From 2004 to 2008 or so, SFist made a habit of hitting interesting locals with a list of 20-or-so questions, for the edification and enjoyment of our readers. Now in our tenth year, we've freshened up original interviewer SFist Emily's question list and relaunched the feature — and who better to relaunch with than San Francisco's event king, Johnny Funcheap?
It was 2003 and Johnny Hayes was unemployed, bored and broke when he came up with the idea for Funcheap, an email newsletter to share all the fun, cheap events in San Francisco he dug up. These days, he goes by "Johnny Funcheap" and it's his full-time job, with a newsletter that goes out twice a week to over 75,000 people. But even in these days of $7 toast, the focus remains the same: all the things to do in SF and the Bay Area for free, with a few "worth the splurge" picks thrown in for good measure. "These days, I get people who want $200 dollar dinners listed on the calendar," Funcheap says, but he sends those folks packing. "That's not what we're about!"
Funcheap is currently working on a new start-up for culture seekers in San Francisco called RushTix. Each week, members get invited onto the guest list for a hand-picked grouping of events so they can discover new and interesting experiences. (That's one of the reasons the more eagle-eyed among you might have noticed he didn't get to all 20 of our questions.) Check RushTix out here!
Introduce yourself in one sentence: I'm Johnny and I spend all my time digging up strange, wonderful and free things to do in San Francisco.
Home town: Culver City, California
How long have you lived in SF? I moved here in 2001 with no job and just before we knew the economy was tanking. Great timing. But it forced me to be super cheap and hunt for deals out of necessity.
Best deal in SF: Almost every month the USF community garden hosts a free vegetarian dinner. You sit with newly-made friends at communal tables and grub on food directly from the garden and neighborhood farmers’ markets. It's typically the first Thursday of the month. Can't beat free, fresh and friendly!
The best thing in/about your neighborhood is: I live in Duboce Triangle and love it. It's so very walkable. The sidewalks of Noe Street have lovely little bulb-outs, benches and hang-out nooks. Plus we've got a great "Little Free Library" near 15th Street. That is, when it isn't being stolen or set on fire. We can't have nice things.
Your favorite Bay Area restaurant is: Emmy's Spaghetti Shack in Bernal Heights. Their spaghetti and meatballs call me to them like the sirens, plus there's usually a huge portion left over to take home and then promptly forget in the fridge.
Place you always tell visitors to the Bay Area to check out: Tartine Bakery. Sure, everyone outside of SF knows sourdough and Boudin, but I want visitors to know what we love and would get in line for — a country loaf fresh out of the oven at 4:30 p.m. that's so warm, yeasty and moist you HAVE to spoil your appetite and eat some of it walking home.
You have two hours and $25 bucks to kill in SF, what are you going to do?: I'll load up on peculiar art at Frankenart Mart in the Inner Richmond on their free hot dog day. Usually every first Sunday afternoon, this quirky, tiny art space has a veggie vs. beef hot dog giveaway battle (beef usually wins). And they've always got some slightly off-kilter exhibit going on. Right now, it's an old west "Sarsaparilla Saloon" with a frontier root beer bar and cat brothel. Yeah...you read that right, a cat brothel. For $25 I could probably load up on four or five unique art pieces from the exhibit, plus have a fun afternoon crafting something like a self-portrait made out of ketchup and mustard. And then you spin the "wheel of fortune" to get either 20% off, or (heaven forbid) land on having to pay 20% extra. This totally participatory art space is like a playground for creating things — one of those places that could probably only exist in a city like San Francisco.
Favorite mode of transportation: My feet! I grew up in LA taking a car everywhere and found it very isolating. I love walking whenever I can — running into people along the way, and experiencing the city as a pedestrian.
Beer, wine, cocktails, or mocktails (please elaborate): Cocktails, without a doubt! I'm partial to cuba libres at the moment (rum, Coke and lime). I've never had a bad well rum, so it's usually dead cheap during happy hours.
Favorite Bay Area stereotype, and whether or not you buy into it: We're all bike-riding, eco-friendly coffee snobs who work at tech companies and get insanely-awesome free lunches. I don't own a bike, I don't drink coffee, but I do recycle and would love to get me some Googley-lunch action now and again. Their salted chocolate chip cookies are amaz-ing.
San Franciscans are the WORST about: Hating on LA. I love it when we San Francsicans are so very proud of where we live that it comes out of our pores. But spending time and energy disliking LA is rather unbecoming of a city as awesome as SF.
SF has the BEST: Creative people. There's something about this city that attracts people who love throwing really fun and bizarre events. I think it has to do with people feeling free here in SF to be whomever they want and to create whatever events are in their heart. So we're a city filled with people who want others to experience their art simply because it's amazing to create and share something and see other people enjoy it.
You can tell someone is a local here IF: They get excited by seeing a movie or TV show with a scene of San Francisco in it. In what other city will people cheer in a movie theater if their city appears on the screen? I love it!
I have found/sold/bought the following on Craigslist: Like, everything. Cell phones, roller blades, Giants tickets, carpool road trips, dog crates, crazy roommates who accused me of stealing her mail...you name it. And I owe Funcheap almost completely to Craigslist. My very first week doing it, I posted my listing of free events on Craigslist and got 100 people to join my email list right away. That told me that there were other people who liked free things to do.
What do you want all SFist readers out there to know about your city? If you're not going out and always trying to discover new fun things to do, then you're missing out on one of the best reasons why we pay this insanely-high cost to live in San Francisco. But too many people (including me, sometimes) are instead sitting at home with Netflix. To help keep the city's arts culture thriving, I'd love it if each month everyone in SF challenged themselves to try to find just one new event to experience.