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Friday, September 25, 2009

Comedy Death-Ray at the Vogue

The L.A.-based Comedy Death-Ray show has been a staple of the Vancouver festival, making the trek north four years in a row. Scott Aukerman and BJ Porter bring together the best of the indie crowd for a marathon comedy showcase. Last night was no exception as they entertained most of the audience for a full three hours. I say "most" because some people are just jerks, yelling out, interrupting, yawning audibly at the first sign of something they don't like. Attention future comedy audience members: You're never going to like everything at a comedy show. Just sit tight and something or somebody you do like will be on soon. Don't spoil it for everyone else. Porter said at the end of the show that this would be their last trip to Vancouver. I'm hoping he's kidding, but Donny Osmond was right when he said one bad apple can spoil the whole lot, girl.

Apart from that, the show was almost perfect. I'm a sucker for the comedy team and have been asking for more for years. Aukerman & Porter, aka The Fun Bunch, really are fun guys and good hosts. They're loose, not as scripted as traditional comedy teams and that's to be expected for such an event. One of their skits saw Aukerman as a magician and Porter as his helper. Porter grabbed an unsuspecting guy from the second row (Rory Scovel, who played his part with understated perfection to the point where everyone around me figured he really was a guy named Scott who worked in a bookstore). The bit went on and on and I loved it. I think most of the crowd did, too, but some got impatient as the magician and his helper got fed up with each other.

I think such a bit helps weed out those who don't get it. The performer should relish the fact that not everyone gets it, so long as most of us do. But I can also see how the few impatient jerks might act like a gut-punch to your ego. So here's what you do, impatient jerks: If you don't like something, quickly and quietly get up and leave. Get a drink. Go to the bathroom. Just leave. Come back when whatever you don't like is over. You're not speaking for the rest of us.

That's exactly what I did when Brent Weinbach came on in the second half. I saw Brent a few years ago and liked him. Then when he came back last year, I couldn't stand his act. You've always got to give someone a fair chance, so I sat and watched his comedic performance art this time. I didn't like his almost verbatum recitation of a YouTube clip of a hispanic guy telling women to shave their hoo-haws, but at least it was new. Then he started in with some of the same bits he did last year. Unlike some comics who, when doing old bits, always tell it in a refreshing manner, Weinbach has got his act down pat. Nothing changes. So when he got into his excruciating Russian alphabet bit, I got up and left. I knew it was a long bit, so I went and got a slice of pizza... Okay, two slices. By the time I got back, Todd Barry – one of my all-time favourites – was on stage. Damn you Weinbach for making miss the first four minutes of Todd Barry! The point is, I didn't shout out or heckle or yawn. I didn't like the act, so I removed myself.

I was thinking about my harsh thoughts about Weinbach and felt bad should he ever come across them. Maybe they'd sting, like a heckler's taunts. I hope not. I have nothing against Weinbach at all and would love to talk to him. Nobody's act is for everybody. As long as some people like you, that's all that matters. I'm just one guy with an opinion, like anyone else. Yeah, occasionally I write about them in the paper, but I try to be fair and try to convey that it's just my opinion.

Not to harp on the negative, but Maria Bamford, as much as I like her personally, is kind of hit and miss with me, too. For me, she's the kind of act that if you've seen her once, you've seen her enough. Because once is fantastic. She does great voices, great characterizations, is naturally funny and weird in a wonderful way. But for me it doesn't translate to repeated viewings. For others, they think she's the best thing since... something else that's really great.

Okay, enough with the digs. Everyone else was great. Phil Hanley represented the 604 (and 778, I guess) well... Andy Kindler was on fire with his unique brand of meta-comedy ("Is there a chance I won't comment on what I just said?" The answer, of course, is no). Loved his chops on Jay Leno, too, a favourite target of his: "I was worried. Would he be as edgy at 10 o'clock? Would they let Jay be Jay?"... Reggie Watts closed the first half with flair, as usual. The guy really is amazing. (See my profile on him here.)... Todd Barry was killing when one yahoo gave him a big yawn. Todd asked, "Are you bored?" Maybe he shouldn't have asked because the boor replied in the affirmative and things went south in a hurry... And another all-time favourite Paul F. Tompkins closed out the evening with two stories both about being fired from video stores. That guy could, as they say, read the phone book and it would be funny. There's not a funnier comic working today.

All in all a great show. I headed down to the Media Club and caught the quirky and cute Garfunkel & Oates sing some really funny original songs accompanying themselves on ukulele, guitar and kazoos. They even did a rap. Then Reggie Watts brought the house down with some explosive and explosively funny... uh, whatever it is he does. I mentioned to someone on my way down that I envy those that will see him for the first time without knowing anything about him, because he will blow their minds. Sure enough, after the show I overheard many who were simply in awe. If you haven't seen him yet, there are still a few more chances.

Tonight I don't know what I'll see. I hate the schedule. Shows are layered over one another so you have to pick and choose. It gets really crazy tomorrow with two galas (Edge of the Fest at the Vogue and Best of the Fest at the Centre) both at 8 pm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember some awkward audience moments when I was catching shows at Zawa's on Commercial Drive a few months back. Sorry to hear that sort of thing extends to other venues as well from time to time. Maybe it's a matter of needing more groovy audience members as much as less lamers? I can at least help out with that, better to light a candle than curse the darkness and so forth :)