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Monday, September 28, 2009

All the news that wasn't fit to print

How do you review a festival? That's always been a challenge, given how much space miserly editors are willing to give out. There are so many shows, so many comics, and I can only get to a handful of them in the paper. So let's see what else I can remember about the week. I'll walk you through my itinerary:

Wednesday, Yuk Yuk's: An evening of sketch comics doing stand-up. Andy Dick was scheduled to appear, but we all know now he couldn't get across the border. Or out of the airport, actually. Just as well, the night was long enough. The San Francisco sketch troupe Comedy Noir did the first portion, while Halifax's Picnicface did the second.

Howard Stone emceed the American half. According to his bio, I see he played a junkie on an episode of Cagney & Lacey. Nuff said. Only two of the nine performers were any good: Kevin Avery and Drennon Davis. Some of the others were okay; some were amateur hour.

Hey, look at that. A search of Drennon Davis shows he was on Last Comic Standing, making it through a round. No embedding permitted on the video, but here's the link:

Here's a clip of Avery:

Next up was Picnicface's turn, who fared much better overall. My two favourites were Evany Rosen, who had a naturally funny charm, and Cheryl Hann, who, with her tattoos and Casio 100 Sound Tone Bank, had the most star power of the whole night.

Here's a sketch clip featuring Rosen:

Friday, The Cultch: I wrote about the Hitler roast in the Straight. I loved it. It was sick and dark without being offensive (although I'm sure it is to some po-faced stick-in-the-muds). So many good lines. Here's a clip of Caitlin Gill as Anne Frank:

The late show on Friday at Yuks was a typical late Friday show. At least the crowd was. Loud oblivious idiots and rude jerks almost ruined the night. Hosts BJ Porter and Scott Aukerman were greeted with a kindly, "You suck!" But when you could hear the show, it was pretty damn good. I liked Ben Kronberg, who I hadn't seen before. Really low-key, which seems to be in vogue these days. He read from his notebook and had some great stupid jokes, like "Knock-knock... (Who's there?)... Chain letter... (Chain letter who?)... Tell this joke to 10 people or your mom will die." Here's a clip of Ben on Jimmy Kimmel:

Maria Bamford did the same-old same-old. Rory Scovel got big laughs from the comics at the back of the room, while the drunken dolts didn't get his effeminate southern character. With the crowd getting louder, I thought there's no way the soft-spoken Todd Barry set would go well, but it did. The guy knows how to handle a crowd. I know it happens with every set, but why must the wait staff be so loud when handing out the bills? Couldn't they wait until the show was over?

Paul F. Tompkins closed the set and was his usual hilarious self, only this time he did twelve minutes of off-the-cuff material. He wasn't going to waste his gold on this crowd. But the thing with Tompkins, anything he touches (verbally) is gold. He seemed to be enjoying himself, if perversely given that he hated the crowd: "I can't wait to see what I'm going to say next." One loud group was thrown out during his set. Unfortunately for them, they happened to be huge fans of Tompkins. When they informed Paul F. they were in the process of getting turfed, Tompkins said, "What for? Is it for never stopping talking ever?"

Porter closed the evening with, "You are exactly the kind of audience I expect from a basement club in a place called Yuk Yuk's."

I loved the conference room shows at the Westin Grand, even though the venue wasn't ideal. I had a look at the smaller new room attached to the Cultch, and they would have been perfect there. What a great space. I didn't catch any shows there, but I can tell.

Andy Kindler's Talk Show was hilarious. Even more so because he tries so hard for the 14 people in attendance (or whatever the number was). Guests on Friday included Tom Arnold, Todd Barry and a bitter character most likely modelled on Andrew Dice Clay played by James Adomian. Andy's sidekick, Josh Fadem, was mostly annoying but occasionally funny.

On Saturday, Kindler welcomed Tig Notaro, Brent Weinbach and Garfunkel & Oates. Weinbach, whose standup I'm not a fan of, was himself and not bad. I'd love to see that guy (i.e. himself) on stage rather than the stiff, ultra-serious persona. Loved Garfunkel & Oates every time I saw them, by the way. Here's an irresistable clip:

I don't listen to Jimmy Pardo's podcast because, well, who wants to pay for such things? But he's a favourite of mine and when I found out he was recording an episode in the conference room, I was stoked even if he wasn't. He was as great as ever, and made great hay at the fact he flew all this way to perform in front of 48 people in a conference room. His good friend Pat Francis was the "third chair" and I loved their antagonistic relationship. Francis was annoying in a good way (Fadem being annoying in a bad way). Here's a short clip of him being the guest on a previous episode:

Janet Varney came on as the second guest – or fourth chair, I guess – and was whip smart funny. She could definitely keep up with those guys.

Francis was back for the Pardo game show, You Fascinate Me, and the two of them were great again. The show is a variation on the old Groucho Marx game show, You Bet Your Life. Sure, there's a game element, but the real fun is Pardo's interaction with the guests.

The Jesus roast was nowhere near as good as the Hitler one, although there were some funny lines. The roasters were the Virgin Mary, Bachus, Mary Magdalene, O.J. Simpson, Mother Theresa, L. Ron Hubbard, Tom Cruise, Stephon the Choirboy, Sgt. Bilko, Pontius Pilate, and Satan. Hosted by the worst Jackie Mason impression I've ever heard. He's got to be the easiest guy in the world to do, and Howard Stone (who played Hitler the night before) couldn't sustain it beyond a sentence. L. Ron Hubbard was probably the best. He opposes gay marriage: "I believe a marriage should be a union between a woman and a closeted gay movie star." Then this: "Your disciples got book deals. Who reads? Mine are box office gold! In your face, faggot!" And: "You wrote only one book. I wrote 3000 and they were all best sellers. I didn't have to leave mine lying aronud a fucking Motel 6."

I particularly didn't like the recontextualizations. The Virgin Mary was an modern-day old Jewish lady, Bachus, the god of wine, was a recovering alcoholic, and Pilate was a modern-day Hollywood a-hole. Although, again, some funny lines. Near the end of her segment, the Virgin Mary looked up and said, "I just saw a light. That either means I should get off the stage or you're gonna get that sister you always wanted."

When Jesus finally got to speak, he said, "I came back for this?" My thoughts exactly.

I booted it over to Yuk Yuk's for the late show and it was the most packed I'd ever seen it. Standing room only. Garfunkel and Oates were on stage with Reggie Watts beating (if that's what it's called) behind them on their rap, This Party Took a Turn for the Douche, and they were bringing the house down. Here's the song, sans Watts:

(As an aside, I took a look at Regina Spektor's song, Dance Anthem of the 80s, because Watts told me he was on it. I watched the video and couldn't see or hear him. So I checked another video, from a performance of them together in Cologne, doing the same song. It sounded exactly the same. All the music I heard that I thought was, you know, instruments, was actually Watts. Impressive.)

Oh, what the hell, since I'm adding so many clips, I may as well as include the Spektor video. What you hear that isn't her or a piano is Reggie Watts:

Todd Barry then came out and fake-trashed Watts for not being able to do a cymbal crash. He's such a confident comedian I never get tired of seeing him. Plus even if he's doing the same material, he riffs so much it's different every time, as opposed to a Weinbach or Bamford, for example, who are exactly the same night-in and night-out.

James Adomian was next. Never seen him do stand-up before. He's a sketch guy, most famous for his Bush impression, which he did everywhere. His stand-up set wasn't so great, but he does good, and rare, voices: Gary Busey, Paul Giamatti and Lewis Black.

Tig Notaro is the female Todd Barry. Same energy. Same false bravado. And lots of winging it in between prepared bits, which stands up to repeat viewings.

Then Reggie Watts closed the evening, blowing everyone away, even the established old-timers in the back of the room, Glen Foster, Derek Edwards and Barry Kennedy.

And that's about it. I wrote about the David Cross and Steve Martin Q&As in the Straight, so I won't rehash.

Sometime soon, I'll write about my late-night exchange with Cross.


VancouverGossip said...

good stuff, guy! and your cross-exchanges are always interesting to me... did you catch his incredibly half-hearted headlining set at edge of the fest?

Guy MacPherson said...

Thanks, Devo. I didn't catch his set at the Edge of the Fest. I didn't go to any gala shows this year. Anyone else out there see it? You're the first review I've read.

VancouverGossip said...

i definitely have strong feelings about each performer... nearly all of them were 200% amazing, with one or two notable and GLARING exceptions. but i'll leave the critique and review to the experts -- when I do it, it just sounds like name calling.

... although I stand by what I said about david spade's set.

Anonymous said...

David Spade??? No wonder you leave it to the "experts"!

anonym said...

I saw the edge show. George S.was about as funny as he is on TV, which is to say as funny as his writers, which is to say pretty OK. Better than he was at Steve Martin.

The show was OK. One drunken idiot chick who seemed to wreck Ben Kronberg's set and eventually got the boot while David Cross closed.

I didn't like Cross. His bit about loudly shitting his shorts while walking his dog in NYC because of his comedic drug and alcohol abuse summed it up for me. Point or punchline at least please.