With a grin and a nod, a man saunters onto the stage of ‘The Purple Onion.’ He grabs a microphone and begins speaking to the crowd, and feeding off the response.
“My girlfriend has been trying to get me to sail. Black people don’t sail. Y’all remember what happened the last time a group of black men hopped off a boat, right?”
The man, a comedian with bright white teeth that are so pearlescent that the light from the rafters seemingly bounces from just above his neckline to the rear of the club, is a young comedian and resident of the Tri-Valley named Tramane Webb. Well spoken and with an understated style, he has performed at several venues around northern California, most notably Tommy T’s, The Purple Onion and Space 1582.
“It’s been raining all week, and haven’t y’all noticed the crime rate has gone down? Ain’t no thuggin’ going on in the rain,” Webb says to the crowd during his first ever headline performance. “Ain’t no thuggin going on when it’s wet! You’ll see a gangster look at the window and say ‘hey, we’re gonna have to get that fool Ricky on Monday!’”
The small crowd laughs wildly during his 2010 performance at The Purple Onion comedy club, one of his first in his three year career. Since then, the demand for the local funny man has grown rapidly, surely no thanks to his dedication and work ethic, coming only after he finishes his day job in the cubicle laden trenches of a Safeway corporate office.
“I started (comedy) in the summer of 2009, I went out and hit open mic’s whenever I could,” Webb said. “I was doing a good three to four shows a week.”
After some heavy nagging by his girlfriend at the time and some suggestions from friends, Webb took at trip to a small comedy school in San Francisco. Immediately, he felt pulled into the scene, a natural impulse luring him to sign up.
“At my work, they would have a Halloween costume contest,” he said. “Every year I was winning. The first year I was Flavor Flav, the next year I was Serena Williams, then I was an old security guard and the Beyonce from ‘All the single ladies.’ I had a wrestling outfit with heels. After winning every time, people would tell me that I should try doing comedy, and I would just blow it off. My girlfriend found a free session at the San Francisco Comedy College and I was there, I decided I’d do this.”
Webb excelled, breaking past his fear of public speaking and being booed, branching out to other venues. During a 2012 comedy competition, Webb placed second out of 80 contestants. The competition took place at Bunjo’s comedy club in Pleasanton, Ca.
One friend and fan of the young comedian, Sean Kenney, says that he gets a stronger reaction than most comics, even at the bigger clubs.
“Tramane gets the crowd going,” Kenney said. “His jokes are really in his personal character, you see his personality up there. He has a really good pace. Even at Tommy T’s or The Purple Onion, he gets more laughs than anyone else it seems like.”
Webb credits Chris Rock as being his favorite comedian and for providing some inspiration.
“He can do it all man,” Webb said. “He can be street one minute, switch to an intellectual comedian, talking about politics and stuff, then without hesitation he’ll Segway into a big booty joke.”
According to Kenney, this seems to comes out on stage.
“One of my favorite jokes is where he talks about cats like gold-diggers. ‘They see you on the street and don’t even say hi. Better make sure the old lady down the street ain’t putting out fancy feast, because the cat is gone,’” Kenney laughs as he paraphrases.
While Webb has created strong demand locally, he thinks he still has some years to go before the opportunity to hit the national stage.
“I will continue to work on my stuff until I get there,” Webb said. “I’ll continue to do what I’m doing and get better until I decide to quit.”