Comic, El Segundo resident, and The Gundo Comedy Festival creator Dave Williamson has been keeping the city laughing for five years now. By Maureen Kingsley
El Segundo owes much of its thriving live-comedy scene to professional comic, comedy festival producer, and local dad Dave Williamson. Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed live comedy anywhere in El Segundo, you have Dave to thank. This month, our city will play host to the fifth annual Gundo Comedy Festival, a week of daily live comedy produced by Dave and performed in venues all across town.
Southeastern Roots. Born and raised in the Miami area to a family that owned and operated a car dealership, Dave grew up learning the ins and outs of running a business. By the time he graduated high school and started college in Auburn, Alabama, Dave had also established himself as a class clown who loved making his friends laugh.
At Auburn, a professor of Dave’s, Dr. McKelly, recognized Dave’s writing talent and advised Dave to pursue it. That advice boosted Dave’s confidence and prompted him to pick up a Creative Writing minor and view himself as a legitimate writer—a life-changing decision that would help lead Dave down the path to becoming a professional comic and comedic writer years later.
After college, Dave says, “I followed my then-girlfriend, Kristi [now his wife] to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she’d landed a teaching job.” Charlotte offered yet another stepping stone for Dave, in the form of a sketch-comedy club called The Perch. At first Dave visited The Perch as an audience member, but he soon landed a sketch-writing gig and joined the ensemble.
After some time in Charlotte, Dave and Kristi returned to Miami, where Dave coached water polo, assisted his dad with the family business, and performed stand-up as often as he could. Although he was stretched thin, he appreciated the support he received for his comedy from his car-dealership customers and coworkers, who’d often attend his shows.
Following Dave’s wedding to Kristi in 2005 and the birth of his first son in 2007 was the 2008 recession, which hit the family business hard. “One of my dad’s Saturn stores closed,” Dave remembers, “and that felt like the world was ending. But it was actually part blessing in disguise.” Around 2009, now a married man and father of two, Dave announced to his family that he’d give comedy a full-time shot for one year. That one year has turned into 10 and has included such highlights as being named Miami's Best Comedian by The Miami New Times, excelling in comedy competitions such as the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas (in which he took third place), and opening for such world-renowned comics as Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, and Jimmy Fallon.
Making El Segundo Home. On the road so much anyway, and inspired by a fellow comic travelling the country with his family in an RV, Dave and his young family moved into an RV of their own in 2013 and toured North America in it, making stops for comedy gigs along the way. In Southern California the Williamsons parked their RV at the Dockweiler Beach RV park, headed up Grand Ave. to explore El Segundo, and fell in love with the city. The Williamsons rented a house here in town, ended the RV life, and joined the community of El Segundo, where Dave created The First Annual Gundo Comedy Festival in 2015.
The Festival. “I’m usually on the road for gigs, so The Gundo Comedy Festival is a nice way to maintain a connection to the community,” Dave explains. “I can give back to this city via the festival.” Now in its fifth year, Dave’s Gundo Comedy Festival draws a variety of diverse comics and visitors from all over. “There’s something for everyone,” he says. “There’s the live podcast, nightly free and ticketed shows at cool venues all over town, daytime shows, a kids’ show, and
even free babysitting.” This year’s festival runs May 14-19 and features shows at Flights Beer
Bar (Tuesday) and The Purple Orchid (Wednesday), a live podcast at El Segundo Brewing Company (Wednesday), and shows at The Automobile Driving Museum (Thursday), The Patio (Friday), Smoky Hollow Roasters (Friday), the Teen Center (Saturday), South Bay Customs (Saturday), and R6 Distillery (Sunday). Shows are also in the works at ESMoA and elsewhere. Festival Passes offer a discount on admission to multiple shows and are available online, and single-show tickets are available online as well. Visit The Gundo Comedy Festival online for information, and follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram for updates to the schedule.
This story appears in our May 2019 first-anniversary issue.