The last time I saw The Comedians of Comedy tour, I decided to stand in the front and I don't know why. Perhaps I wanted Patton Oswalt to look in my general direction, as if that would've meant anything at all.
This time, I stood in the back and took it all in. Before the show there was a just a mic on stage, hinting at the mayhem that was soon to come. And when Patton finally came out to start the show, it was a great image with the lighting to see just one person on stage with a microphone where there are usually gyrating, swollen, should've-broken-up-years-ago (I hold this opinion for most) bands at the TLA. So glorious it almost brought a tear to my eye.
The crowds at these shows can be a little depressing because a lot of the people look like me and I'm sick of looking at myself. By this I mean soft white guys with beards and black-rimmed glasses. But hey, I can't help that I've needed glasses since the third grade and that the ladies love my beard. Luckily the lights aren't too bright.
Patton opened the night by asking if there were any local comics that would want to come on stage and mess around. Immediately a hand in the very front shoots up and Patton immediately picks him. Why, I think it was a setup, because it was radio-star and former President of Wawa Records "Philly Boy" Roy Zeigler! PBR talked to Patton about all things Philly and didn't get much of a reaction out of the crowd. There are probably a few reasons for this, one being that PBR was on his home court for once instead of fat, diseased wild orangutan Tom Scharpling's radio show, so there was no tension. Second, PBR thrives on the medium of radio and the concentration that you have to put on just a voice, so his personality doesn't quite work on a stage in front of people. And lastly, PBR was preaching to the choir- everyone here knows how awesome TastyKakes, The Hooters and Wawa hoagies are. A little disappointing, but still interesting to see him go through the the usual bit with someone that wasn't the aforementioned Tom Scharpling.
The night was a solid showing of debauchery and nerdiness that one can expect from this tour. When purchasing your ticket, you know you are set for a night of cynicism, odd animals references and strange quirks wrapped in a delicious, hilarious bun. Patton's opening set was all new material, which is pretty amazing considering he's got two albums now, one of which was recently released. It was all new to my ears, but none of it failed and it didn't seem like he was testing out any of it, which again, was amazing. His subpar jokes are better than most comedians best jokes by this point. Eugene Mirman was great as well doing all new material even though he too has had two albums released. Ridiculous. Brian Posehn was solid as well, and managed to get in new metal jokes (this one being about yelling "Slayer!" at an unique time). But it was Maria Bamford that really stole the night.
I've always like Maria and her first album is a good mix of the characters in her head (don't have the second one, will have to get it now), but now she's taking it to a whole new galaxy. While she's always been adept at doing voices, her bit where she sums up the different cultures of the world with her fingers in such a rapid-fire delivery was the highlight of the night. A few of her jokes faltered ("that one was more sad than funny") and were obviously things she was experimenting with, but she quickly roped it all in. She could do no wrong in my book.
There was no Zach Galifianakis crowd-surfing in his underwear this time, but it was a great show
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Another ace interview from Jesse Thorn at The Sound of Young America recently- this one with comedians and identical twins The Sklar Brothers. Twin comedians that perform together sounds cheesy, but it actually works. Their timing, probably perfected through decades of being around each other a lot, is really tight. This makes it easy to go from one idea to next and gives them the freedom, "to illustrate the point we are trying to make...we'll break into a sketch".
They start out with how they first got into comedy and their story seems to be a typical one for successful comedians: from a young age they always loved seeing comedy on TV and they knew that was what they wanted to do. They mention Rodney Dangerfield's Young Comedian Special, which got me thinking...
When my dad bought a DVD/VHS recorder a few years ago, I pillaged his closet of VHS tapes and discovered that he was a big fan of standup. I never knew this, and watching the tapes was a revelation. A lot of it was HBO specials and the tapes would include incredibly awesome 80s graphics promos for boxing and the like. He had Richard Pryor's "Live on Sunset Strip" and at the time I couldn't find this anywhere else.
Another of the tapes had "Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special" and I converted this one to DVD as well. I was going to put some clips of the show up on Youtube, but it turns out someone beat me to it.
Here's the opening in which each comedian introduces themselves as they walk through the front door, delivering as bland a one-liner as the next. This segues perfectly into a creepy "sketch" by Dangerfield and the show begins.
It's worth mentioning that this was the 80s and it seems that ANYTHING was getting a laugh then. Most of those opening lines are incredibly generic, but they all get laughs. Sam Kinison (yes, a great comic) probably didn't need to speak any English, just yell. True, it's TV and the audience was probably told to laugh, or maybe they didn't even laugh and the track was just added in later...ok, so it's possible that the audience didn't even see these clips and it was totally fabricated, which is even worse because that means the producers thought that this would work.
And then this guy goes up:
Bob Nelson. By the way, this clip was posted on Youtube a second time under the title "Funniest standup act EVER!" and it's been viewed over 78,000 times.
Most of the night is a snore, but it's fun to watch Rodney's introductions bomb. I'm not sure if the comedians themselves wrote the introductions as Bill Hicks had to when he was a part of the special, as recounted in his biography American Scream:
The line he and Farneti had settled on was, "I'd like to say this next guy is ahead of his time, but his parents haven't met yet." Not John's favorite, but Bill liked it. The first night of taping, he tried it out on Dangerfield.
"Not funny enough," Dangerfield said.
"No, that's funny," Bill replied. "Try it."
If Rodney was startled by at a no-name twenty-six-year-old challenging him, he went ahead and tried Bill's line on the first audience. Surprisingly, it got a good laugh. The next day, before the second taping, Bill walked by Rodney's dressing room. "Hey Bill," Dangerfield called. "That line, it's really funny. What the fuck do I know?"
Overall it's fun time and very cool of Rodney to help out the young folks. You don't see it often anymore, which makes the Comedians of Comedy tour great because now they're bringing up lesser-known acts that they like. Maybe more on that
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Remember how Jonah Ray was saying comedians playing with bands was not a good idea? Well, he's got proof as he talks about opening for the Philly band Man Man at Webster's Hall in New York City. Again, sorry for the shaky video.
Monday, October 22, 2007
This week's edition of the Never Not Funny podcast (Two Two Oh) wasn't like most shows where Jimmy Pardo and guests talked for about an hour. No, it was a live recording of a recent performance of Pardo's show Running Your Trap at the UCB Theatre in L.A. where Pardo and guests talked for about an hour!
For folks like me that don't live and haven't made it out to L.A. yet, this was a special treat. The format was similar to the podcast as it was improvised for the most part and made up of on-the-fly conversation. After banter with friend Pat Francis, Jimmy introduced the guests Andy Kindler (hilarious), Jimmy Dore and Andrew Koenig (sorta, not really). Pardo's sensibility may not be perfectly suited for a TV show or film where you deliver a written line, but he would be perfect as a talk show host. Which makes me think, why doesn't he have a talk show by now? Perfect guy to replace Conan in 2009, but it's TV so they'll screw it up and give it to someone like Jimmy Fallon.
BONUS: This video will help you make sense of the running gag of introducing Andrew Koenig in the show and read here about the no-pants addition of RYT from July.
Something about this night was off. I decided to interview L.A.-based Jonah Ray in the ATM lobby of a Citizens Bank near The Khyber where there's a lot of red light and echo. Certainly not the best place to film someone. Then, only about ten people showed up for the show, which is pretty much a downer. Not to mention very depressing. A lot of beer was consumed (sorry for the shaky camera), but everyone made it through their sets alive. Along with the guys on the tour- Sean O'Connor, Nick Maritato and Andrew Wright- there were some local comics with potential. Overall it was a night of some good, young comedy talent there from L.A., Philadelphia, New Jersey and Brooklyn, even if no one was there.
More from Jonah Ray later in the week!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Hmm, so what else is in the news today? Oh yes, Comic Vs. Audience has a legit domain name!
From now on you can type in http://www.comicvsaudience.com to access this site. Or feel free to bookmark it or subscribe to the feed as that would make it so much easier. And don't forget to tell your friends!
Sorry there haven't been much in the way of real updates this week, long hours at work + AL baseball playoffs = not a lot of free time. But, there will be TONS of great stuff coming out, starting next week.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
As you'll remember, gentle, faithful reader, Jimmy Pardo was performing a few weekends ago at the Helium Comedy Club. I managed to check out his last set and boy was he great. Then just this past Sunday evening as I was listening to the latest episode of his podcast Never Not Funny in preparation for the next five days of the work week (a new tradition), I was excited to hear him talk about our ole' faithful comedy club:
Jimmy Pardo: I was in Philly last week by the way, that is so exciting to be in the city...
Sklar Brothers (being that's it audio only, couldn't tell which one was talking): Were you at the club?
JP: Helium, yeah. Great club.
SB: Great club. Beautiful club.
JP: Top five favorite clubs.
SB: Beautiful club and Mark Grossman the guy that runs it and owns it, he is such a good guy.
JP: He's a Jew and I do not care for that.
SB: That's alright. That's fine.
JP: Oh you guys get past that?
SB: Yeah, we're fine with that. We love your hatred of Jews. We support it.
JP: I love the club.
Ok, so maybe I shouldn't have included all of that, but please know that Jimmy was just kidding! It's all a joke, gentle reader. I'm pretty sure he doesn't hate Jews. Of course I don't know him very well (or...at all), but I'm pretty sure he isn't anti-semitic. It's got me thinking though, I wonder who Hitler's favorite comedian was? Some websites say it was Charlie Chaplin, but I guess everyone was saying that in the 30s and 40s. Chaplin was pretty much The Man then. But still, Hitler obviously wasn't a huge comedy fan, he picked the most obvious guy after all. He very rarely went down to Der Komödie Ort looking for new talent. I guess it was for the best.
Anyways, after the very brief conversation about Helium, the guys talked about the PLO, the Pepsi Cola Co.'s support of the PLO (may or may not be true, have to google that later) and Phil Collins. Standard bouncing around for a show in which you wish they would go down one thread, but instead they start talking about something totally different. It's always great though, who would've thought that listening to 3-4 guys gab for over an hour would be compelling? I find it hard to make myself interesting for more than three minutes tops, but that's just me.
BONUS READ: A new album, a new live DVD, a hit movie, and now a show on HBO, Patton Oswalt is on fire this year!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Comedy shows at The Khyber are always fun, whether it's Neil Hamburger or Doug Stanhope getting mercilessly heckled, the rowdy drinking crowds of Secret Pants or the various comedic stylings of Die Actor Die!. Tuesday night L.A.-based comic Jonah Ray will be in town with Sean O'Connor, Nick Maritato, Andrew Wright, Chris McDevitt, and Cracked Out. Ray's got a 7" (yes, a seven inch! As in, seven inches of vinyl!) of his standup on A Special Thing Records which is pretty great and includes an amazing story about Courtney Love.
Monday, October 8, 2007
If anything, Doug Stanhope knows his audience. At his latest stop in Philadelphia this Saturday, the North Star Bar was packed with meatheads, burnt-out weirdos and other degenerates (hey, I'm included in that). Dirty, dark rock venues like that one are perfect for Stanhope's style of dirty, dark rants.
Probably the most notable Comic With Big Ideas since Bill Hicks (I'm not saying he's the next Bill Hicks, but there is a similarity there), Stanhope doesn't hold anything back. He really runs the gamut of issues and you won't hear views like his on health care, gun control and suicide many other places.
Stanhope's material can be described as straight-up rants: they start out slow, but as they gather steam they become more and more vicious and hilarious. Like any great comedian, what seems like easy conversation and on-the-fly observations is carefully honed material. He looks like he's just blurting out what the ugly voices in his head are screaming, but for the most part it's all planned out. He just put out an hour of material on Showtime in August, so he warned the crowd that he'd try not to do too much of that material, but that the new stuff may suck. Since I haven't seen the Showtime special yet (I bought it on DVD after the show), I didn't know which was which and it all worked to me.
Like his good friend Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope is well-known for the lame TV shows he's been on, but his first love seems to be in front of a mic all alone up on stage. While he can be angry and vicious, it's never directed at the audience. His main theme is that we're all getting screwed, but in the end it doesn't matter, so you might as well knock back a few beers and/or drugs. Not really a view on life that see from a lot of other comics that are just looking for a chuckle. It's sort of a "we're all in this together" in a twisted kind of way. He's proud and dedicated to his "Angry, Flesh-Eating Villians" and they are to him.
BONUS READ: Here's an article about the intense competition between Dane Cook and Doug Stanhope at the San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1995. Don't want to give it away, but the Good Guys win this one.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Thursdays are Video Thursday!
This week's clip is the funniest thing I've ever seen on Youtube, so it's all going downhill from here. Hmm, maybe I won't be doing this in the future after all.
You know when you're trying to talk to someone and they keep interrupting you trying to be funny? And you get so annoyed that they notice and keep doing it? Now imagine that person is high on cocaine. And that they are the greatest comedian of all-time.
Such was Richard Pryor in the 80s. He was getting paid millions of dollars for movies he knew were dumb and he didn't care. He felt invincible, but then he set himself on fire and almost died. That tends to be a buzzkill. My favorite part may be when the interviewer trashes Steve Martin to get on his good side and Pryor calls him out on it. Then he calls Martin "The Great White Hope". Amazing!
Posted by d at 7:33 PM
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we may have watched television history. Finally the premiere of Cavemen has come. The journey from ridiculously stupid idea half-heartedly pitched in a development meeting that didn't need to happen has made it to the small screen. There have been barriers in the way and the script has had to be reworked. But now, it is finally here:
"Her Embarrassed of Caveman": Three Neanderthal pals struggle to fit into their modern suburban community. First up: Joel tries to keep his Homo-sapien girlfriend a secret.
The Best Show on WFMU covered the event live on the radio airwaves (nevermind, he said a few weeks ago that he was going to but he wasn't on-air tonight), but I thought I'd take my own notes to make sense of it all.
8:00 - Great opening. Quick banter between the boys at a party. We immediately know that each will be pegged into a different stereotypes that are to sure to always keep them clashing, with hilarious results! It wouldn't be so tough if they weren't roommates! Oh no!
8:02 - "Stick to our kind. Crave the Cave" - what can I say about that?
8:04 - Text messages, Ikea, R.Kelly references, Wikipedia, "flat ass", Wii, James Blunt - it's so ironic that these cavemen are so modern!
8:08 - This show was horribly shot. Dull color, almost out of focus. I don't have a HDTV, is it supposed to look like this? Was this show filmed on VHS? Is the DP a Caveman himself? Before the first commercial break we get a slice of the main theme of the show: the disconnect between homo-sapiens and the Cavemen. My girlfriend says it's already too preachy.
8:15 - The girlfriend of the one Caveman is a "sape". Yes, that's short for a homo-sapien. We just hit the second commercial break. Is it possible to cancel a show halfway through? Maybe just show some extra Ugly Betty promos until 8:30?
8:17 - There was a just a commercial for a car insurance company that wasn't Geico. This show is so bad that Geico wants to distance itself.
8:18 - "Keep your penis in your genus". I can't wait to see that on a t-shirt.
8:26 - THE CONFRONTATION! And, now it's over. Not really a payoff there. Kind of ended with a whimper. What can possibly happen next week? How have they not exhausted everything in that one episode?
And now Carpoolers, a show created by Bruce McCullough of Kids In The Hall. What were you thinking, man?
I'm not going to talk about this show as well, but can we stop the whole men awkwardly singing loudly in a car cliche? It's really, really old. ABC, you really honestly suck at comedy. You are not edgy and you are not irreverent. You're behind NBC, Fox and the C-SPAN as far as laughs go. They call this hour "The Man Date". Just give up.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Turns out I wasn't watching Lebron James on SNL and I was actually outside doing something! Yessss! I was finally seeing Jimmy Pardo at Helium doing his last set of the four night stay.
The scene was full of all of the comedy club cliches: people on dates, suburbanites in the city to experience the nightlife, and yes, even a bachelorette party. It didn't seem that many people knew who Pardo was, but merely that they had decided to see just any comedian that night.
As the crowd was filing in, Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford or someone of the Comedians of Comedy ilk would dread going out to do their set. And to a point they are right, sometimes a crowd isn't open to something new that they didn't expect. They usually want dick jokes and they want them often.
But if you look at it from the other side, it's a challenge. It's a challenge to give people something that they didn't expect and to give them a good time. And Jimmy Pardo can be pretty good at doing that. The crowd loved everything he did, even when he started out by saying what a "shit gig" this was for him. How can someone dig a hole like that and so quickly get out of it? Everyone was just eating him up.
The first thing you notice is how fearless he is on the stage. He's a ball of energy with strong opening right out of the gate, and so quick asking the questions. No hesitation and always dead-on. I didn't bring my stopwatch (who would bring a stopwatch to a comedy club, I'm not even that nerdy although I'm thinking about it now) but it seemed like at some points he was getting 3-4 good laughs a minute.
He's also a master of using his whole body for the comedic effect and at one point he delivered a punchline while inspecting a pole to the side of the stage with his hand. It's kind of hard to explain, but it made for a doubly funny joke for me at least.
How about local humor? He talked about how one of the highways, 95 or 76, he couldn't remember (it's 76), merged from four lanes to one and then said "Benjamin Franklin loved fucking one-way streets" - wait, no, not actually fucking them, although he did have syphilis, maybe that's how he got it. There was also some new material about his newborn son that the ultrasound made out to be a girl (true story), the hotel towel bit and a hilarious extended version of his Subway story that included him pretending to scratch a record until he hurt his wrist because he was so white. That's about it.
I realized that the rest of his set, which consisted of him talking to the audience, was planned material even though it doesn't seem like it. He's got some responses for what the audience gives him, but he also had to be ready for everything.
Because Pardo's act is so participatory, it can be difficult afterwards to absorb regular sets that are nothing more than the comedian saying something funny, the crowd laughing and repeat. I got home at 1 AM, just in time to catch the beginning of Comedy Central's Secret Stash presentation of the new Comedians of Comedy standup show filmed in L.A. It's really great production-wise and full of great comics, but I couldn't stay awake past Doug Benson.