between pinball and the comedy world?
Jesse: I see a lot of parallels between life itself and pinball. When you launch the ball, it seems like you’re surrendering the ball to all these uncontrolled variables; it’s very hard to predict, and I would say the same thing about comedy. You can try and plan it, but it goes where it goes, and you have to react to it the best you can.
Corey: In comedy, would you be the ball or the flippers?
Jesse: I think the ball is my act, and the jokes are the flippers, and I’m playing the game.
Corey: When you were a kid going to the arcade, the pinball machines were not what you were drawn to?
Jesse: No way. I was really into “Street Fighter.” Fighting games. Mostly just the fighting games.
Kimball’s is located at 522 Second Street in Oakland.
Visit Facebook.com/komedyForACause for more information about the event .
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. In 2011, he published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family several years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.