Funny 40 years ago, funny today

Monday November 14, 2005

I went to a comedy club for the first time this weekend. Gary and I had to go to Washington DC for some Pharaoh-related activity, and Nancy came because the trip was not just about the studio, but also to celebrate the 30th birthday of our friend Angela. It was a fairly big group (maybe 15 people), and we first went to a schticky Italian place where I tastest the blandest beer ever made, called Moretti. It's like Coors Light, only not so bold. Ick. The food was not very good, either, although it also wasn't terrible, and the profiterol was tasty and not too sweet.

After dinner, we went to a comedy club called Wiseacres, which is situated on the first floor of a Best Western. It wasn't a very big room, but it was surprisingly full, and while I expected the worst, I tried to keep an open mind. I've watched standups on television and marvelled that anyone was lauging at their "jokes," but I was told by various veteran comedy club goers that when you're actually in the audience, you laugh at things you wouldn't ordinarily laugh at. This is not true, however, as I learned when the emcee did his brief introductory set. I don't remember his name, but this guy's stage persona could best be described as "ironic flamer" - thriftstore jacket, floppy hair, lispy voice, the whole deal. His stage guise was a sad and unfunny collection of stereotypes that felt like a last-ditch insurance policy for his routine, which might generously be described as the opposite of funny. He was so bad that I was embarassed for him, and I might have even felt bad for him if it weren't for his inept, sassy attempts at heckler rebuff (which he employed fairly mysteriously, as the very polite crowd never heckled him!) At one point, he started a bit with, "So, did anyone watch the last season of Big Brother?" Silence ensued. It was actually a little scary, this solidarity of the audience in mute opposition to the very idea of bad reality TV. But no silence is enough to deter our comically homosexual emcee, who soldiered on with a series of jokes that surely wouldn't have been funny, even if any of us had watched Big Brother.

His act went on for about ten long minutes before he introduced the first booked comic of the night, Brian Fischler, or "The Blind Comedian" as he would be known. But see, he's not totally blind, just legally blind. Funny, no? No. His jokes were, on the whole, no funnier than the emcee's, but his performance was at least earnest, and in the end, I was able to feel bad for him. While this may not be the reaction he was looking for, I can now say for a fact that a comic can do worse!

I was despairing for the state of travelling comedy by this point, and I wasn't even able to drown my sorrows in drink. The waitstaff was shockingly inefficient, such that during the whole show I was only able to procure two drinks, neither of which ranked as "stiff." Thankfully, the next comedian, Larry XL, was pretty funny. His routine was mainly filled out with "white people are funny because..." "black people are funny because..." humor, which is admittedly a little tired, but his jokes were funny and he even mentioned Slayer, which made me happy. Many times he had me laughing out loud, and since I wasn't drunk, I have to assume it's because his jokes were actually hilarious. Larry XL saved the day!

The headlining comic was Melanie Maloy, who is much more attractive in person than her publicity shot would suggest. Her stage character was odd, something like stoner-chick-with-ADD. A lot of her jokes were based on, and often at the expense of, the people in the front. I appreciate that she's able to think on her feet like that and make good jokes, but I'm also quite glad I wasn't up front. Nancy liked her more than she liked Larry XL, and I thought she was pretty good, but there was something very offputting about her very put-on schtick, and I found myself wishing she would rely on the strength of her material instead of coasting by on a zany persona.

By the time the weekend was over, I was glad I didn't get shitfaced on Saturday night, as I had a day of heartbreaking tragedy to endure on Sunday, when the audio drive of Matt's new ProTools machine crashed, sacrificing two solos and two nearly final mixes to the data gods. I think that would have been a lot harder to deal with if I had been nursing a hangover.

Sunday night, as a capper to a mostly fun but partly tragic weekend, Nancy, Gary, and I hit the Recher Theatre in Towson, MD for the Darkane, Strapping Young Lad, Soilwork, and Fear Factory show. The Recher is a nice venue, as it turns out, with a nice high stage and good sound. It holds 700 people, according to the website, and the crowd was pretty big, if also incredibly lame. I haven't been among so many mooks, meatheads, oafs, and posers since Ozzfest. There was some asswipe behind us in line that spent pretty much all of his waiting time punching and insulting his retarded brother. Nice. I saw a guy in an Orphaned Land shirt, but other than that, it was all Slipknot, System of a Down, and Ozzfest shirts. I felt like I had stumbled into a regional sales meeting for Hot Topic.

We only stayed long enough to see Darkane, as we'd all seen the other bands more times than anyone needs, and they're all WAY past their prime at this point. Darkane, though, are still good (with a terrific new disc) and have never toured the US before, so it was essential that I see them. Yes, we paid $20 for 30 minutes of music, but it was totally worth it. The sound was astonishing - all of the instruments were clear and defined. If you go to many shows, you'll understand just how extraordinary this was. They played one song from Rusted Angel, two songs from Expanding Senses, and about four songs from the new one, Layers of Lies. I would have liked to hear something from Insanity, but with only 30 minutes, they didn't have room for many songs, and everything they played was great, except for the subpar "Innocence Gone," from the disappointing Expanding Senses. The crowd in front of us gave them a great reception, so hopefully they'll make it back to the US sometime in the future.

It was incredibly satisfying to leave a show without extreme foot pain or terminal boredom, especially last night, as I was coming down with a cold and Gary has been nursing one for a week or more. We got home by 10:00, but I still stayed up long enough to see Squidbillies at 12:00. I don't care what anyone says, this is a funny show. If only it was on earlier! I feel like an old man now.

Posted by Matt at November 14, 2005 02:41 PM


Have you considered nurturing a live comedy addiction similar to your live music addiction? You could maintain a mental catalog of arcane facts about obscure comedians, travel long distances and wait in long lines to see their shows, possibly interview them from time to time, maybe put out a 'zine.

Posted by: Evan at November 14, 2005 04:00 PM

I should! I can collect bootleg recordings of obscure comedians. I thought about this at the show - both Larry XL and Melanie Maloy had either CDs or DVDs for sale, and it struck me as very similar to the situation of an underground band. But I didn't buy their shit, and now it's too late. I guess I'll stick with music.

Posted by: Matt Johnsen at November 14, 2005 04:03 PM

Ah, Tysons Corner nightlife...when I first moved to DC a friend and I would try to pick up internet millionaires at eCity.

Recher Theatre is a nice little place (although in photos it really does look like an elementary school). Good sound and half of the floor is carpeted (which sort-of makes up for complete lack of seating). Of course the drive from DC is hellacious, so I've only ventured there for two of my 'musical imperatives' (The Haunted and 3 Inches of Blood).

Posted by: Sarah at November 15, 2005 05:52 PM

Here ya go..

he's sellin' cd's off of the site

Posted by: Scott Stewart at November 17, 2005 04:38 PM

Oh for the luvva Mike, don't go down the obsessive comedy fan path! I'm sure someone's already doing it, and you're sooo good at the obsessive metal fan thing anyway...

Posted by: Damon at November 23, 2005 09:39 AM

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