Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: The Big Surprise Edition

While the show itself was a scheduled event, the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles was absolutely jam packed with surprises on Tuesday night. Some, like a bonus Comedy Death Ray headliner Louis C.K., were fantastic. Others, like a couple of particular notable quotables, held a certain sense of delight and irony that you would expect for a show at this venue. And then there were "The Jasmine Twins."

So how did we feel about this week's Russell Stover sampler box of the funny?

  • Host for the evening Chelsea Peretti did a spectacular job moving things along. I do not know Ms. Peretti nor have I seen her perform before, but I suggest you all put her down on your short list of people to go see if/when they are in a venue near you. Not only did she have plenty of great jabs at some of the ins and outs of being a comedian, but she is an expert in the use of index cards in crowd work.
  • First up was Jason Nash's performance, which was less about laughter and more about someone becoming more and more uncomfortable as the night went on. Lines clearly meant to elicit laughter were instead greeted with a few "awwww"s, pity generally not being the response comedians look for. The set could be best summed up in his own words, in a faux-conversation to his child, which I wrote down for you: "Daddy's crying because his act doesn't work in front of college kids." This line comes into play later.
  • The antics of The Jasmine Twins can best be summed up thusly: have you seen the 1982 SNL sketch where Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, as Marie Osmond, made out with Gary Kroeger's Donny Osmond? Then you've seen this.
  • After seeing Matt Braunger the other month, I was really happy to see him in fantastic form tonight. Lots of fantastic material, great delivery, the kind of stuff that's worth checking out. He also had a bit which while funny, was extra funny due to its placement in the evening's show. The joke's central premise? Never blame the audience. If a bit isn't funny, it's the comic's fault. I started trying not to giggle uncontrollably. My guess is that this wasn't an intentional jab at Nash, but if it was sign me up for Braunger's fan club.
  • Ed Helms is the dude from The Daily Show, The Office, and The Hangover. Rather than read a story from a cereal box like B.J. Novak a few weeks ago, Helms had numerous bits on how wildlife done him wrong and the horrors of sushi. Which sounds really broad but trust me, it was a funny set from someone I have never seen do stand-up before. Quite the treat, it was!
  • Billed as the headliner, but not, Sarah Silverman definitely used the night as a test bed for new material. Working from notes with what seemed to be minimal preparation, it was a very spontaneous evening, relying on the crowd to come up with questions to ask her so she could give funny answers. It was funny, it was awkward, it was the kind of thing you're really happy to see for five bucks. It's not every day you get to see one of today's top comics essentially goofing around on stage, and since you probably weren't at the show, well, you missed out.
  • The final act of the night was the legendary Louis C.K., unannounced and fantastic. You know he's fantastic because he can tell jokes about his kids' classmates' parents, and they're the funniest things you're going to hear all week. His airplane bits will crush and destroy your airplane bits. There's a reason this guy's tickets cost a whole bunch of money, and that's because he's awesome. If for some reason you've never heard of Louis C.K., add him to your list of people to go look up after you finish reading this sentence.
It was the most mixed night of Comedy Death Ray I've seen so far, but if you're going to see a couple of acts you didn't much care for, Braunger, Silverman, C.K., and Peretti more than made up for it.

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