2010's Boston Comedy Festival had plenty of competition to attract audience members to its competition finale last night at the Wilbur Theatre, from Denis Leary's Comics Come Home XVI, which packed upward of 6,000 in Agganis Arena to see Jim Norton, Pete Correale, Thomas Dale, Lenny Clarke, Joe Yannetty, Adam Ferrara, Jimmy Dunn and Steven Wright -- to the Wilbur's next-door neighbors at the Wang Theatre, where Jim Gaffigan (who also made a cameo at Comics Come Home), was holding court to 3,600 fans. Todd Barry, meanwhile, was headlining at the Hard Rock Cafe, Darryl Lenox was playing Cheers Comedy Club, and the Comedy Studio and Mottley's featured their own motley crews of stand-ups on the rise.
With all of that competition, the BCF persevered with a strong finals lineup that produced its first-ever tie, bookended by performances from Lenox, Joe Wong (who received a Boston Comedian of the Year Award) and Robert Klein (who received the fest's Lifetime Achievement Award).
Klein noted that his first Broadway production, "The Apple Tree," previewed in Boston's theater district before hitting Broadway in 1966, and he joked about how Mike Nichols got to stay in the Ritz, while Klein was stuck in a seedy hotel called the Avery in Boston's "combat zone." Wong, meanwhile, served as a living role model for all of the comedians in the contest who didn't win, because he has never won it, either. Instead, he said that Letterman's booker Eddie Brill saw something in him during the 2005 contest and helped groom him for his two Late Show appearances in 2009-2010.
Nate Bargatze and Saleem Muhammad, who goes by just Saleem onstage, did achieve dual firsts by tying for first-place in the 2010 competition. Bargatze wasn't fazed by having the "bullet" spot in the lineup, joking about his attempts at community college, defending Wal-Mart, and questioning his ability to take an actual bullet for his wife. For Bargatze, a Tennessee native based now in NYC, this is his third big competition of the year, having already achieved wins twice at Carolines (for its "Final Four" tournament in March, and then its "New York's Funniest" in November). Saleem, a native of Dayton, Ohio, now based in L.A., told the audience he was "your final negro of the evening," claimed he was more surprised to see a black First Lady in his lifetime, wondered why white kids are more black than he is, and acknowledged that being gay is tougher than being black.
Wil Sylvince took third place. The other finalists -- Orlando Baxter, Nick Cobb, Matt D., Mehran and Lamont Price -- all put in strong performances themselves.
I caught up with the top three finishers after the show backstage at the Wilbur Theatre for a quick chat to find out how they'd split their prize money and record deal. Roll it!
Boston's annual comedy festival competition, much like its comedy scene, is an odd mix of college-aged joketellers, strong writers, aspiring upstarts and wily veterans who for some reason have flown under the national radar. In 2008, Dwight Slade (a teen comedy peer of the late Bill Hicks) entered and won the contest. This year, 30-year-old Marshfield native Dave McDonough took the trophy (is there a trophy? methinks not, but there is $5,000) with a set of dark but strong, clever jokes. His win made many local comedians happy, not just for him, but what it meant for the scene to have one of its own beat out 95 other contestants for the top prize. Which, to me, made this a clear echo of Dan Boulger's victory here in 2006.
In fact, the top three places in this year's Boston Comedy Festival contest went to locals. Kelly MacFarland took home the $2,500 runner-up prize, while Lamont Price finished third, receiving $1,000. Ryan Hamilton led the remaining finalists -- Paul Myrehaug, Danny Bevins, Auggie Smith and Mehran -- who split the remaining prize money.
McDonough told me afterward that he doesn't get onstage as often as he could or should, as the Braintree resident still works as a roofer. When he does perform, he tends to work rooms in the South Shore, and he did win a South Shore comedy contest earlier this year. And I'm told he is related to one of Boston's most wily of stand-up vets in Don Gavin. As for McDonough, if you look for examples of his comedy online, you're not going to find a lot just yet. A YouTube video of his set from the Comedy Studio in Cambridge -- which includes many of the jokes he told in the contest -- dates back two years (that's as old as my most recent stand-up video, and I barely perform anymore). Here's a taste of him. Bear in mind that his delivery and wording of a few of these jokes has gotten stronger since this recording, though he still tends to stare down at the floor (a la Mitch Hedberg):
I was on hand Friday night for the end of the semifinal rounds of the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest. While the early semi seemed to point clearly to who would advance to the finals, some might quibble about who got the lucky finalist slots in the late semi (not that I could weigh in on that, because I was busy enjoying the ribald Roast of Tony V). Anyhow. The results, please?
They beat out Al Ducharme, Dan Crohn, Giulia Rozzi, Tony Boswell, Erin Judge and Daniel St. Germain.
They beat out MC Mr. Napkins, Joe Wong, J-L Cauvin, Tony Baker, Tim Kaelin and Matthew Lumpkin.
Those four above will join the four semifinal winners from Thursday and compete for $10,000 in cash prizes tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston.
As I type this, I'm still in NYC, taking care of a few last-minute details at HQ before heading over to Port Authority for the overnight bus to Boston. But the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest continued with the first half of the semifinal brackets. Comedians from the eight prelims got sorted out into four new groups for the semis. And the initial reports are in from Thursday night's first two semis.
Moving on to Saturday's finals...
They outscored Mike Whitman, Sean Sullivan, Joe List, Kevin Kneuer, Orlando Baxter and Alycia Cooper.
They outlasted Tyler Boeh, Justin Williams, Alvin David, Karen Rontowski, Harrison Greenbaum and Anton Shuford.
Two more semifinal groups of eight comedians apiece will face off tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe.
The Boston Comedy Festival's 2009 stand-up contest completed its preliminary-round action on Wednesday night. Did your favorite comedian make it to the semis, which will be held Thursday and Friday? That depends. I don't know who your favorite is/was, but I do know who advanced from the final two prelim rounds.
Want to know who moved on from Tuesday night's preliminary rounds of the stand-up contest for the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival? Well, here you go (and according to this news, apparently some comedians I know, and some comedians I don't know but know are funny, also did not advance to the semis, not to take anything away from the comedians I know who are funny and did advance! get it? got it? good!):
If you thought they'd cancel the Boston Comedy Festival because Myq Kaplan didn't make it through the first contest prelim (after almost winning in 2007 and 2008), then you might continue thinking that. But they held more prelim rounds last night, anyhow. Apparently. Word is only now just creeping in to HQ, and the judges picked these comedians to advance to semifinals later in the week:
For reference purposes, here is the full slate of participants in the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival contest.
Just because I'm not there doesn't mean the Boston Comedy Festival's annual contest is going to wait for me. The first two preliminary rounds were held on Sunday night at the Hard Rock Cafe, with four comics from each group of 12 advancing to semifinals later in the week. Notably, all of the comedians making it through last night either live in Boston or used to live there. And here they are:
Two more prelims happen tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, all at the Hard Rock.
The 10th annual Boston Comedy Festival "officially" begins tonight with "Jim McCue's Festival Pre-Show" at Nick's Comedy Stop. McCue co-founded the fest with Boston City Councilman John Tobin, who recently opened Tommy's Comedy Lounge in the original home of the Connection. McCue's sister, Helen, is the fest's vice president, while his sister-in-law Midge helps as a major organizer. And Lewis Black, a longtime friend of McCue's, once again has timed his Boston appearance to coincide with the fest. He'll be at the Wang (or is it Citi Center?) on Saturday.
There are a variety of shows around Boston from tonight through next Saturday, Sept. 5, but the meat of the Boston fest continues to be its annual weeklong stand-up comedy contest. As it did last year, most of the comedy contest rounds will be held at the Hard Rock Cafe, starting on Sunday with the first of eight preliminary rounds. Ninety-six comics from around the country are participating and competing for $10,000 in prize money, although there's a heavy dose of locals and stand-ups who have recently left Boston for New York City or elsewhere.
I cannot say that I'll be roped into judging much of the contest this year (you may sigh or applaud, according to whether you were hoping I would/wouldn't be a factor). But I will be doing everything I can to try to make it up north in time for the Boston Comedy Festival Roast of Tony V. I'll have much more to say about this once I'm back in Boston, but there should be lots of great stories from some big-names and multiple generations of comedians about Tony V, and I'll be glad to share mine here then, too. Among the people on the dais: Tony's longtime friend Bobcat Goldthwait, who directed Tony in his new movie, World's Greatest Dad; Lenny Clarke, Kenny Rogerson, and more.
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.
Spoiler alert! Oh, wait. It's an event, results happened, we were there, and if you missed it, you missed it, so there's nothing to spoil, only news to share in the finals of the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival's stand-up comedy competition. And here are your top three finishers, as announced live Saturday night at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.
1) Dwight Slade
2) Andrew Norelli
3) Myq Kaplan
Congrats. Full recap and analysis to come later today!
Lessons learned from last night at the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival: Sometimes a comic plays very well to the back of the room, but not so much to the judges table in the second row; and sometimes, a show is so stacked with talent that it's difficult to pick just two comedians to advance to the finals. It was that kind of night. But you want to know who advanced and why.
Semi #3 winners, advancing to Saturday's Finals at the Cutler Majestic Theatre and a share of $10,000 in prize money: Rob O'Reilly and Mario DiGiorgio!
Wow. Just. Wow. Another comedian turned to me during DiGiorgio's performance and said "a set like this will win the contest." Which sounds like a good omen for him on Saturday. What the comic meant, I believe, is that DiGiorgio structured his set in such a way as to have broad mass appeal, with well-thought out material and a heavily layered closing routine that would earn points from the judges -- and for those of you who haven't been at the contest finals in a while -- those judges often include veteran old-time acts, such as Bill Dana, Norm Crosby, Shelly Berman, and this year, most likely the Smothers Brothers. You might be the cat's meow to all the cool kids these days, but your sense of humor might fly right past some judges. Anyhow. Where was I? Right. You may hear DiGiorgio's lengthy discussion of "the s-word" again on Saturday, so why would I ruin it? He also had a very clever idea about why Star Wars fan geeks might be virgins. O'Reilly went up after both Jessi Campbell and Andy Peters had raised their volume and the audience's to about 11.5, and immediately changed gears, saying: "OK, let's calm it down a bit." With his added time (sets expanded from 5 minutes in the prelim round to 8 minutes in the semis), O'Reilly joked about waking up drunk in Colonial Williamsburg and acting out the story of an early gig following a rowdy guy in an "urban" club. Campbell and Peters had gotten plenty of laughs from the back of the room, and Campbell, in particular, had gotten two separate applause breaks. One comic not in competition whispered, "First woman in the finals...nice." But it was not to be. Some of the judges thought Campbell and Peters were a bit too loud and/or in-your-face and/or inconsistent and/or overcompensating and/or something else they didn't tell me.
Which left only two more spots for the finals...
There's an old saying that goes, if you can't stand the heat, then don't become a firefighter. Likewise, if you don't like being judged, then please don't become a stand-up comedian, because you're judged immediately and continuously by every audience you see in the darkness under the glare of the spotlight. And certainly, obviously, do not enter a comedy competition, because that's just inviting constructive criticism, and scores, and rankings. If you've read all of that, and still want to compete against other stand-up comedians in a truly arbitrary and subjective manner, then go for it! Did I mention you may face a cold 7 p.m. crowd? Or that your microphone may go out at any time, and perhaps several times, during your 8-minute set? Alrighty then! Let's proceed with the first half of the semifinals in the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest!
Semifinal #1, advancing to the Finals at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cutler Majestic Theatre with the Smothers Brothers and qualifying for a share in $10,000 in prize money...Myq Kaplan and Joe List!
As he did in the prelims, Kaplan proved his stage smarts by opening with callbacks to the other performers, and no one could deny him a chance to move up from 2007, when he was runner-up in this contest. As for List, wow, this guy has become so much more confident in his persona onstage than he was even six months ago when he taped Comedy Central's Live at Gotham. Even knocking his glasses off didn't faze him. "That's jokes 6, 7 and 9. I didn't anticipate that last one. That was 2-for-1, because it was physical." At another point, he directed his attention to a front table of attractive women: "I don't care about the contest. I just want to have sex with one of you three." Well, List, you still made it to the finals.
Which means Sean Sullivan just missed out. The judges told me they also particularly liked him. Not that they hated everyone else (although I can tell you that they really didn't like a couple of the acts -- you can decide among yourselves who those fellas might be and lose sleep over it, if you'd like, but if you ate it and/or turned the crowd off, it might be you). Just that Sullivan would have advanced if they had three spots.
The second semi-final gave me an idea...
You've all been waiting for this (sorry about the wait), it's the two final preliminary competitions in the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest, so let's get to recapping...
When Bowers took the stage, he joked about being the fourth consecutive black stand-up comic in this round, as well as how Obama is a much better presidential option than the Rev. Al Sharpton. A set routine about his grandmother's fanciful stories managed to take a localized turn into a tale of her stripping at the Boston Tea Party. Another bit, about this summer's salmonella scare, he took as a plot to get rid of Mexicans, and demonstrated it by replacing salmonella with X food to get rid of Y races. Closed with married role-playing and an act-out of the LAPD.
Campbell had "bitten the bullet" by going first, but the Minnesota comic -- who started out a bit too loud -- got some energy in the room with bits about an encounter with a woman in the bathroom that turned steamy, buying a gun and reporting it to the cops during a traffic stop, showering for a ghost, and the dangers in feeding a bear. Unlike many comedians of her size, she never acknowledged or poked fun at her own expense. That probably scored extra points with the judges.
Waite, who attended college in Kentucky, joked about his geography degree makes him a dumb-ass: They already have maps! Cue the many many asides! Shazam! (He never said shazam, but said plenty in between every joke that piled up the style and attitude points) Hasslehoff. Internet porn. Pee-wee football. As he said to the ladies in the audience at one point, "Buckle up, it's creepy time!" He got solid laughs from the audience and comics alike.
Thomas talked about the differences between broke and being "working people broke." His opening premise, about how men and women describe getting married, may have been a little tired. But when he started joking about his money woes, he got some momentum going his way. Closed with a funny but true notion of how critics make Obama seem dangerous. Example: "Did you know he fathered two black children?"
From those who did not advance: Shawn Banks seemed very likable, but the crowd was slow to get on board. Andrea Henry's dry sense of humor suffered with her slot in the lineup. Jay Black had a very solid bit analyzing the importance of America finishing 27th in math, while Bangladesh apparently is tops in that subject.
OK. Moving on...
Someone asked me if going first in a contest meant certain elimination. That entirely depends upon a few factors, such as: How proficient your host is in warming up the audience and getting them to laugh, what time your show starts (the later, the better, it'd seem), and how quickly you can get an audience to laugh. In the first two nights of prelims during the Boston Comedy Festival contest, the comic who drew the first slot advanced from each of the later shows, but not from the earlier shows. On night three? Foreshadowing. Or not.
Kaplan knocked his set out from the start, riffing callbacks on pretty much everyone who went before him, starting by announcing: "I'm also 1/2 white...and the other 1/2 white as well." Then landing a joke that combined "baloney pony" and "rapex" before going into his own, already-strong routine, closing by putting his wordplay to extended play on the word, "boobies." Hooray-bies! No doubt as to whether he'd advance.
Lewis, by the way, was one of several biracial comics of the black/white variety to perform this week (and the one Kaplan was calling back to), which, you might think, could be of benefit to Obama's candidacy if somehow all of these comedians could help him. Anyhow. Got off-topic for a sec. He joked about how blacks run everything in Alabama, and how people mistake him for Mexican. I don't think Mexican jokes work as well in Boston, just because the Latino influences here aren't from there. But it didn't hurt his score.
Hawkins wasn't shy about announcing he was the only Canadian competing. The start of his set took a similar reversal of gender roles pattern that Eric Hunter used to score victory the previous night (an almost completely different set of judges, though, and no, I was not among them), joking about how women act in the dance clubs. Halfway through, he shifted to cat territory, and how he's not good with felines, with a lengthy act-out that had you thinking, where's the Meow Mix? Earlier this summer, Hawkins, from Edmonton, won the "Homegrown Comic Competition" at Montreal's Just For Laughs.
Boeh avoided making a joke of his name (Ty Boeh) because, well, he had just come back to Boston from winning the first week of prelims in the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and he has other jokes in his arsenal. Such as a guy pimpwalking on a treadmill. Or a local slogan for Harpoon beer. But the real feature of his routine on this night would be beatboxing and noisemaking, with big sound effects on having sex with women of the black and tracheotomy variety. I discussed this with another comedian last night, and it's one of those things that can divide comics in a contest when you see a competitor who closes with beatboxing or singing or playing an instrument. They almost always get a huge crowd response. Is that a bad thing? Depends upon whether you feel the point is telling jokes, or getting laughs. Whatever works, right? This is a debate we can have sometime down the road.
The rest of this group suffered some bad breaks. Liz Miele never had a chance going first, as the host had bombed. Maggie MacDonald, going second, had Miele warming them up, but her strong set based on her veterinary job apparently still not enough. Could it have been too sexual? Who knows. I wasn't judging this night. Joe Vespaziani, going third, had a brilliant set, so what happened there? I'd thought he was a cinch to advance, with jokes about turning 40, watching porn with the closed-captioning, body pillows, untying a vasectomy and more. He got robbed. And I'm not just saying that because I competed with him 10 years ago in the 1998 Seattle Comedy Competition. Ira Proctor managed to pop the microphone, which got him off on the wrong foot, which in turn, only plays into his onstage humorous rage. And Ms. Pat came a long way from Indianapolis to tell us about where her daughter puts her Oreo cookie crumbs (!).
OK. Moving on...
Not all contest preliminary groups in the Boston Comedy Festival are created alike. That's the first thing that has to be said for prelims 3-4 last night. In the late show, you could make a case for at least eight of the 12 comedians to make it through to the semis, but there only were slots for four. As for the early show, well, that was a tougher show to grade, because quite a few comedians were off. Andrew Norelli, going up seventh in the order, used this as his opening remark to the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe: "I know we're making it look like it's not fun, but it's fun!" Also, each of the first four prelims has proved problematic for comedians attempting to deal with the wireless microphone -- grabbing it from the stand, at least one comic per group manages to turn the mic off, and thereby momentarily derailing their sets. Tech proficiency can be just as important in delivering and connecting with the audience. Please make a note of it. Thanks. With that, let's get to who advanced and why...
Norelli acknowledged the early roughgoing and proceeded to get the audience on his side by talking about steroids in baseball, and how other drugs might make it better. A routine on massages went from happy endings (predictable) to massage talkers and the inanity of the phrase, "Push the stress out your arms." He also has a good retort to porn stars who claim they don't know who he is as a comic, as well as people who claim they're broke but still have plenty of money.
Dustin opened with a passing remark to the stage: "Nice ramp. I would've brought my wheelchair if I had known." Tonight's show had plenty of comics noting their surroundings, by the way. But no one else in the contest had to deal with waitresses dropping the checks during their contest set. Dustin still managed to get their attention by talking about vibrators -- "OK, the lonely girl has spoken!" Dustin noted in reference to one shouty audience member -- and jokes about sex and work and things you don't want to hear in bed. I'd heard it all before. It still worked.
Hunter could have had a terrible set by opening rather loud on the mic, but once he focused his routine on one lengthy bit about the many enticements and redeeming qualities he offers the ladies -- namely, everything they tend to like and act like -- got his vocal delivery in a more appealing rhythm that worked. "I'll be by that instrument after the show," he said, in case you wanted to take him up on that offer. Good luck.
O'Reilly also overcame a mistaken gametime decision. For reasons only he can explain, he decided to stop his routine in the middle to engage in crowd work with retired women in the front table. Crowd work that didn't go anywhere. And this was in the middle of O'Reilly joking about sex. His jokes about being a bastard do provide him with a solid line, however, that he can use for callbacks and laughs.
Others in this group deserving mentions of one sort or another: Jono Zalay wore an American flag sweater but didn't explain it, instead delivering a routine about feeding cocaine to rats and monkeys (it's for his studies). Dustin Chafin was rough around the edges, which works better in NYC where he lives now than in the Hard Rock in Boston (especially with the retired ladies up front), and went with midgets, redneck jokes, Bush is dumb, and a good line about how Obama can look more patriotic (hint: Apollo Creed). "Yay!" may not be the most effective catchphrase to utter every 15 seconds. "Big" Alvin David and Kendra Cunningham both had a fun presence, and plenty of crowd support, but couldn't translate that into winning sets. Shawn Donovan picked his doctor just for the name and comedy premise alone, but needed to sell it better. I can see why Myq Kaplan liked Donovan's style (Donovan even borrowed Kaplan's phrase and inflection to deliver one punchline?!).
OK. Moving on...
I'm back in Boston this week for the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival, which began last night and runs through Saturday, culminating in awards honoring The Smothers Brothers for 50 years together in comedy, local Steve Sweeney for his contribution to Boston comedy, and of course, the ninth annual winner of the Boston comedy contest. Because if you look at the schedule, the contest dominates the framework of this fest.
Festival head Jim McCue has tweaked the format for the contest this year, allowing four comics to advance each night to a semifinal round, as opposed to two comics in previous years. That seems much fairer, considering some of these brackets are stacked and in past years, picking only two out of 12 to advance could seem quite arbitrary. McCue asked me to judge the first two rounds of preliminary action last night, so instead of dishing my own personal opinion on each and every stand-up who took the stage, let's take a look at who advanced from Prelims 1-2 and offer insight into why they had that something extra to get them into the semis.
Sullivan didn't let his physical size become too cliche in terms of fat jokes, instead turning the audience's impression into laughs by talking about his fiancee, a clever way of replying to all of the questions about his upcoming wedding, and how the house they bought got broken into. Though he did explain the difference between fat and "too fat for Disney World." His bit about his first date with his future wife, miniature golfing, also manages to be both sweet and funny.
Cauvin notes right upfront that, at 6-foot-7, he is a giant. He has a fresher take on an Obama joke, offering that Obama seems like he's in such a hurry because being the first black president is much better than being the second one, using the comparison of white presidents to good effect. Cauvin, too, is biracial, which allows him to joke about why his mother supported Hillary Clinton over Obama.
Bulger opened with a quick, simple one-liner answering the question of whatever floats your boat: "It's water." It lets you know right away that he's a joke guy. Bang, bang, bang. He acts out the worst time to be stabbed, and yes, turns out, there is one time that's worse than others. Wants to open a bar called 'Nam to explain alcohol troubles. Closes with an equally simple yet strong observation about Alien vs. Predator.
Foster got a demerit in my book for wearing shorts. I know stand-up comedians have gotten more and more casual over the years, but shorts? Really? Even in a competition with $10,000 in prize money? Anyhow. He wants to be a tattoo artist without tattoos, to screw with customers. His MySpace page tells me he also goes by the name, "Sauce." Um, ok. Glad he didn't mention that last night. Instead, he had a cheery stage presence, and wondered what Hawaiians do for vacation.
Honorable mentions in my book also go to Dale Jones and Danielle Stewart. Jones, from Nashville, made it past initial judging on TV this year's edition of Last Comic Standing. Live, you get a better sense of his manic energy and physicality. Two years ago, I summarized him simply as Ernest Goes to Jim Carrey Camp. It does give you a picture of how much he has going on onstage, along with that accent. I thought he served himself well last night, though, starting slowly with a bit questioning why homeless people don't like to spoon, then ramping it up several notches. I can see how audiences might be overwhelmed, particularly in a contest like this. Even Jones acknowledged it, saying in self-deprecation: "I don't know. I think this might be his Make-A-Wish." Stewart, who grew up around Boston but lives in Los Angeles,
had a saucy and sassy set. About premartial sex: "It's not premarital sex if there's no chance I'm going to marry you." She also points out shrewdly how Barbie really is her role model. And as the only woman in this prelim, it made her stand out even more.
The ninth annual Boston Comedy Festival starts next month, and, as in past years, the centerpiece of the weeklong fest is its stand-up comedy contest. Having served as a judge for part of this contest in 2005 and 2006, and having witnessed other parts of it, I'm still struck by how random it can be. The competition's structure dictates this, as you have one chance in your prelim to finish in the top two of 11 or 12 that night and move on to the semifinal, then again, one chance to move on to the finals. Makes your initial placement that much more vital, as well as knowing who your judges are. Are they old? Are they industry? Are they local? This year, the odds are a little better, as apparently four comics will advance from each prelim to the semis.
This year's prelims (posted after the jump!) includes more than a fair share of Boston-area comedians, but also plenty of folks from around the country with TV credits and experience headlining clubs.
To whom do you give the early edge?
How did Shane Mauss, a virtually unknown stand-up comedian from Boston in February, find himself telling jokes on Conan O'Brien in March? This photo of him (center) with me and Dan Pasternack of Super Deluxe only tells part of the story.
After the jump, photos of Shane Mauss and friends the night he debuted on Conan!