The TBS broadcasts from the inaugural Just For Laughs Chicago festival kick off tonight with Let Freedom Hum, a stand-up showcase hosted by a Canadian sketch actor, Martin Short, and featuring very little in the way of humming and nothing that we heard about the joys of freedom. But they put the title on the Internet and your TV listings, so let's just get to it.
As I mentioned last week, Martin Short certainly did his part to enliven the proceedings -- in addition to taped bits that brought back Ed Grimley (without pants!), Jiminy Glick and Lawrence Orbach, Short's opening monologue was both topical and edgy. The audience gasped at a number of his zingers, including one joke in which he called Adam Lambert a fruit, and another in which, in front of several TBS executives, he zinged the network by saying: "Meanwhile, TBS viewers are saying, who knew Tyler Perry was so light-skinned!"
But what about the stand-ups? Chicago native John Roy warmed up the crowd beforehand and delivered one of the better sets of the night, joking about how the locals are tougher because of the city's frigid winters and are fatter because of what they eat (though you'll see none of this on TV tonight, Roy did tape a performance at Zanies last weekend for a new stand-up series TBS will debut later this year).
Earlier in the day, I caught up with Tom Papa and Kathleen Madigan as they ran through their promotional photo shoots. Through the magic of my Flip cam and the snapshot function, this moment in time has been captured for posterity. I think Papa had powder in his eye. Or he's winking at us! Either way, Papa got things rolling on the right note once he hit the stage, mocking billionaires who have been killing themselves because, having lost their money in the recession, they could not stand to live like the rest of us. He also poked fun at his own life as a husband and father, and had the audience in stitches as he recounted trying to have a conversation with his parents online via Skype. Madigan was next up, and wanted us all to know how not to be jealous of her for having to visit her parents outside of St. Louis, and how much drinking must be involved to cope with life as a Madigan. She also curiously was eager to revisit the 2008 presidential election and Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama (did I mention we were in Chicago?) and expressed the fact that she was too cynical for hope.
Early on in John Roy's new CD, Dressed For Recess, you can hear why Roy has become a popular comedian on the college circuit, as well as what made him the first "new" comedy winner when CBS revamped Star Search in 2003. Recorded at his hometown Chicago club, Zanies, Roy comes across as your buddy, your friend, as he tackles social issues. In the first eight minutes, Roy tells you why goth kids must really hate the summer ("You can't look like a vampire in shorts"), how there's a difference between broke and really broke, a rant about ramen noodles, and re-imagining Iron Chef as High Chef, with the obligatory Snoop Dogg reference. Over the course of 52 minutes, Roy opens up about his roommate, chain restaurants, his 22-year-old girlfriend who studies astrophysics, and feeling old. He grew up in a black neighborhood in Chicago, and wonders now why nobody told him his fandom of the Dukes of Hazzard meant he had "a pro-slavery lunchbox!?" He imagines God and Jesus talking some sense into us, he reveals his temptation to wrestle Chris Matthews after an appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, and takes down hipsters for drinking PBR. It's all affable stuff. Roy celebrates his CD release tonight with a show at the Hollywood Improv. If you'd like a copy of his new CD, you can check it out on Amazon.com via the following link...