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  • Alexandra Garfield

One Man, A Whole Hotel of Characters

Don Reed’s autobiographical one-man show will have you giggling from the first moment to the last punch line. In a brilliant mix of verbal and physical comedy, Reed tells the story of his college years at UCLA. The jobs he took and people he met come to life in his stand-up style show, especially the time he spent living and working at a retirement home known as The Kipling Hotel.

I’m a naturally giggly person, but Reed’s performance pushed me to full belly laughs over and over. This one-man show is carefully tailored so that every joke lands and every moment either makes you think or laugh—often both.


“The Kipling walked a fine line between sophisticated and extremely shitty.” – The Kipling Hotel


Reed is an excellent mimic. Over the course of an hour and a half, he embodies every type of person you might come across in 1980s Los Angles from wise elderly men to stressed out lesbians, strippers and even E.T. Each impression is laugh-out-loud funny but also feels like a real person you might see on the street.

It’s this element that sets Reed apart as a performer. The characters he portrays aren’t cheapened or used solely for laughs. Instead they are fleshed out and given real thoughts, feelings, hopes and motives. He honors the humanity of the people he impersonates, even as he exaggerates their funniest traits. Reed is a dancer, comedian, mimic, actor and storyteller and he does each thing wonderfully. Moreover, he makes his show about real people—something that comedians often forget about in the interest of the joke.

Don Reed might not be a name that’s on your radar, but it really should be. Besides being an excellent comedian and Bay Area native, Reed’s resume is impressive. He was the warm-up comedian for more than 1,000 episodes of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and has been nominated for several awards including being triple nominated by the NAACP for Best Actor and Best Playwright.

The show is kind and life affirming while still being hilarious and leaving room to poke fun at the ‘80s. It’s worth the trek to the mission district of San Francisco for the opportunity to see this impressive talent in such an intimate setting. Personally, I’m willing to pay $20 for an hour and a half of sincere laughter any day of the week. I think it’s a pretty good trade.

Don Reed is performing The Kipling Hotel at The Marsh San Francisco at 1062 Valencia Street. The show runs about 90 minutes with one intermission. The show runs for just two more weekends until January 27. Tickets run $20-$35 with reserved seats from $55-$100.

Photos courtesy of Ric Omphroy


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