This is the third in a series of interviews with OBceans that I have met randomly – all so far in NewBreak coffee house on Abbott Street. I heartily believe that everyone has a story worth retelling, so I approach strangers and ask them if I can sit down with them and take their story.
Two requisites: they have to live in OB – or the Peninsula -, and they have to agree to have their picture taken. Up to now, the feedback from readers has been positive on these random interviews. Here’s my first interview with Eric Long and my second with Helga Staalhane.
Gina Manning – Who Fled the LA Area and Who Now Is in Search of Gigs As a Comedian
Gina Manning was just closing up her laptop the other day when I approached her and asked her if I could interview her for this blog. She said sure, so I sat down at her small table with my coffee mug and got out my notepad.
Gina lives in Point Loma, near Point Loma High School, and she and her four kids found a place that she could afford on Chatsworth. They moved there about two and half years ago.
“This could be perfect timing,” she said, referring to the interview and subsequent publicity coming her way. Gina is a comedian and she told me: “San Diego is a great place to do comedy.” We then plunged into her professions and background.
At one point, I asked her to tell me some of her jokes, but she declined – “that’s not how comedians work,” she said. Damn, I though, I was ready for some laughs.
For 12 years, Gina was an English teacher up in the LA area; she taught for 5 years with the LA Unified School District, and then moved over to Antelope Valley for another five. She grew up in the San Pedro area. And during two marriages, had 5 children, 3 of them now adults. She also has a Masters in Screen Writing.
She’s now a single mom, with 12 year old twins -Maya and Jacob – living at home, plus she takes care of her 26 year old son, Jeffrey, who has special needs as he suffers from schizophrenia. Melissa, 28, lives in Long Beach, and Cody, 20, is in Torrance. The twins attend Dana Middle School.
I asked her why she ended up in Point Loma. This question got Gina to explain that she and her family had a “horrible” experience in Antelope Valley. Not only was it “gang-ridden”, she was working too hard.
“I put my heart and soul into being a teacher. I worked till 9pm, neglecting my own kids. I burned out.”
Once she decided to move, she started doing research and applying around for teaching jobs. She received two offers – and one was a substitute teacher position in Santa Clarita and the other was in San Diego. She seemed like another refugee from the greater LA area, fleeing from that epicenter of massive humanity.
“I’m a beach girl,” she said. So, she took the San Diego job and moved the family down here. A friend had recommended Point Loma.
The job here was with the San Diego County Department of Education, teaching high school kids multiple subjects at “Breaking Cycles” – a facility where young people convicted of offenses by the juvenile court go to complete their schooling. But Gina was laid off last July and is now on unemployment. She had been working covering someone who was on military leave, and he returned.
How does she find OB, I asked. “The ocean is beautiful. Relaxing.” Why not live here, I continued.
“Places in OB are small and at the time, I couldn’t afford a place closer to the ocean.” She needs a 3-bedroom and couldn’t manage that size of house at the beach. She drops into OB often, but wasn’t up on any of the local issues, like the Police Trailer or the issue of gentrification.
Our conversation rolled into politics. “Politically, I’m in the middle,” she said. She did not support President Obama in the last election.
The issue for me, not politics, is abortion. It’s a numbers game. I hear there aren’t a lot of teacher jobs – we’re depopulating, which means there aren’t a lot of children to teach. Depopulation is one of the reasons we’re in a bad economy. Over-population is a myth. We could fit everybody in the world in an area the size of Texas.
I asked her that since she supported Romney in the election, what did she think about the Republican War on Women? Outside of the abortion issue, Gina didn’t really think there was one.
Comedy is a different story. Even though she does comedy gigs – often they are contests – she’s not making any money in this line. She doesn’t do a lot of regular clubs. “I got lucky,” she said, “I found a group of people who find their own places to do comedy.” They have a website, brewhahaentertainment.com .
“I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for 25 years. Open mics here and there. I write my own material – you have to.”
Gina said, “Just last night, I was up in Floppers in Burbank. It was a contest, the ‘California Funniest Females Contest'” she said, an annual contest put on by Bill Word, who she told me, is a big name in Orange County comedy. “I was not paid,” she added.
Gina’s own website can be found at www.unbleepable.com – a humorous enough title, I thought.
She has also ganged up with two other women comedians, Maria Herman and Jennifer Comgernaum, to do “Comic Strip” – a funny commentary on the news for UT-TV. She’s only done it once so far.
Gina does have a regular show at Twiggs coffeehouse in Normal Heights, “Comedy Heights”, every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday of each month, at 7:30 pm. She does this with other funny stand-ups, Julie Kidd – who has appeared in The View with Whoopi Goldberg-, Cindy Burns, and OB comedian Jessie Egan.
“There’s a lot of comedy clubs in San Diego, but people go to LA – there’s more opportunities. A couple of years ago, I tried Winston’s comedy contest, but I didn’t make it past the first round.”
“In here you do,” she said, pointing to her heart, “but not every second of the day.”
Upcoming gigs and shows?
“This Friday, (that’s Feb 8th)” she said, “I’m headlining at the Space Bar Cafe in La Mesa. I’m bringing a keyboard – for musical comedy.”
Her act is at 8pm – a free show – at 7454 University Avenue. “I do have a voice,” she said. It’s a fundraiser for cancer research being put on by an all-female show called “the Vagina Dialogues”.
She also has some gigs out of town next week – in Huntington Beach – one of her old stomping grounds – at the Tap House, and on Wednesday, she’s at the Ontario Improv.
Finally, she told a joke: “I named my twins Merlot and MaryJane.”
And with that, I proceeded to take some photos of Gina, who consented despite some initial protestations. So, here is the story of Gina Manning, LA refugee and resident comedian. Go see her acts, and tell them the OB Rag sent you.