Mottley's Comedy Club, friends of the site located just steps from Boston's Quincy Market, got some TV show love from the Today show, albeit at a cost. First, reporter Mike Taibbi identifies stand-up Ira Proctor as Sean Sullivan (Sullivan does appear in a brief shot at the end of the report). Then, Taibbi includes a clip of himself getting onstage and telling a corny joke about a snail. I suppose if an NBC News reporter wants to go onstage and do a short set, and you're going to get national TV exposure out of it, that's just a deal you're going to make, right. Anyhow: Also saw Chris Coxen in character, Dave Russo, and Mottley's co-owner Jon Lincoln -- as well as Mottley's Tim McIntire taking tickets at the door. Boston, you're not my home, but Boston, you're my home.
Wednesday nights are "bailout night" at the club -- bring in your pink slip and/or unemployment check stub and you and a friend get in free. That there's your news peg.
Roll the clip!
The folks at Montreal's Just For Laughs uploaded videos last week from its 2008 collection of comedians participating in the New Faces and Masters showcases, so you can finally see what I saw this summer. Rather than bombard you with two dozen embedded video clips, I'm going to embed one or two of my faves, then link to the rest.
From the 2008 Masters, here is Todd Glass, and you'll immediately wonder, what's the rest of Larry Miller's funny story introducing him, and who is Glass calling back in his jokes. Jokes, people! Jokes! Todd Glass is a comic's comic, so always welcomed here (language NSFW):
And from the 2008 New Faces, here is Sean Patton's set that got industry people talking (language NSFW):
Everyone else after the jump.
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...
It's time for one last look around the 2008 Montreal Just For Laughs festival, which Variety reports raked in $10 million (which is about the same in Canadian as it is in U.S. dollars these days!) this July. Which means this final recap must begin with the guy who buzzed about the festival...
Doug Stanhope, who set up his Slamdance to their Sundance, aka Just For Spite festival with shows Friday and Saturday at Club Chaos, told me on Saturday night that he'd been offered a paltry $1,100 to perform 10 nights of one-man shows at the fest (or as he added, less than what he earned during his first trip to Montreal's JFL), which prompted his fury. Much of the buzz about Stanhope during the fest itself centered around two incidents, both of which Stanhope wrote about online. He first aired his grievances on Wednesday via 236.com, then on Friday night, after getting kicked out of a JFL venue by fest organizer Bruce Hills, Stanhope went to his MySpace to fill us in on the details.
Most pleasant surprise in a one-man show: Patrice Oneal. Here's a guy who seems so in your face and so not safe for work that, well, that's how his career even began in Boston, challenging another comedian. And he has made his name on the club circuit as that guy who won't take no gruff. But you take him out of the comedy clubs and put him in an intimate theater setting, give him a stool or a chair and just let him speak...wow. As I noted earlier, his one-man show, Positivity, is positively brilliant. He may think he's not getting any smarter. But this show is the smartest thing he has done.
The lucky New Faces bump? Last year, Tom Papa hosted all of the New Faces showcases and handled himself with such professionalism and managed to bring the funny, that I recall singling him out and hoping he'd get a show of his own. This year, Papa got the special one-man showcase named after the late Richard Jeni and earned nightly standing ovations for his show, Only Human. Here's the Montreal Gazette review to chew on. I saw similar magic coming from Greg Giraldo this year in hosting New Faces, and hope he gets a similar promotion in 2009. Giraldo always has mastered the art of topical social commentary, but there also has been so much going on in his world, both professionally and personally, that could be mined for a one-man show. Let's make that happen.
Funniest comic-on-comic impersonation: Greg Behrendt, who introduced himself to the audience as "a 45-year-old alternative comic," doing Russell Brand at the midnight Alternative showcase, slinking his way around the stage and joking about Brand having sex with Kate Moss.
Toughest ticket for a show I wished I'd seen: They say you mock the ones you love (some do), so Behrendt must have been paying tribute to Russell Brand's status as the hot comic of the moment. You had to sweet talk your way into his sold-out performances. Thankfully, I got to see Brand a couple of days later in New York City (my review of Russell Brand).
Toughest ticket for a show I'm not sorry I missed: Apatow For Destruction. Movie producers and movie stars should not always be confused for great stand-up comedians.
How young is he, again? Bo Burnham, at 17, is the new sensation, already signed to Gersh with a Comedy Central EP that zoomed up the iTunes charts. Where did he come from? Outside of Boston, since you asked. He generated some "heat" as they say in the bidness. I saw him the previous weekend open up for Joel McHale at Carolines and deliver an amazingly proficient and efficient 13-minute musical set of songs and rap. How did this tall, scrawny high-school kid making YouTube videos gain so much poise onstage with less than 20 live performances to his credit? He told me. "I'm young, dumb and fearless." Here's a recent fairly NSFW video from Bo fo yo (argh, I just really typed that and didn't backspace backspace delete, didn't I?):
State of the Industry vs. Comedy Person of the Year: Andy Kindler wins in a walk-off, as Kindler filled the room to more than capacity, with people standing in the foyer, then half of them walking out to skip the festival's awarding of "Comedy Person of the Year" to Judd Apatow. Having Apatow did guarantee that all his famous friends and industry associates would show up in Montreal, though, leading to some heartfelt words from Apatow himself, and a funny quip from Seth Rogen: "Look at us. We're a parade of bad fashion...It's like we're at the rehearsal for the award."
Just Comedy? Remember the days when you didn't have to pay $500 to attend a festival thrown on your behalf? Oh, those were days. But Just Comedy's two-day confab proved to be kind of eh. As I joked to Andy Kindler in our short video interview, I only stayed at the Webisode to Episode panel for about five minutes, because that's as long as that panel should have been. Don't they know this already? Because of that, I missed out on perhaps the liveliest panel of the confab, as club owners kvetched at length about the business of live touring.
All-around favorites: You couldn't go anywhere in Montreal without someone reminding you how great John Mulaney and Brent Weinbach were at the festival. I shall sing Mulaney's praises to anyone who asks, and it was great to see him knock it out of the park (that's a baseball term) at JFL, with people especially rapt over his tale of playing a joke on a restaurant at age 11. Mind you, he's only 25 now. He will tape a Comedy Central Presents next month and you will enjoy it. He's also co-headlining at Comix next month (Aug. 22-23) with Nick Kroll. As for Weinbach, he won the Andy Kaufman Award in Vegas last year for a reason, and showed why in Montreal with an over-the-top performance at the alternative showcases.
New Faces recaps: My favorites or yours? Brendon Walsh stood out for me with his cleverness, while Sean Patton surprised me because I had never seen him in a mainstream club before. Harris Wittels delivered the ballsiest set, ending a routine that included misnamed bands and masturbation issues with a joke about racism. Ira Proctor turned it around so much from the first set to the second that veteran Larry Miller couldn't stop complimenting him. Mo Mandel was the singular standout from the other group. Although truth be told, most people I talked to from the industry were relatively underwhelmed by this year's crop of New Faces as a whole. Then again, they were relatively underwhelmed in general.
State of the New Faces Industry: What does it say about the comedy industry and Montreal's New Faces that two of them, Iliza Shlesinger and Jeff Dye, are among the finalists for this season on NBC's Last Comic Standing? A few things. Among them: The NBC producers prefer fresh-faced comedians, even if they're relatively inexperienced, because it allows them to have control (read: earn money) by launching their careers nationally. Also, it means tough luck for industry wanting a piece, as NBC and the producers have them under its contractual spell already. Anyone want to guess whether Shlesinger and Dye already are locked up for the nationwide club/theater tour that follows the season finale?
The Masters: Speaking of Larry Miller, what a class act he proved to be in Montreal, not just for actually watching younger comedians and saying nice things to them, but also for being the consummate host for the Masters showcases. Miller has been one of the more amusing voices of reason on Bill Maher's HBO chat show, Real Time, and it's so nice to be able to see Miller onstage again doing stand-up. As he told audiences, "Almost everyone on the show is someone I've known for years and respect -- and they're all good." Well, I'll be the judge of that. Henry Cho, a Korean raised in Tennesee, "so I'm South Korean." If you didn't enjoy Esther Ku's jokes about getting Koreans confused for each other, what would you make of this master's trip to the homeland with his father: "When we went to Korea, he walked 20 feet away and I lost him!" Hal Sparks continues to sport his Criss Angel hair and magician look, despite how it looks. It looks like Criss Angel. Instead, Sparks ranted against people who miss his short hair, talked about losing his Kentucky accent, and did a big act-out about sexually peaking. Cathy Ladman hates her New York voice, and Montreal audiences weren't exactly thrilled with it, either. Another trip to the therapist and everything will be OK. Henry Phillips and his guitar? Well, here's a little number you may have heard before, "Sweet Little Blossom of Mine." Todd Glass: I hadn't seen him live in four years, and man, how I missed seeing his energetic self. Glass is a guy who's always on, even when he's not on he's on. What a bundle of fun! Remember when Glass was on Last Comic Standing and kept mugging for everyone at everytime...good times. At the Masters, Glass riffed on both Sparks and Phillips and then himself, and destroyed with a bit about how easy recipes are, such as corn pudding! Meantime, here's an oldie but a goodie from Glass. Thea Vidale and I sat next to each other on the "regional jet" up from New York City, and regional jet means really small plane, which means I actually should have and could have used the phrase, "C'mon and sit on Daddy's lap!" And Billy Gardell closed by focusing on how kids have changed and how we've all changed because of anti-depressants, with a presence that shows you what a veteran stand-up headliner's set is all about.
Shuttle buddies: Don't know how it worked out like this, because we didn't see other during the fest and came from different cities, but Kent from Ask A Ninja and I ended up on the same shuttles to and from the airport in Montreal. Serendipity?
But what about next year: What about 2009? As noted or hinted at previously, several industry folks grumbled openly about wondering why they'd come to Montreal again in the first place. The festival certainly didn't dispel stereotypes about the friendliness of French Canadians, as they tried every manner in the book to get industry up to Montreal -- including their annual withholding of the New Faces and Masters names until two days before most would arrive, adding this two-day Just Comedy confab and charging industry $500 to show up -- then giving industry folks multiple hassles once they made it to Montreal. And that's not to mention the outrageous prices in the Hyatt Regency ($3 for a Coca-Cola, $10 for a bottle of beer), the attitude of the Hyatt toward the industry (even though the festival encouraged them to stay in the Hyatt) and the fact that some Hyatt workers were picketing outside made for a big barrel of not-fun. Stanhope wasn't the only one to openly ask if Montreal has become more about making a profit off of comedy fans and less about being a place for discovering and launching comedy careers. So what will happen in 2009 when JFL joins up with TBS to host a comedy festival in Chicago the month before Montreal? Will the industry go to Chicago and skip Montreal entirely? It only served to make me miss the atmosphere in Aspen, a festival run by people who really wanted it to be a home for the comedy industry (even if it proved too expensive and snowy). It also makes me want to start up my own comedy festival, a true showcase to bring industry to the talents worth watching, both new and old. If anyone wants to help me make that come true, please holler my way. Thanks.
The judge's rulings are final. So I'm going to withhold final judgments on some of the New Faces until further review. At Montreal's Just For Laughs, the New Faces have to deal not only with the pressure of a large foreign comedy club, but also with the added nerves of performing for all of the industry people who likewise stand and sit in ultimate judgement from the back corners of the bars, ready to make or break a comedian's career. Wow. What a build-up, eh? First off, let it be acknowledged that nobody bombed last night. Referring to my Simon Cowell Playbook, I can definitely also say, however, that several of the comedians need to do more to make a lasting impression, if they want that impression to be a positive one.
Host Greg Giraldo killed it, both in his opening remarks and also, at the halfway point, after he threatened a particularly persistent idiot heckler, surging into several minutes of high-power comedy. "Maybe I can get a show called Washed Up Hacks Stomp On 60-Pound Dickbags," he wondered aloud. Giraldo also reflected on how important this night was for "these kids," and what it means about his career that he'd be calling the New Faces kids.
Among the kids, the two real stand-outs from last night were Sean Patton and Brendon Walsh. More than a few people asked about Patton afterward and wanted to know what I knew of him, considering that he's based in New York. I have another post coming shortly on that aspect, but can tell you that he delivered a strong set from the get-go, opening with having to call in sick with a case of "the roars," followed by a case of "the beatboxes." With the crowd on his side, he paused for a beat. Then exclaimed: "You motherf%$#ers want to to fight me???" It was the best way I'd ever seen him introduce this bit about how to defend himself in an unexpected fight scenario, and it got a big laugh. He closed wih a weird and wild ode of what his ex did to his broken heart. Messed up, to say the least. As for Walsh, he proved to me once again that the Austin comedy scene seems to churn out very creative and clever comedians. Walsh's opening line: "Just like every other comedian, I have a fictional girlfriend, and we're having problems. It's rough." Walsh also has some very mean pranks up his sleeves, so tell puppies and Gene Hackman to watch out. And he can end any hopes of being forced to sing karaoke again just by taking on "Zombie" by The Cranberries.
For the record, though, current Last Comic Standing finalist Iliza Shlesinger scored not one, not two, but three applause breaks during her brief performance. Someone recently commented on my site that she's like a female Dane Cook, and waching her live, I can see that comparison. Take it for what it's worth. And right now, I can tell that some of you are taking it to either extreme. Suffice it to say, she's physical, she likes playing with sounds, she attacks the stage and has immense stage presence. It's a lot for some to take, I know. I get the sense that Shlesinger is trying to prove a broader point that she should be on TV more, in any capacity, whether it's stand-up or acting. I do know this: You'll be seeing a lot more of her on your TVs this summer, and in the clubs this fall.
Chelsea Peretti and Ira Proctor both delivered decent sets. Proctor's could have been better if the crowd had cooperated with him. Harris Wittels suffered from an unfortunate microphone malfunction, but recovered well enough to deliver a ballsy routine that even the band used as a callback, to hilarious effect on an unsuspecting Giraldo later in the show. There was a moment during Michael Palascak's set when I closed my eyes and thought I heard Mike Birbiglia. Tu Rae's deep voice had his routine down to a couple of key phrases, "know your limitations" and "do the best you can." Is that his advice for his career, too? Discuss. And Erik Griffin, taking the stage last after midnight, didn't get to play to a full and engaged room. They and the other New Face in this group (Seaton Smith) will get a second opportunity to make a first impression on Friday.
It's the second week of the 2008 Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, which means we finally learn the identities of this year's crop of New Faces and Masters to perform later this week. Much more to come, as I'll be reporting from Montreal starting on Wednesday. For now, though, let's deliver some names and congrats to all! Links available via the JFL MySpace blog post.
New Faces Montreal, 2008: Brendon Walsh, Tu Rae, Ira Proctor, Seaton Smith, Chuck Watkins, Sean Patton, Vanessa Fraction, Erik Griffin, Mo Mandel, Harris Wittels, Mike Palascak, Iliza Shlesinger, Jeff Dye, Kenny Johnson, Chelsea Peretti, Anjelah Johnson, Trevor Boris, Jamie Kilstein, Nate Bargatze, Malik Sanon.
Masters Montreal, 2008: Billy Gardell, Todd Glass, Thea Vidale, Henry Phillips, Hal Sparks, Kevin Brennan, Henry Cho.
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.