No preamble is necessary here; let’s get straight to it. Risk!, at Bagdad Theater was the first show I attended last night because I am attracted to storytelling like it’s the ultimate destination of my entire creative life, and that’s what it was, intimate, personal storytelling from comedians. There are storytellers and there are comics and there is crossover; few crossover well, but this show was great. The big star was Maria Bamford, not just because she’s famous but also because she opened up about her struggles with mental illness, not simply in herself but within her entire genetic code. It’s fascinating how we’re socially engaged with her, listening to her discuss suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorder, hostile fantasies, and medication, in this context of center-of-attention vulnerability we laugh about it when most of us would walk away in discomfort were she not famous nor a close friend. The others were also personal, like Eric Andre’s story about his first prostitute in Amsterdam, a frightening portrayal of red light district hookers and the conditions. Janine Brito talked about childhood – something about foreshadowing that she would be “a big old dyke” later. Kevin Allison hosted with his stories, one relating to how mostly young girls recognized him from his work on MTv’s “The State”, but never gay men, until one time that he was covered in an unlikely liquid medication, which called back nicely to the lovely Giulia Rozzi story about her anal-retentive-germaphobic Mother that would end up saving her from head lice.
Less than a month ago, having spent almost two weeks sleeping on an Austin comedian’s couch and smoking blunts with many local comics in to the late hours, it seemed appropriate to see The Best of Austin showcase at Bossanova. The city is producing some great comedy, it’s weird and great but the scene is smaller than Portland, yet very potent; the kids are all right. One of the headliners, Howard Kremer now lives in New Jersey, and when I asked him to do the Facetime interview, he was definitely uncertain of the advantage of taking three minutes of his life to appease my YouTube channel. I wanted him, not because he’s a rising fame (something that wasn’t clear to me until I looked him up later), but because he is totally awkward and weird and it would have been perfect. I saw friend Maggie Maye again and realized she’s a word-for-word comic, which I could have guessed but would not assume because some are more obvious than others. I can’t do that kind of memorization, so my hats off to her.
Next up was The Delocated Witness Protection Program at the Bagdad Theater featuring the headliners, Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, and hosted by Jon Glaser behind a ski mask and voice deepening effect, as if his identity indeed required anonymity. Let me start by saying, here is where Bridgetown really started annoying people. Even my defense is antagonistic, arguing to people, “Look, one of their top sponsors is Ground Kontrol, they don’t have a lot to work with here.” It’s true, waiting in line for an hour past show time and finally getting things moving eighty minutes late, that gets people talking about all the organizational fallouts. Every show I attended so far has either started or run late or both. As for the show itself, definitely funny, it was a good time. Brett Gelman played a character that throws sand from a bucket all over the stage and makes terrible sand puns. It was kind of retarded. Garofalo was caught off-guard, uncertain of her stage time, and proceeded behaving awkwardly, hunching over every joke. “Is she on her lady time?” I asked myself, and she alluded to it later. I wasn’t laughing but was eclipsed by her behavior, listening to her rhythm as if she started the show in that sort of catching up pace and never did. Simply watching her and hearing her concepts fascinated me. She started apologizing though; it’s hard for a comic on her level to accept chuckling laughter. Barry interjected comments to a magazine article written by a woman explaining what her needs are, as if she speaks globally for women, but actually she sounds like a spoiled-ass rich white cock-enslaver of men. It killed. Closing the show was the Corin Tucker Band, which was actually a bit bizarre because they all came out masked with the same voice over effect, mixing too much volume in to a small sound system, and about 15% of the audience walked out during their two-song set.
With the end of that show, I was still hoping that it would all culminate in the final showcase and the party would roll out in unison. All I really remember from Benched is a few funny jokes from a comic or two, then a bizarre appearance by Brody Stevens who started out explaining he’s on meds and weed. He had few jokes and mostly just rambled about hoping to make it as a comic actor, being in the Hangover movies, doing thousands of warm up sets for television shows, playing baseball in college, being like Forrest Gump, and with our help (from the audience) he could finally realize his dream and relax. It was so honest, I feel like he was out of his cook, his insecurity unraveling in a bit that was hilarious for ten minutes but only got increasingly awkward. He really was medicated. He put it like, “I just need a few bucks … for you to really like me … “. Let me encapsulate the impression. Entertainers like us are really just looking for a few bucks as an indication of appreciation from large numbers of people so that they can live their dream and relax. It sounds so wrong.
And then the after party happened without me.