Here were your final results from the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest, decided last weekend...
1. Dwight Slade ($5,000); 2. Andrew Norelli ($2,500); 3. Myq Kaplan ($1,000); 4. Dave Waite ($300); 5. Baron Vaughn ($300); 6. Joe List ($300); 7. Rob O'Reilly ($300); 8. Mario DiGiorgio ($300)
How did this happen? Well, let's examine the particulars. The Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston didn't have its usual packed audience -- my memory tells me that festival organizer Jim McCue (who hosted the finals) had a sure-fire headliner in past years with Lewis Black (whom McCue sometimes opens for on tour) to fill the seats, and without that (The Smothers Brothers were the biggest name on Saturday night), the venue didn't even open the balcony. So you've got comedians used to smaller, more intimate club stages moving up to a big theater stage, except they're playing to a half-house (essentially). So you're playing to the orchestra level and a mezzanine. How do you translate your jokes to a mezzanine? There's that to consider. Also, they put the judges in the Muppet seats (as judge/honoree Steve Sweeney remarked) above the stage and near the speakers, where the acoustics were, well, terrible.
As for the performances themselves, I'm not surprised in the slightest at the top three -- Slade, Norelli and Kaplan performed at a higher level than the other five finalists. Those three could have finished in any order and not surprised me. That's how close they were. In the end, however, Slade owned the stage in a way the others didn't, and that most likely gave him an edge on the judges' scorecards.
Joe List went up first, and though a bit dirty for the first finalist onstage, he got plenty of laughs. List seemed like one of those comics whose material really worked better in an intimate club setting where he could connect with the audience, than in a theater. Dwight Slade went up second and scrapped his prelim/semis opening bit and instead localized, talking about how scared he was of mean Bostonians -- "this has been Yankee boot camp" -- and he managed to get an applause break for his Bluetooth confusion (a routine that really reminded me a lot of Brian Regan, just in terms of something I could see Regan doing it in just this way, and that's not meant as a slight), followed by an applause break for his next premise. Applause for a premise? That's how you knew Slade was on a roll. Mario DiGiorgio went up third, and his "s-word" routine (which really owes a lot to the George Carlin tradition) earned him applause, but then he said: "I'm going to take a left turn, here, people." Not sure how many people took the turn with him. Baron Vaughn, like List, seemed a bit disconnected from the audience on the larger stage. At least on this night. As he had done in earlier rounds, Myq Kaplan opened his set with callbacks to previous performers, including a challenge to DiGiorgio over the "cleverest poop joke." Solid performance. Kaplan's view on the presidential election: "Over time, a black man will be accepted. But over time, an old man will die." McCue announced that Comcast (recording the finals for On Demand consumption later) needed to change the tapes, so there was a slight pause in the action. When it resumed, Rob O'Reilly presented a presentable set, but nothing extraordinary. Dave Waite -- aka "Mr. Creepy" -- creeped out some in the audience (including my parents), but there's something about his stage presence that makes me laugh (and also made Sweeney laugh). Waite didn't seem to know his place on the stage, though, walking up past some of the lights attempting to get closer to the audience. Andrew Norelli drew the eighth and final spot but presented a very relatable routine, earning applause for his bits about Sprint and Motel 6, as well as his bit about immigration, then a bit that Massachusetts audiences can understand about how stopping gay marriage doesn't stop gay sex.