Patrice Oneal has performed in Canada "40 times," but the forty-first time was not even close to the charm, as customs officials at the Canadian border refused Oneal entry, where he was supposed to perform his one-man show this week at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival.
The Zoofest (part of JFL) main page posted an update an hour ago to apologize for the cancellation, saying: "Sad but true. Patrice Oneal is no-go at Zoofest. These things happen in our world. We are very sorry. Everybody at Zoofest wanted to see Patrice Oneal as much as you guys did." In fact, Oneal was a big hit in Montreal two years ago with his previous one-man show (my review of Patrice Oneal at JFL Montreal in 2008).
Oneal explained on his Twitter feed @BIGMOMMAPRODS on Monday night:
"I shoulda bn in montreal on saturday nite Canadian border police thought other wise. I now know I cn drive 12hrs straight if needed"
"For anyone who heard me talk about it. Yes for that."
"In a angry french girl accent it sounds really embarrassing. You commit RIP?!! Leave Kinuda now"
Opie & Anthony talked about it and played old tape that explains Oneal's statutory rape conviction from when he was just 16 (she was 15 and white) -- 24 years ago. Audio content is NSFW:
A few years ago, Patrice Oneal had a routine in his stand-up act in which he described real and imagined sexual acts. He infamously even talked about it live one time on FOX News. Fun times.
Now here comes a new Funny or Die routine imagining "The Committee" that approves the naming of sexual acts, and the committee consists of longtime character actress Kathryn Joosten and Rich Sommer, with Sommer's Mad Men castmate Alison Brie in the role of cutely campaigning for her own very NSFW rituals to be included into the lexicon. And yes, it's still very Not Safe For Work even when Brie, Joosten and Sommer are talking about the "Angry Pirate." Roll the clip?
For the throwback, here's Oneal doing his routine a few years ago at Just For Laugh's "Nasty Show."
And here Oneal is on FOX News a few years ago explaining the "Angry Pirate" and the "Donkey Punch."
Related: Hey, Oneal is going to be part of the Nasty Show at Just For Laughs Chicago this week. Fate!
For the second year, Just For Laughs Montreal is putting several of its shows into an offshoot called Zoofest, and this time, they're opening acknowledging it as the "off the wall parallel" to JFL. In other words, for all of the unique, interesting and possibly amazing one-person shows by performers who aren't headlining Galas or otherwise big-ticket names to Canadians, why don't you try Zoofest? "1 show for $15, 2 shows for $20" Or get a Zoopass for $29.99 (do I need to tell you these are in Canadian dollars) It's all about marketing, really.
What comedy fans want to know is who's going to be there this July? Why don't I tell you!
Bill Burr, "You People Are All The Same," July 12-16 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Bo Burnham, "Words Words Words," July 12-15, 17 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Donald Glover, "Gross!", July 12-17 at Katacombes
Jamie Kilstein, "No God, No War, No Nickelback," July 14-15, 17, at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Jim Jefferies, "Alcoholocaust," July 12-17 at Katacombes
"Kim Noble Will Die," July 12-7, 20-24 at Theatre La Chappelle
Noel Fielding Live, July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Patrice Oneal, "Mr. P," July 13-17 at Katacombes
Phil Nichol, "A Deadpan Poet Sings Quiet Songs Quietly," July 12-17 at Katacombes
Tim Key, "The Slutcracker," July 14-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Tom Wrigglesworth, "An Open Letter to Richard Branson," July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Related: Zoofest ticket info.
This should be interesting. The Full Ginsburg, makers of short comedy films on the YouTube, are putting on a live comedy show tonight called "I Heart Huckabee," featuring Huffington Post writer and comedian Lee Camp, and former Arkansas governor, Republican presidential candidate and current FOX News host Mike Huckabee. At Comix comedy club in NYC. Not the mainstage, mind you. Downstairs. The basement lounge, Ochi's. Capacity: 4. OK. I kid. More like 44. Somehow I have a feeling that this will be a crowded, messy affair. I would especially enjoy seeing the crowds for Patrice Oneal's show on the mainstage trying to shuffle through the Ochi's crowd to make their way to the bathroom, and maybe catching a glimpse of Huckabee onstage and thinking, WTF?
UPDATED: OK, not too messy, perhaps. Here is one of the photos taken by the lovely and talented Kambri Crews, who, along with coming up with the bright idea to hold shows in Comix's basement, also is writing her memoirs and puts up with Christian Finnegan on a forever, married full-time basis.
This is pretty much for my American readers (and those of you outside the States who have figured out how to watch clips on Hulu.com). My Hulu visits tend to be more targeted -- I know what's on there and what I want to catch up on -- rather than exploratory missions of curious wonder. That said, one of my friends tipped me off to this new addition to Hulu's online archives: Full seasons of Comedy Central's Premium Blend. Premium Blend was the bigger, louder, hyperactive precursor to Live At Gotham. Look at how the audience and claps as if they're in a Benny Hill sketch. So far, just seasons five, seven and nine are up, for 36 episodes spotlighting 144 up-and-coming stand-up comedians, some of whom have since made leaps and strides, while others have yet to become household names. It's fun to see some of the pairings here, find glimpses of people I know now but didn't back then, as well as comics I was friends with years ago.
Season 5 also is intriguing because it filmed pre-Sept. 11 but began airing Oct. 5, 2001. Remember that weird time for comedy, when society and the mainstream media asked if it was OK to be ironic and sarcastic? It's also a time that gave us early looks at Judah Friedlander, Laurie Kilmartin, Eugene Mirman and Patrice Oneal, all in one half-hour!
From Season 9, here is another lineup that's notable for putting Aziz Ansari (NBC's new Parks and Recreation) together with Boston stand-up vet Frank Santorelli, Austin's Brendon Walsh (who now sports wilder hair and stand-up), and Jo Koy. This aired in February 2006.
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.
After running around the city on Wednesday night, I decided to make my Thursday much easier to digest by camping out at Theatre Ste-Catherine for three of the Flying Solo one-man shows, which just so happened to feature revered comedians Mike Birbiglia, Brendon Burns and Patrice Oneal.
It's a narrow, intimate black box of a room with a small balcony, which makes it kind of a perfect space for Mike Birbiglia to test his upcoming Off-Broadway show, Sleepwalk with Me. Having seen Birbiglia dozens of times already this year in New York City, and heard pretty much all of these stories before, it makes it more difficult to process what he's done here -- although I can tell you the structure he settled upon for Montreal is a different non-linear approach from anything I'd seen before from him. Certainly, the sleepwalking stories resonate with me (I have sleptwalked my way out of my apartment twice and locked myself out, but had a more dangerous incident as a child falling down the stairs in my sleep) and Birbiglia manages to hit just the right dramatic and poignant notes. He goes off on tangents earlier in the hour-plus to include jokes about his ADD and his first time performing (seen previously on Comedy Central's My First Time), wondering about bears, and a couple of times, he says "What I Should Have Said" which reminds you of his DVD. Anyhow. Two other comedians with me, who haven't seen Birbiglia as often as I have, thought it was one of the best shows they'd seen. His final Montreal shows are on Saturday.
Brendon Burns is a guy who isn't afraid to get in your faces, and literally will do so several times during his show, So I Suppose This Is Offensive Now. Burns, who won the top prize last year in Edinburgh, also will tell you at the Hyatt Regency that his is the best show at this fest, too. So, is it? Hard to quantify that just yet. He's certainly one of the louder performers, every so often letting out a gutteral rebel yell that reminds one of Sam Kinison. And the format of his show, which includes a mindf$%k of an ending and a plea to audience members to return with their friends, would suggest that over the course of a monthlong run such as Edinburgh, would only gain momentum over time. Burns said he had to modify his show quite a bit for Montreal, although he still talks at length about U.K. attitudes toward terror and the Glasgow baggage handler who head-butted a terrorist at the airport. He also takes on race and sex. If you go to this show knowing the title of it and seeing his poster, please don't end up being offended. As he said at one point last night, "I'm normally so much more endearing than this." Burns has shows at 9 p.m. tonight and Saturday.
One guy who certainly is more endearing in this intimate theater setting is Patrice Oneal, who in his show, Positivity, is positively brilliant. After a 10-minute opening set from Joe DeRosa (who ripped into fast food), Oneal takes his seat on a stool and tells it like it is, covering views on the comedy industry, Obama and McCain, how he likes dogs more than people, on being a black spokesman on cable TV, diabetes, attitudes toward the Asians in his daily life, and finally how men and women get along (or don't). He notes upfront that he doesn't think he can get any smarter now that he's 38. He also acknowleged: "I believe what I say. That's my niche. It doesn't make me that much money." But it should win him many more fans. You can see Oneal working the road in comedy clubs, and every so often as a special guest in theater and TV shows. But this smaller theater really works to Oneal's advantage, letting him ease back and work at his own pace, without having to deal with either the mechanics of a club show or the size of a large audience. Oneal performs again at 11 p.m. tonight and Saturday. I hope and trust someone works out a plan for Oneal to work venues like this more often.
This is an early review! HBO just taped four episodes of a new stand-up showcase, Down and Dirty with Jim Norton. It'll air this fall (update! debut is midnight Oct. 4, with other episodes premiering Oct. 11, 18, and 25) They taped two episodes last night and two tonight at the BergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey. At last night's tapings, things got, well, down and dirty.
Al Jackson, who I'm watching on Last Comic Standing as I type this, deserves special honors for his work warming up these rowdy crowds. He got some serious laughs and comedy points during the intermission between shows (an intermission that didn't allow the crowd to move) with material about being a teacher and a story involving his first trip to Starbucks.
Fans literally lined up around the block in this suburban Jersey town for the shows, which Norton promoted on his MySpace and via the Opie & Anthony show. Did I mention the crowds were rowdy? Alrighty then. I still haven't gotten full confirmation from HBO on this, but the first night's shows sure seemed like a suburban, white, rock version of Def Comedy Jam. Norton hosts all four shows and does about five to six minutes upfront, and there's a special podium set up for Lemmy from the band Motorhead, who introduces Norton and contributed the theme song. The fans clearly were on board with Norton from the get-go, welcoming him with a standing ovation.
In the first show, Norton opened with a funny bit about our past and present New York governors and their sexual tendencies. Russ Meneve came out first, and when some guy in the audience shouted out during Meneve's first bit, I got more than a bit worried that this crowd wouldn't know how to behave at a TV taping. They settled down, though. And they laughed and laughed. They gave Meneve an applause break when he joked that his last four girlfriends had died in sailing accidents. They continued laughing throughout the night. Joe DeRosa, whom I first encountered opening for a rowdy audience waiting for Dave Chappelle, certainly held his own with an opening bit about what life really is like for comedians on the road. Ari Shaffir went next, though, and attempted to steal the show when he ended his set with a joke about being ready for a blowjob anytime, demonstrating such by dropping his pants and his underpants for a full frontal moment. A moment that continued when he stood like that, then walked away with his pants still down. Hours later, Shaffir told me he didn't warn the HBO folks about his Full Monty moment, because he figured a warning might only result in HBO telling him not to do it. Then again, it is HBO. Moreover, he didn't really give them any chance to edit around his penis. So to speak. Let's see Carlos Mencia try to steal that bit. Norton's retort? "He looks like me, if I was taller and had a clit." Jim Jeffries got introduced as a special guest and had a funny opener about getting a ride home from an audition, followed by his story about coming down with a case of penis cancer. Audience naturally loved him. But they gave a standing ovation welcome to the first show's headliner, Andrew Dice Clay. Yep. He had his leather jacket, giant belt buckle, sunglasses and cigarette. No nursery rhymes. Instead, some different ancient premises that boiled down to dick jokes, black dick jokes (Siegfried and LeRoy???) that resulted in his philosophical outlook on how black men are ruining us. Or something like that.
The second show last night couldn't help but seem tamer. Norton opened that show with a few quick jokes about breaking up with his girlfriend (somehow Facebook alerted this to me first?!) before launching into his extensive breakdown of a video that I have seen (thank you, Joe Rogan?) of a man dying in Washington state a few years ago after allowing a horse to have sex with him. Indeed. I did say this show seemed tamer, though, and that was because the first few acts weren't quite as aggressive, even if they were still raunchy. Louis Katz introduced his own sex move, the Vengeful Louis, and closed with reasons why premature ejaculation is not necessarily a bad thing. Kevin Shea, introduced as Korean-born, also informed the crowd that he was college roommates with one of the YouTube founders-turned-billionaires. Jason Rouse, Canadian, living in England, started with a topic DeRosa had covered earlier but took it in a different direction. Rouse's jokes weren't just filthy but also somewhat misguided. After one joke, Rouse even said, "I know I'm going to Hell for that joke. But f#@k it, it's warm, and I'll know people there." Patrice Oneal closed out the second show with 15 minutes about how he's gotten creepy as he's gotten older. It's funny because it's true. But also because he's really not that creepy.
They filmed two more episodes tonight, with headliners Bill Burr and Artie Lange, and a lineup that looks more subversive (wish I'd seen that!) and includes Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, Andy Andrist, Sean Rouse, Geoff Keith, Jacob Sirof and Jim Florentine.
The folks at Just For Laughs announced part of its 2008 slate for Montreal yesterday (proving once again, that a blogger cannot take a day off!)...
This year, Montreal introduces its first "industry conference" -- Just Comedy -- with Ivan and Jason Reitman talking father-son comedy shop on July 17, and Judd Apatow getting honored as "comedy person of the year" (year unspecified) on July 18.
The Galas (the biggest shows in size and scope) include hosts Craig Ferguson (July 18), Jimmy Fallon (July 19) and an "all-star" gala with Ron White, Paula Poundstone and Larry Miller (July 20).
Special events listed include: Stiles & Proops: Unplanned (July 15) featuring, well, whatever Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops feel like doing that night; South Park Live (July 16) with Matt Stone and Trey Parker; Omid Djalili (July 17); and Apatow For Destruction (July 18) featuring the aforementioned Apatow with cohorts Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Russell Brand and others.
Club shows, which often get grouped into themes, include The Nasty Show with hosts Nick DiPaolo and Patrice Oneal; The Ethnic Heroes of Comedy hosted by Frank Spadone with Steve Byrne, Gabriel Iglesias, Maz Jobrani and others; AMP'd, the Music Comedy Show with host Craig Robinson; Laugh-rodisiacs, the Relationship Show hosted by Greg Behrendt; the midnight Alternative Comedy Show hosted once again by Andy Kindler; the Best of the Uptown Comics which in Canadian means "urban" which means "black," hosted by Bruce Bruce with JB Smoove, Craig Robinson and others.
Tom Papa gets promoted from New Faces host in 2007 to the "Richard Jeni One-Person Show Series" with his show, "Only Human" (July 14-20).
Of course, the real treats for fans and the industry come in the New Faces showcases (to be hosted by Greg Giraldo and Dana Gould), and we won't know who makes it to Montreal until this weekend's final New York City auditions: May 1 at Comic Strip Live, May 2 at Stand-Up NY and May 3 at Broadway Comedy Club.
If there's such a thing as alt-comedy, then can there also be such a thing as alt-black comedy? Elon James White thinks so. White and fellow New York comedian Baron Vaughn have been trying to educate audiences on the notion that there are many different types of black stand-up comedy, through their Shades of Black shows, their online site, The Black Comedy Project, and this weekend, their first full-on comedy fest, The Black Comedy Experiment. The "Experiment" debuts tonight and runs through Saturday night, with all shows at the two venues in The Tank.
Tonight's mainstage shows are Souled Out (featuring Walli Collins, Rick Younger, Leighann Lord, Dean Edwards, Mike Yard and Marc Theobold) and Desiree Burch's 52-Man Pickup. Other one-person shows include "The Oreo Kid" by Jordan Carlos (who auditioned last week for Saturday Night Live as a potential Barack Obama), "30 Years in Africa" by Michelle Buteau, Robin Cloud's "Bag O' Bitches," "Mystery Up at Negro Creek," by Baron Vaughn, and "2-Faced" by Erica Watson. There'll be special editions of Chicks and Giggles, Laughing Liberally and Shades of Black. And that's not all.
That SNL just got a lot of buzz over their search for a cast member to play Barack Obama only brought more attention to the plight of black comedians in getting the industry to notice them. "We couldn't ask for better timing, literally," White told me last night. That SNL didn't cast a black comedian for Obama didn't surprise White. That Jordan Carlos and Donald Glover got face time with Lorne Michaels pleased him, though. "I was happy that two of the three Obamas were on our festival. There's our buzz!"
In White's view, the fact remains that most audiences and Hollywood industry types think of only one type of comedian when they think of booking a black stand-up. They think of Def Jam, he said. "Everybody feels I'm harping on it," he said. It's not that Def Jam is evil or bad, he said, but rather that the great success of Def Jam created a model that everyone else has tried to duplicate without thinking or considering other forms or styles of comedy. That's been the pattern, White says, going back to Bill Cosby. When Richard Pryor emerged, "he kicked the door down," but then other comics tried to be Pryor, then tried to be Eddie Murphy, then tried to be the Wayans Brothers, and more recently, Def Jam. "It was just bravado. In your face," White said. "But it pigeonholed us for years." The opportunities simply aren't there, from SNL to HBO. "Dwayne Perkins might get to do Conan. But where's his HBO special?" White's online essay in October, "Did Def Jam Ruin Black Comedy?" sparked a furious back-and-forth debate with comedian Todd Lynn. "Todd Lynn says there ain't no thing as an 'Intelligent N----r' show. The fact is, though, he thinks there's one way of doing it, but in my opinion, there are many ways of climbing the ladder," White said.
He acknowledges that "the chitlin' circuit is strong in Harlem and the Bronx," and that New York City has lots of black comedians and black rooms, but wonders where the mainstream breakthroughs are for them. And White also knows that even though he's a Bed-Stuy Brooklyn native, he sounds like he's British and doesn't always fit in either an urban Def Jam scene or a white scene. "There are jokes I have that I can't tell in front of a white audience. It's because they just don't get it, nine times out of 10. They don't have the same life experience I have." So there has to be another way. "It was the same when the alt-comedy scene started. That's why I believe in alt-black," he said. "Some people argue I'm just putting another label on them and I understand that."
Like the comedians who formed an alternative to the club scene so they could work and build their own fan bases, White hopes to do the same for the many "shades of black" comedy. He's not against "urban or Def Jam" comedians who are good, saying Patrice Oneal is great and killed on that show. He's against black comedians who are hack about their blackness, such as the woman who threw her weave into the audience to get a standing ovation.
White still doesn't know if he and Vaughn and the experiment will succeed. "If we make enough ruckus, at least we'll be a footnote," White said.
On Sunday, Comedy Central gave Katt Williams the broadcast debut for his 2007 stand-up film, American Hustle, an interesting choice for Williams and his crew considering it meant adding all the blurs and beeps of Comedy Central's censors. It's essentially a stand-up concert, taped the previous New Year's Eve in Chicago, folded into a road trip with his opening acts, Red Grant, Melanie Comarcho and Luenell -- the latter of whom you may recall vamping it up onscreen previously as Borat's prostitute. An opening sketch includes a dream sequence with Jeremy Piven and a pitch meeting that allows Williams to parody recent movies such as 300 and March of the Penguins and even get in a dig on the fact that Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry all have worn fat suits for the sake of major movie success. Williams gives all of his openers a chance to showcase their stand-up, and when he arrives onscreen, he shows how charm and energy can go a long way in the entertainment business. He told the crowd that if they were expecting jokes from Pimp Chronicles, they weren't getting them because he didn't them to have to pay to hear the same bits twice. He may not be tall. But his stand-up walks the walk and talks the talk, even if that means not giving up on a word just because Michael Richards messed up.
Patrice Oneal on Def Comedy Jam? There he was last night on my HBO, and I'm not sure any crowd or setting or anything can faze this guy. So so raw. So so brutally funny. Don't have a video to link, otherwise I would.
Opie & Anthony prepared to return from yet another radio exile, right on the eve of launching their second annual summer comedy tour. Good timing, eh? XM satellite radio's month-long suspension ended this morning, and the K-Rock jocks get to celebrate tomorrow when the second annual "Opie & Anthony's Traveling Virus" tour kicks off at Jones Beach.
"The timing is interesting," Gregg (Opie) Hughes told me. "So yeah, they might be excited to see us."
Fans will hear plenty of free speech, too, from comedians Louis CK, Frank Caliendo, Robert Kelly, Stephen Lynch, Otto & George, Patrice Oneal, Bob Saget, Rich Vos and O&A sidekick Jim Norton (7 p.m. tomorrow, $26-$70 via Ticketmaster). The seven-city tour visits Mohegan Sun later this month and Holmdel, N.J., in August.
"I think they're going to be very festive because they can see everyone in a free atmosphere," Oneal said. "Plus, it's the first live thing after all the bull-, so people can just take a breath and enjoy themselves."
The showcase also features an Ozzfest-style village of merchants, artists and crazies to go along with the comedy.
"And that doesn't count the tailgating that happens before," Hughes said.
Last year, the jocks weren't sure what to expect on tour. "We didn't know if fans would have the patience to sit through eight to nine comics," Hughes said. "But there were times when you could hear a pin drop because the audience was waiting to hear the next joke."
Some crowds, though, got a little too into the act. In Philadelphia, the audience booed Bill Burr so relentlessly that he turned on the crowd with a hilarious rant against that city's heroes, a performance which became a YouTube hit in comedy circles. Burr, who appears on "Letterman" tonight, is passing up this tour, saying, "I earned my Purple Heart" the last go-round.
"There's nothing better than killing in front of that audience and nothing more frightening than bombing in front of them," Norton said. "They're loyal fans, but they're barbarians."
Kelly said the fans may be rowdy, but they do know comedy. "They're familiar with all of us, too, from the show, which helps."
The lineup has longstanding relationships with the Opie and Anthony program - something the jocks have fostered over the years, by inviting comics on a regular basis to hang out, share their lives and join the airtime shenanigans.
"It's not just a radio show putting on a comedy show," Cumia said. "The audience has a vested interest in every comic who is part of the show. Their crises, their addictions, their vices - the audience knows these people."
Note: Parts of this report originally appeared in the New York Daily News. More from Patrice Oneal, Robert Kelly and Jim Norton after the jump.