Do you really need a tornado to be transported to another world? Maybe. It certainly helped add to the theme last night when thunderstorms brought funnel clouds through Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, uprooting trees just a block or two away from the start of the third annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which just so happened to be kicking off at The Bell House with a show themed "An Evening of Comedy From 1986."
Mirman says the festival is a joke, but one in which he and his organizers have committed to fully. Each year they provide fun things for audiences to enjoy, both free and available for purchase. A merch table last night offered traditional items such as posters and free guides, but also "Industry Rocks" (rocks engraved with names of real-life comedy industry people, for $15), velvet Eugene paintings ($25) and more. Inside the venue, audience members could feast on free roasted duck, set up on a table beneath a banner that read "Eugene's Pee Your Pants Comedy Villa." At the door, each audience member received 3-D glasses to watch Mirman's 3-D "welcome video."
As for the show itself, Mirman introduced Tony V with the credits he would have had in 1986, and Tony joked about his small role in the 1986 movie, One Crazy Summer. The "best impressionist" Sandy Gorman followed, played by Larry Murphy in a white wig, holding a giant phone and wearing a suit jacket with the sleeves rolled up. Among his impressions: Jack Nicholson, Ronald Reagan, Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro on a party line. Mirman next brought out Teddy Ruxpin. Yes. The stuffed teddy bear that can talk. Mirman sat the Teddy Ruxpin on a stool in front of the mic and walked off, letting Ruxpin spew forth a filthy NSFW stand-up routine. Ron Lynch opened his set by reading off notes of how a stand-up should act, then noted that the rolled-up sleeves really was a trend in stand-up back in the 1980s.
"How did that happen? Who was the first? How many of you have no idea what I'm talking about?"
In a special treat, Lynch played the cassette tape that Louis CK sent him back around 1986 as an audition to get booked in a club Lynch ran in the Boston area. Afterward Lynch mocked him, which prompted Louis CK himself to appear in a cameo that delighted the crowd. Lynch closed with his classic bit from the future in which a Disney-engineered robot explains what stand-up comedy was all about.
Eugene Mirman has announced the planned lineups for his crazy-yet-true-because-it-is-Eugene-after-all comedy festival named for him, taking place Sept. 25-28 in Brooklyn. Mirman pretty much has it covered -- most of his usual and unusual suspects will appear over those four days and nights at two venues, Union Hall (where Mirman already hosts the popular Tearing the Veil of Maya showcase on Sundays with Michael Showalter in Park Slope) and The Bell House (a new joint the Union Hall folks are opening nearby).
Time Out NY playfully hinted at what a Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival might look like, with hints from Mirman himself.
Want to see who's scheduled to perform?
Back in August, I said that Louis CK had developed an even funnier hour of stand-up than he'd displayed in his most recent HBO special, Shameless. Anyone who saw CK perform Thursday night at Town Hall witnessed it firsthand.
CK told me in August that developing the new hour has been "really fun after 22 years of doing stand-up. It's very renewing."
The same could be said for his audiences. I'm not sure I can think of another comedian who can open by repeatedly saying three offensive words and then thoughtfully and hilariously explain why he says them. As he points out, any word is only offensive depending upon the person saying it and the person hearing it. And he aptly notes that the media should be considered offensive for its overuse of "the n-word" and manages a callback, too. "It puts the word in my head. Why don't you say it?! Don't hide behind the word like an annoying fa&&ot." He then goes on to explain why gay men "should be respected and not judged" because they perform something he could never do and most women don't want to do, even though it's a guy's favorite thing. Some may find CK to be too profane -- he does have a 9/11 masturbation joke, after all -- but when it comes down to it, this 40-year-old married man with two young daughters has a way of digging deep into the emotional underpinnings of marriage and fatherhood that express an everyman's frustration with the world. It's not just about simple observational humor. There's such an intense honesty to everything he says that you cannot fault him for all of the profanity, and you'll also find him saying many things that resonate with your own emotional reactions to life. CK has talked before about how annoying young children can be, but in his latest hour, he has mined that for even more laughs, and also has discovered a way to link the damages caused by boys and girls to the future differences between men and women.
CK's opening act was Ron Lynch, whom CK introduced as one of his oldest friends in comedy. Lynch's act is classically silly, with idiot-level magic tricks and bits like Mesmerizo that would kill at a kid's show, but mostly flew past the adults in the Town Hall audience. His closing routine, lip-synching to his own voice as a futuristic robot and hack comic who has to reteach Americans how to laugh, is a great inside joke for comedians and audiences that have seen a lot of comedy.