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.
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.
Here are some clips from Erin Judge on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham.
First an outtake:
And here is some footage that made it on the TV:
Two years ago, I got a spread in the Boston Herald to devote to a few of the local comedians that I thought deserved more press.
Two of them are back in the spotlight this weekend. Baratunde Thurston has become the Web editor at The Onion, recently appeared on a CNN panel with the Rev. Jesse Jackson talking Obama and the campaign, and tonight he leads a special version of Laughing Liberally for the Black Comedy Experiment at The Tank in Tribeca.
Erin Judge will get a TV credit next weekend when she tapes Comedy Central's Live at Gotham. This Sunday (March 2), she's throwing a comedy benefit at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., "Warming Up the Crowd: A Comedy Benefit for Heating Assistance." Ticket info here. The show features Shane Mauss, Kelly MacFarland, Tim McIntire, Corey Manning, Myq Kaplan, Bethany Van Delft, Josh Gondelman and more. Proceeds go to Joe Kennedy's heating assistance program.
OK, comedy fans. Whether or not you have a financial stake in the outcome of the Boston Comedy Festival contest, you still want to know what really went down last night in the third and fourth preliminaries. So here’s another opinion. But first, another opinion: Why didn’t host Kevin Knox explain the rules? Did Sunday night’s host skip that portion of the program, too? Because methinks most people in the audience, at least, might want to know, how come the guy or gal I thought was really funny didn’t win? The judges have these complicated scoring sheets — and even though I didn’t see them, they must be complicated because it takes 15 minutes to deduce the winners — so there must be several factors in determining the funny. In similar contests, those factors would include originality, stage presence, audience engagement and audience approval, in addition to the judge’s own subjective funny ranking. Also, there are several cameras taping the sets, but no mention of what that’s all about. The stage, changed from the usual Comedy Connection backdrop to the old cliched fake brick wall, also has a MySpace banner. Is that it? (Sources say no, that the tapes are for sponsor Sierra Mist, but shouldn’t someone let everyone else in on that?)
Right. Enough questions. You want answers. Or at least a recap.
Prelim 3 (in order of appearance)
1) Jake Sharon: Long-haired guy (not what’s pictured on the festival program/site), eats the mic, also ate it onstage, as his blue humor didn’t set the proper tone, especially with all of the white-hairs in the audience.
2) Mark DeCosta: Opens with losing five pounds today on the Taco Bell Diet. “Now I know why they say think outside the buns.” Hello! Rim shot, please! Not helping. But his set improves with dry humor about his childhood and how he teaches children life lessons.
3) Tymon Shipp: Billed on the program as “clean yet hilarious,” as if the two things cannot coexist. But the program also says he’s been on Leno nine times. Nine times? Really? Maybe as a bit player, but not as a stand-up. His set is functional enough, but, eh.
4) Erin Judge: Clever, but not connecting with the Connection crowd. Only her most direct jokes worked on this audience.
5) Darryl Lenox: Comes out with a definite POV, as they say. Politics is like Amway. “Do you think the guy who owns Wal-Mart has a house full of Wal-Mart furniture in it?” On being afraid of chemical attacks five years after 9/11, noting we’ve been eating McDonald’s for 50 years. “You think Shaq got that big drinking milk?” Solid. Very solid.
6) Tim the Dairy Farmer: Larry the Cable Guy’s big dumb brother. Only without a catchphrase. Let’s move on.
7) Josh Gondelman: The soft-spoken Josh Gondelman. Yeah. Earnestness is a virtue. But it won’t win a comedy contest.
8) Tom Van Horn: Polished stuff on Kmart, fish as pets on life support and the improbability of being angry whilst wearing flip-flops.
9) Floyd J. Phillips: Suggested cell phone companies shouldn’t disconnect your service, but interrupt your calls, if they want you to pay up. Tells his new neighbors he’s a registered sex offenders to keep the kids off his lawn. Funny. Speaking of abortion…funny…pro-lifers should kill bartenders. Don’t shoot me. That’s what he said. How about this line: “Domestic violence is the second reason why I don’t date men.”
10) Ira Proctor: Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage! What Ira was thinking: Hey, I’ll have fun by playing off of the last guy and start with some racial humor. What the audience was thinking: Why is this white guy making jokes about blacks? What Ira was thinking: Why isn’t this audience laughing at this, this is funny stuff? What the audience was thinking: We’re scared. Ira, move on to plan D. Dunkin Donuts. He ranted and rallied. But the damage was done.
11) Kendra Cunningham: Hates her job, wonders about the excuses drunks have that avoid the reason they’re drunks, and uses one of the most overused phrases in stand-up comedy, “So I’m single, surprisingly enough.”
12) Marshall Chiles: From Atlanta. Not Hotlanta. I don’t think the kids call it that anymore. His opener about airport security trying to turn us into fundamentalist Muslims (no razors, no shoes, no shampoo) is intriguing, but also silences the crowd right off the bat. As does his next joke, about troops fighting for the right reason: Tuition. “Damn right, I started with that s—!” he said. Later compares sports refs to wives. It’s all good material, but he came off too rough to be liked.
The timekiller: Eric Schwartz. Man, that white boy rapping schtick never stops being funny, doesn’t it? His official site is www.suburbanhomeboy.com and no I did not make that up. Nor did I make up the fact that he made the contest finals last year. Did he? Wasn’t I a judge last year?
Lenox and Phillips advanced. Van Horn deserved an honorable mention.
(part of a series of April Fools profiles of comedians worth your attention)
Who are you? Erin Judge
How old are you? 25
Where do you live? Somerville, Mass.
What's your story? She has her own night at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge's Harvard Square (since January 2005) and also her own sketch group. A Wellesley grad, Judge began performing comedy almost four years ago. Her original roots are in improv, "but that was in college, so it doesn't count," she said. She "loved stand-up addictively as a kid. I didn't have any friends. And then I stole people's jokes. And then I made friends." She remembers watching Ellen DeGeneres, Judy Gold and others on showcase stand-ups, and said she probably respects Chris Rock the most. She leads sketch troupes in themed performances that range from artistic to zany but mostly dabble in subtle satire.
What's your foolosophy? "I think comedy should be funny. It's so tempting to do comedy about standard, traditional, predictable stuff," she said. "The trick is to be innovative and still have a product that people can relate to."
What's your niche? "The way the show is, with the themed shows, it's not entirely unique, but the shows themselves have taken on a life of their own. And as a solo performer in Boston, I'm not a girly girl. I like to think of myself as the Sleater-Kinney of comedy. It's a chick thing, but it's not just for chicks. It's also for guys. But only the cool ones."
What are your goals? "I want the Sunday shows to be just a free-for-all of Boston comics collaborating. The more people I can get involved, the more excited I'll be for my own career. I'd love to write comedy for a living and continue to perform in some capacity."