The San Francisco Comedy Competition has its rival festivals and showcases, but there’s little doubt that it’s a premiere opportunity for aspiring standups to begin establishing a career and perhaps a long-lasting reputation. After all, previous unknowns who have used the contest as a fast pass to the top tiers of the industry include Louis C.K., Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres and Robin Williams.
More than 30 comedians start the competition and they perform a multiweek, judged series of evenings, expanding their sets with each step up — three to seven minutes at the beginning, then 10 to 12 minutes, and then finally 12 to 15 minutes for the finals, which take place tonight at Cache Creek. Along the way they definitely experience the stress and demands of life on the road, sometimes performing six nights a week over the course of six weeks.
The comedians may be nervous, but be assured that the judges are, as well. Each panel is different, but has the shared responsibility of letting an aspiring comedian know that he or she isn’t, well, funny enough to move on to the next round. The room’s atmosphere, therefore, crackles on many levels.
Here’s the list of performers for tonight’s finals: Matthew Broussard of Houston; Samuel J. Comroe of Los Angeles; Drennon Davis and Brendan Lynch, both of San Francisco; and Sterling Scott of Edmonton, Canada. (8 p.m.; Cache Creek Card or $20; www.cachecreek.com)
Saturday night, Brandy takes the Cache Creek stage. Her “Two Eleven” album from last year marked a decent, if not stunning, return for the diva. Her career had gone in an almost crazy number of directions, from judging (“America’s Got Talent”), competing (“Dancing with the Stars”), acting (“Drop Dead Diva,” “The Game”) and appearing on reality television (“Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business”). There was even “Bran’Nu,” her excursion into rap. But expect to hear her R&B offerings at her Cache Creek show. (8 p.m.; $49, $59, $75)
For a taste of what’s in store at Jackson Rancheria on Sunday, listen to “Live From Texas,” the full-bore concert album by Southern rockers 38 Special, who, with more than three decades of touring under their belt, have sold more than 20 million albums with hits such as “Hold On Loosely” and “Caught Up in You.” (6 p.m.; $20 with players card, $40; www. jacksoncasino.com)
One of the hottest tickets for the fall is Steve Martin’s bluegrass appearance Saturday at Tahoe’s MontBleu. He and his Steep Canyon Rangers play virtuosically; Edie Brickell is set to join the show, and Martin should dose the evening with enough humor to prove he’s still pretty wild and crazy. (9 p.m.; $60, $70, $80; www.t icketmaster.com)
And two off-the-wall events add fun for those with somewhat eccentric tastes: The Virginia City World Championship Outhouse Races take place noon Saturday and Sunday, with entries such as “The Potty Poopers” and “The Haunted Outhouse.” And Fallon, Nev., has the Fastest Gun Alive quick-draw shooting championships Saturday and Sunday (www. cowboyfastdraw.com).