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!
Belated congratulations to Nate Bargatze for winning the 2010 edition of the New York's Funniest Stand-Up competition. The contest finals were held Saturday afternoon at Carolines, but the announcement was only just made official today.
Maybe they needed all that time to Photoshop his photo?
Regardless, congrats to Nate on his victory, for which he receives $500 and a week of gigs at Carolines. He's also attempting a double-win this week, already advancing to the semi-finals in the annual Boston Comedy Festival contest.
If you need to know more about Nate Bargatze, you can read my Meet Me In New York profile of him from last year.
What do you do when you have racked up TV credits, performed at the prestigious comedy festivals and contests around North America, and still haven't broken through to the next level of your career as a stand-up comedian?
If you're Nate Bargatze, Jarrod Harris, Sean Patton and Rory Scovel, you rent a van, get a filmmaker, book a tour and make a documentary about their run through the South and up the East Coast. They're calling it "3 Weeks in September," and themselves The Southern Comedy Quartet.
Here's a video promo Scovel shot with Bargatze in the latter's hometown of Nashville, Tenn., where they met up over Labor Day weekend to kick off the tour. Roll the clip!
What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
Today I'm going to introduce you to Nate Bargatze, who has a mouth from the South (and the rest of him hails from there, too), has performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Comedy Central's Live at Gotham, as well as Just For Laughs in Montreal.
Name: Nate Bargatze
Arrival date: October 2004
Arrived from: Chicago
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started January of 2003. I am from Nashville, Tenn., but moved to Chicago to start comedy. I was there for a couple of years, went back to Nashville for a couple of months and then moved to NYC with another comedian, Sven Weschler.
What was your best credit before moving here? I got a review in a newspaper in Chicago were I was described as a "pudgy Southerner."
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I was already in Chicago and knew a couple of comics that had moved here. New York also has a lot more stage time and I knew NYC is where I could get better faster with the stage time and being around so many great comics.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? About a year
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? Chicago has a great scene as does Nashville. But the stage time is the main difference that makes New York the best in my opinion. Also you can go watch some of the best comics out there every night and it keeps pushing you to get better.
People think that the funny guy in the office would make a great stand-up comedian, but that humor does not always translate from the workplace to the stage. Ditch Films has produced a series of online shorts that puts a reverse spin on this, taking stand-up comedians and having them do their act in an unnatural setting for stand-up. I'm not sure if it's funnier this way, but it certainly makes for an interesting piece of film. The most recent features Chris Laker in an office cubicle (note: contains NSFW language).
After the jump, videos from Pat Dixon, Nate Bargatze, Jim Norton, Dustin Chafin, Matty Goldberg, Jason Rouse, Tomi Walamies, Mark Demayo and Bill Burr.
If you were to ask me at the start of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, who I thought would win, well, someone did, and before I could say "John Mulaney" (whoops, he's not even in the contest? wait, what? oh, right, Mulaney is headlining at the Punchline in San Francisco this week, so he already had plans), I thought, Julian McCullough was the only Carolines club comic returning from among the 2007 contest finalists, so, yeah, him. McCullough did win the $2,500 prize last night at Carolines, along with a week of gigs at the club and an additional spot opening for one of the New York Comedy Festival headliners.
"I'm going to move to Hoboken with this money," McCullough joked while holding the large cardboard fake-check, in between sincere sentiments about his fellow competitors. "I want to thank Carolines. They've changed my life over the past two years."
McCullough told me afterward that he already had a festival gig opening for Susie Essman at Carolines this weekend. Which makes me realize that picking the winner of this contest is simple! Last year, winner Wil Sylvince had a festival gig before the contest; this year, 'twas McCullough. So if you want to win in 2009, get yourself booked in the fest first!
As even McCullough pointed out when he opened his finals set, stand-up comedy contests don't mesh well with stand-up comedy personalities. "Take the hardest job in the world and pit us against each other," he told the audience. And this contest has some work to do, too -- it uses the same audition process as Last Comic Standing (preferring appointments over open calls), which gives an advantage to comedians who know the system and the Carolines staff; and the name, well, the name of the contest, "New York's Funniest Stand-Up," is about as much of a misnomer as Grammy's Best New Artist. Actually, it'd make more sense if they called it New York's Best New Stand-Up, because even if the stand-up has worked for years, he or she is new to the New York City scene and industry and at least that separates that title from the many great and funny stand-up comedians who live in the city. That said, it's great that the Carolines-produced festival addded the contest to its lineup, because it's one of those events that helps make this week in NYC comedy more special and unique than any other week.
Want to know who I think New York's funniest stand-up is? Want to know how everyone else did in the contest? Keep reading...
One of my newspaper alma maters, the New York Daily News, devoted much of its Sunday features section to comedy, thanks in part to this week's New York Comedy Festival, but also to how much comedy has impacted politics this campaign season. There's a story from Caroline Waxler about how comedians might react to an Obama presidency, brief interviews with fest headliners Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan and Carlos Mencia, a profile roundup of the 11 finalists in the New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, and a look-back at some quotes from Bernie Mac, who appears posthumously in the new movies Madagascar 2 and Soul Men.
A reliable source informed me that these are your first five comedians advancing to the finals of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest:
Nate Bargatze, Esther Ku, Julian McCullough, Stone & Stone, Reese Waters
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.
Is it possible for the host of New Faces to bomb? If your name is Dana Gould and the show in question happened Saturday night, then yes, very much so. Word on the street had it that both groups of New Faces felt more at ease in their second go-arounds at Montreal, not only because fewer industry types would be lurking around, but also because the performers would have shaken off rust, nerves and any material that might not translate to a very mainstream Canadian comedy club audience. None of that explains what happened to Gould, however, who didn't connect with the audience in the first minute, and about 10 minutes later, really didn't have them on his side. Even Gould knew it. "Wow! I have to get out of this hole now," he said aloud.
This certainly helped Mo Mandel, who went up first and killed, particularly with an applause line following his bit on people who do yoga and other healthy things, wondering, "If you're unhappy, why are you trying to live longer?!" His Jew jokes also got big laughs. When I saw Mandel on my small computer screen earlier this year and last, I thought, eh. But live, I could see how he had won last year's Comedy Central Open Mic Fights.
Tougher to figure out Chuck Watkins. What is that accent? What's with all of the tai-chi stage movements? He employed a second microphone to play multiple instruments, and it was more cute than anything, although I got distracted the moment I heard him deliver this joke: "My teacher asked me for a declarative command. I said, 'Go f#$& yourself.'" I liked the joke a lot better two years ago when Dan Boulger said it and used a rhetorical question as the set-up.
Malik S. from Miami appeared to graduate from the D.L. Hughley school of smooth-talking comedy in a vest and tie, and like me, he could not be a thug because he's ticklish. Good point. He also proved that it's always possible to find work, no matter who you are, and closed the way you'd end your day at work.
Last Comic Standing finalist Jeff Dye opened with the work-out routine that got him into the TV house from Las Vegas, then closed with a bit about how the board game Guess Who teaches kids racism.
Vanessa Fraction got all worked up describing the time her son lathered up in her KY jelly, and now she's just looking for a guy with "at least." I know that much, at least.
Nate Bargatze used his Nashville twang to good effect, asking the crowd, "Do y'all have evolution here in Canada?" He talked about how if humans and monkeys are 98 percent alike, that makes his favorite 2 percent "the non-monkey parts," and wondered about the effectiveness of cancer-sniffing dogs.
Jamie Kilstein's joke about John McCain's war experience makes so much sense I cannot believe the Democrats haven't been using it every day.
If you're looking to cast a gay man from Winnipeg, then Trevor Boris is your guy.
Kenny Johnson's routine included several characters, suggesting he was letting the industry know that he is available for your sketch or sitcom needs.
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.
Nate Bargatze (from Hickory, but not the same Hickory as Jon Reep: fun fact! did you just say there is more than one Hickory? funner facter!) made his Live at Gotham debut last weekend, and here are the clips to prove it! We can even start with a clip that didn't make it onto the TV. See:
Actual TV clips are after the jump...