The current print issue of New York magazine asked a bunch of insidery insiders in the show bidness to name their favorite funny people who have yet to make it big but coulda woulda shoulda someday, particularly if magazines such as New York would only profile them. It's like opening Paradox's Box in here. So the mag invited 10 of these comedians to perform recently at Gotham, and, spoiler alert, didn't invite an audience! Awkward styling and profiling ensued. Here's some of the video from that experiment (note: some language NSFW):
Features Craig Baldo, Ophira Eisenberg, Max Silvestri, Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, Carla Rhodes, Desiree Burch, Claudia Cogan, Reese Waters, and Sara Schaefer. New York also spoke briefly with the comedians afterward. If you pick up an actual copy of the magazine, though, you can see that each of these 10 funny peoples got their own official magazine profile picture and brief bio (thanks for the JPG, Carla!).
How many times have you opened up a Penthouse magazine and found a ventriloquist posing with her dummy? That's among sentences I never thought I'd type. But there she is, my friend Carla Rhodes, posing with Cecil in the new issue of Penthouse that hits newsstands today. Enjoy!
Epic. When I got the email the other day asking if I wanted to see Gallagher on Friday night at the Blender Theatre in NYC, I had to think about it for all of the two seconds it took to hit the reply button. Yes. Yes, I did want to see Gallagher. I needed to see Gallagher. I needed to know why this man, at 61, was still touring the nation and smashing food, if, in fact, he was still smashing food, and who in the world would want to see him still smash food. Twenty-five years ago, I'd seen him on the TV as many millions of Americans had. Years later, I saw the E! True Hollywood Story about Gallagher and learned of his brother who toured as his double and the double trouble that had caused. So what would Gallagher be like today?
Before we get to that, let's have a happy image. This is Carla Rhodes, talented ventriloquist and the only member of our party with the courage enough to join Gallagher onstage to grab the Sledge-O-Matic.
But we had to wait quite a while for this shot. How long? Take your guesses now.
When he emerged onstage just after 9 p.m., the crowd roared. But the microphone wouldn't work. Gallagher gagged: "How long does it take the sound guy to do cocaine?" For those who could hear him, laughter. When they fixed the problem (an unplugged wire), the show would begin. Or not. Turns out, Gallagher informed us all, that he had only sold 200 tickets by the day prior to arriving at New York City. So an opening act, the "Aspiring Tyrants," entered the fray and sold an additional 100 tickets for the show at the Blender Theatre. Gallagher, doing the math, then told it to us: "For every two people here to see me, there's one person to see them." So see them we must. All four of them. All four of them unknown to even us who follow the NYC comedy scene. This had become...a bringer show!? Indeed it had. The oddest, largest bringer show I've seen. I have the names of these comedians (the strongest of whom told me and my friends afterward that they know someone at Live Nation who hooked them up with the show), but I shall not name them here. Not in this post, anyhow. And you shall see why in the next sentence.
When I tell you how Gallagher proceeded to first "coach" and then outright "heckle" each of his four opening acts. It started off benignly, the first opener shuffling and mumbling, so Gallagher ran up and said to get right into the jokes. "How do you make pickled whorebread?" Gallagher asked. "Dill dough!" And he ran off. It derailed and went far, far off the tracks from there. After the fourth or fifth interruption, the crowd began to feel bad for this first unknown comic. Remember, there were 100 ticketholders who wanted to see these openers. During Gallagher's heckling of the second opener, someone from the crowd shouted, "I want a watermelon!" Gallagher's retort: "That's the climax. You get yours early, I guess." Show salvaged? Not quite. The third opener bombed about as big as an unknown comedian can bomb. He even acknowledged it onstage, while drinking a can of beer. I turned to my friends and said I'd much rather watch this at home on my TV under heavy medication, instead of how I was watching this unfold, completely sober. Gallagher even had two of these openers, plus a kid from the front row, act out a joke about a bear and rabbit crapping in the woods. The fourth opener had some material and stage presence going for him, and even held his own when Gallagher hopped onstage again and this time took off his shirt and put on a silly hat. Marianne Ways, sitting behind me, took a bunch of photos and at this point, said she had seen Gallagher live when she was 13. "All the old feelings are coming back to me," she said. After Gallagher interrupted the fourth opener by questioning his transition from one topic to another, the opener said, "It was a funny joke, until you came onstage." Now the crowd was on the opener's side and Gallagher eventually trudged off and disappeared. We even wondered if he'd had enough himself and gone back to his hotel. But no. After an hour of this -- yes, this opening sequence sucked an entire hour out of our lives -- and after the four openers stopped the show entirely to have their pictures taken. Seriously. No joke. And by that, I mean, no joke.
After all of that, Gallagher emerged to start his show.
Gallagher had 25 minutes of material to deliver before you even saw the first prop, a banana peel covering a hot dog that he dug out of his pocket. He talked about his age, how he now looks at women as "a bag of hamburgers, and I'm not hungry," and about getting his prostate checked. He talked about wondering why God designed the human body the way He did. He joked about getting in trouble with gay people, deaf people, the handicapped, and proved why by doing several troublesome jokes. He told us, in all seriousness, that he was making us think. "This is the smartest show you'll ever go to," Gallagher told us. He talked about his problem with all of the French words in the English language and that they turn us into sissies. Who says the word sissy anymore, anyhow? Only a sissy. Moving on. Plenty of "Hey-OH!" groaner jokes to be had in this set. There was a drunk couple in the front row who liked to chatter so much that Gallagher stopped the show more than once and eventually ordered them out, which led to the drunk woman's family members to also leave. Or so we thought. The drunk man emerged from out of nowhere a couple of times, once to try to shake Gallagher's hand, then later to shout at Gallagher that they were no longer fans of his. If only we had some of this on video. Ahem.
Gallagher had a table full of food ingredients and filled pie trays with corn and mashed potatoes, apple pieces and applesauce, dog food with Pepto Bismol and Spam, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, and more, including, of course, the watermelon slices. It wouldn't be until 11:05 p.m. that we actually got to see him smash anything and make our plastic ponchos valuable wardrobe items. For the next 20 minutes, Gallagher smashed food and had fans come onstage to get initiated. Almost all of the fans onstage were men in their teens and early 20s.
"You won't remember what I said, but you'll remember what I did," Gallagher said last night. And we shall remember this night all too well.
Tragedy? Comedy? Tragedy that we couldn't help but laugh at during the show and hours afterward. Something happened here that we shall not soon forget. And if you have someone offer you a ticket to see Gallagher, you know you need to say yes. Because this was epic.
P.S. In gchat with a comedian this afternoon, I just remembered that I also had a mini-moment with Gallagher during the show. He attempted to make a joke about Isiah Thomas and his sexual harassment lawsuit but couldn't remember that he coaches the New York Knicks, so instead, Gallagher stumbled for his words, and ultimately went with, "and...uh...that team." Mostly silence since the crowd didn't even know what he was trying to say, but I busted a gut. Gallagher turned, pointed and smiled at me in the third row. "Look, he gets it!" No. That's not why I was laughing so much and so hard.
P.P.S. Eliot Glazer recently interviewed Gallagher and you can read it here.
Hey, comedy fans. Did you know that Liam McEneaney is back from his big European expedition and has resumed his great free Monday night showcase, Tell Your Friends? You're acting like you've forgotten. This most recent Monday, 12 of us made it down to the basement of Lolita bar in the Lower East Side, where we got to witness John Oliver's extended role-playing session with himself as his father, Carla Rhodes and her Vaudevillian ventriloquism, Dave Hill unleash a new multi-pronged comedy attack, and Tony Camin manage to keep that intimate vibe laughing like 12 dozen audience members had filled that basement.
As much fun as it was seeing John Oliver enjoy rousing success two weeks ago in his first Comedy Central taping, it was even more thrilling to watch him figuratively throw out his joke book and start over again. Which is part of the allure of this weekly basement showcase. So, go on. Tell your friends about Tell Your Friends. It's back.
If you're looking for something to do tonight in New York City, and think it might be a wee bit crowded at Rififi for night two of the Invite Them Up finale, then here are three shows to consider...
1) Sweet. Seth Herzog's weekly comedy showcase at The Slipper Room on the Lower East Side is one of the more unique experiences you can find, even among the myriad of offerings in New York City's comedy scene. Herzog exemplifies the term "host with the most." This guy gives audiences more material to chew on every Tuesday night than other hosts, and you never quite know what's going to come out of his mouth next. He might dress up as Wonder Woman. He might dance up a storm. He might ramble on. You just never know. You do know, however, that you'll get to hear him chat up his mother -- who has her own cadre of comedy fans. Think of David Letterman's TV routines with his mom back in the day, then add a heaping dose of Mama Herzog reality. Seth also grew up as childhood friends with Michael Showalter, so there's that to consider. And he has a mailing list and fan base that seems to include every performer in this city. On recent visits, I've spotted actresses Natalie Portman and Kristen Johnston in the audience. Herzog also has a sidekick/DJ by his side each week, which adds some ad-libbed banter and fun to the proceedings. Herzog's guests tonight include Michael Showalter, Laura Krafft and Kumail Nanjiani. He also has some surprise guests on the agenda. Oh, and if you know of any real-estate deals, please let Seth know. He needs to move out of his infamous spot.
2) Diamonds in the Fluff. Jamie Lee (day job, Comedy Central publicist; night job, stand-up comedian and show producer) launches a new monthly comedy benefit show at Hugs in Williamsburg, with all of the proceeds helping the Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition. Lee's guests tonight are Diana Saez, Eric Andre, Baron Vaughn, ventriloquist and musician Carla Rhodes.
3) And in the last, but certainly not least department, Gotham Comedy Club hosts a Bill Hicks tribute tonight. Hicks died 14 years ago today. Jesse Joyce will host, with live performances by Ted Alexandro and Greg Giraldo, recorded footage of Hicks -- including portions of a new documentary in the works by the BBC -- and a live Q-and-A with his only brother, Steve Hicks. It'll cost you $20 and two drinks, but the $20 goes to the Bill Hicks Foundation for Wildlife Rehabilitation.
I may have boycotted the open-call line last Thursday for the New York City auditions for season six of NBC's Last Comic Standing, but that didn't mean I'd miss the boat completely on this opportunity to report from the belly of the beast. Especially when I learned on Friday that several comedians I know were getting called back for TV duty. No lines. Just a few dozen stand-up comedians, sitting around, biding their time for the cameras and special judges Richard Belzer and Steve Schirripa and host Bill Bellamy and everyone else to get ready to roll. Even Barry Katz was in the house, and shook my hand upon hearing me call out his name.
And here's what that scene looked and sounded like. Dan Naturman, whom LCS viewers and comedy fans remember as the guy who got robbed of a spot on the show four years ago when the producers overruled judges Drew Carey and Brett Butler, returned for another go at it. Naturman and Baron Vaughn here talk about joke wording as Michelle Buteau, Eric Andre, Jackie Monahan and others wait for their names to be called.
Moments later, I catch up with host Bill Bellamy, here seen talking with Boston stand-up Myq Kaplan about character-based comedy versus stand-up.
Bellamy and I talked briefly about how his HBO Young Comedians special has been reairing, and he tried to recall his "Tingle Man" bit for us. Then producers called him over to record four takes of teases to intro the NYC auditions. Bellamy really liked pronouncing Schirripa's Sopranos character name. Apparently, five or six comedians (Carla Rhodes and Carolyn Castiglia, among them) already had been waiting inside Gotham Comedy Club's mainstage this whole time (at least a half-hour, maybe much longer) for their two-minute televised audition. Not that everyone, even among these professional comedians with appointments made via their agents and managers, would get the full two minutes. Belzer and Schirripa would prove tough to please. And I could see how it'd be difficult not to take their rejection personally, despite the fact that this is above all else a "reality" TV show. Because you don't normally walk out of an audition, after hearing very critical things said about your performance, to find a camera crew on the other side of the door. As Mike Birbiglia said recently, comedians have to be delusional because an audience that doesn't like your comedy in effect doesn't like you. Some comedians fought back tears. Many muttered profanities about the judges. Eric Andre went into a tirade of riffs so hilarious that the camera crew could barely contain themselves, making me wonder if they might invite him to another audition because of it. That same afternoon, I heard a producer say he thought Belzer and Schirripa were perfect judges for LCS and wished he could have them on every stop. And they did say yes to more than a dozen acts, so they could be swayed. I tried to provide some moral support to Friday's auditioners. Reminding them this is a TV show. Reminding them that it's not about how much funny you have, but about making those two judges laugh in two minutes or less. Reminding them that the judges would already have an impression about you before you opened your mouth. That said, I'm not sure some of the comedians made the best choices to showcase themselves that day. And I definitely don't understand why some of the yahoos who showed up at the end of the afternoon even bothered. The end of the day was when producers had the "wacky" contestants make fools of themselves, all for the chance to be mocked on national TV. Way to go. When Belzer walked back toward his trailer, some of the lucky few were filling out paperwork before that night's showcase. Belzer stopped, pointed at God's Pottery and shouted, "Funny!" He also stopped to praise Stone & Stone once more. No wonder, then, that both duos survived that night's eliminations. But what are duos doing in a stand-up competition? Not sure. At least they'll get some positive press out of it and perhaps some better gigs, if not more.
UPDATED: Oh, I forgot to mention this earlier, but if you thought making a joke about babies was going to get you on TV, you're probably right. They also recorded Bellamy teasing a "dead-baby montage." Congrats?
In my 36 years on the planet Earth, not to mention my many years inhabiting other celestial bodies and spirits, I've seen plenty of great comedy shows, hundreds more live comedy shows that provided more than a few laughs, and some clunkers. Never have I laughed so hard, so often, and wanted to see a performer again, then I have last night watching and listening to Emo Philips at Comix in New York City.
Of course, Emo and I go way back (not that he knew this) more than two decades, to the moment when a cassette tape of "E=MO2" fell into my possession. I don't know when it happened. The cassette's liner notes say that he recorded that set live at Carolines in NYC and released it to the world at large in 1985. At some point, in a series of coincidences and events reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, this one comedy cassette to rule them all arrived in my hands, and then when I acquired a driver's license and a car in 1987, into my car's cassette deck with auto-reverse, wherein it made me laugh on a continuous basis for the better part of a year. One of those formative teenage experience deals that finds a spot in your long-term memory banks, so 20 years later, when your life path finally crosses Emo's, you say there is nowhere else you're going to be on Friday night at 10:45 p.m. but sitting inside Comix, barely paying attention to the two opening acts of stand-up because the expectation is building up inside you, much as it did in October 2004 when you saw the Boston Red Sox do something your grandfather and father had never seen them do and you're thinking, is this really possible? It is. It was.
And yet. Emo Philips, older, grayer, wiser, did not disappoint in the slightest. The same lilting voice, the same bouncy mannerisms, and strikingly, it all seemed to become more magical on this aged Emo. It just fit. With Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, you're amazed at how they maintain the same energy and precision after all these years, but at the same time, when they play a new song, you're like, eh, that's nice and all but bring us another nostalgic hit, Mick and Keith. With Emo, it's all new. Sure, he says, "you guys are really cheering me up" (which when I used to perform stand-up, I'd find myself saying at some point in my set as my own Emo tribute) and closed his hourlong set with a request, but he has jokes about the 2008 presidential candidates, about everything, really. It's not just his precision as a writer of jokes, but also his mastery of timing and delivery that has you howling in approval.
I tried in vain to write down some of them for you, but often found my pen hand so jittery from the rest of my body laughing to get it down right. Here are but a few I managed to scribble...please keep in mind, that reading them doesn't do them the same justice as hearing and seeing Emo deliver them...
A conversation with a Mormon friend about drinking coffee. Emo: "Drinking a cup of coffee a day gives you many benefits. He said, 'Name one, mwuah mwuah mwuah.' Well, for one thing, it keeps you from being Mormon."
On coming back to NYC, where he once lived: "I miss New York so much sometimes I fill my humidifier with urine."
On President Bush: "He outlawed human cloning. Now we'll never find out how many of him it takes to screw in a light bulb."
On living in Los Angeles: "We have a lot more homeless people there, because the weather doesn't kill them off."
On his aging: "I feel sorry, because I let my hair go gray...for a movie...I wanted to get into cheaper."
On alcoholics drinking nonalcoholic beer: "I don't get it. If you're a pedophile, they don't give you a midget in a Cub Scout's uniform."
And this one: "Cell phones are like a dog's genitals. You don't have to shout into them."
In a word: Riveting! You must see Emo Philips perform live. He's at Comix again tonight, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., on Feb. 2, the Punchline in San Francisco from Feb. 6-9. More tour dates located on Emo's site.
Eugene Mirman and Leo Allen went to Emo's early show last night and got to hang with him backstage for a while between shows. Jealous! I spotted comedian Shane Webb in the audience at the late show. The Onion's Marianne Ways had seen the first show and was glowing even more when I offered her my extra ticket, and still glowing after a repeat viewing. I stood awestruck with a face in a permasmile, like a 4-year-old who just saw Santa for the first time. Ventriloquist Carla Rhodes said she had a huge crush on Emo. I shot a video of Marianne and Carla meeting and posing with Emo, which is funny just because. Waiting my turn, I still found myself awestruck. Direct evidence: Holding that E=MO2 cassette in my left hand, I never managed to utter the appropriate words before Emo offered, "Do you want me to sign that for you?" My only reply: "Uh huh." It was like the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie finally gets his chance at Santa to ask for the Red Ryder BB Gun, only to freeze when the moment arrived. Emo and I sat down and I mumbled something about how I used to perform stand-up and now write about it as a journalist and something something how it's all because of this cassette making me laugh so hard 20 years ago, and Emo was so nice and sincere. Even if he declined Carla's offer to come out with his for banana cream pie (and I think she actually meant pie, not a euphemism) because he was losing his voice. He didn't need worry keeping up the Emo voice. About an hour later, I realized I got his autograph but not an actual photo of me with him. Ack. Next time. Next time.
A short video. "We're going to make an Emo sandwich." "OK, snap it!"