"There isn't one married couple left in here, is there?" Tom Van Horn just observed from the stage, before launching into his relationship material. "They're all home or dead now."
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.