Category Archives: Live Comedy, Stand-up

Still nothing to see

My newly-in-residence partner’s job required him to travel all this last week.  This provided me with my first opportunity to veg solo in front of the Roku in two months. And we all know that’s the genesis of this blog, so it definitely got me in the mood to get back in action. Nothing particularly remarkable came out of it, but it’s probably a good idea to pace myself after such a long break. Wouldn’t want to sprain something.

I did try out Crackle for the first time. People who complain about Netflix’s selection need to peruse these offerings and then get back to me. However, it is free, and I did manage to find a couple choice nuggets. Of course, as night follows day, free inevitably means commercials. But that doesn’t really bother me much given that the movies are still completely unedited and uncensored. It makes the Crackle experience feel extremely similar to watching IFC. Except instead of trying to shove Comedy Bang! Bang! at me as hard as possible, it was BMW vehicles. That strikes me as a weird ad buy. If I could actually afford a BMW, couldn’t I afford pay video content? Just a thought.

I watched Stripes for quite possibly the millionth time. I guess this was at least slightly revelatory because I have, in fact, watched it so often over the course of my entire life that I have every aspect of it memorized, and yet this was the first time it occurred to me that I’m not sure I actually like it. Granted, there are some scenes that always make me laugh. Always. But some other scenes are quite dated in some potentially troubling ways. And Bill Murray’s natural charm and charisma have to work overtime to invest us in his character. Really, John Winger might be his least likeable protagonist. *

Meanwhile, back on good old Netflix, I discovered Mike Birbiglia. That’s an awesome addition to my life. A while back my Best Girl Friend (aka “Bestie”) mentioned how much she loved his stuff. But I dragged my feet on investigating this a little because there isn’t always a lot of crossover in our media preferences. A fairly typical exchange between us will go:

Bestie: [flipping channels] Ooh… Legally Blonde! Love it! Hollis, how many times have you watched this movie?!!**
Holly: Zero.

However, we can agree about Birbiglia. I loved his My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend special. It was one of the best things that happened all week.

 

* I haven’t put any research into this question or really even given it much thought before throwing it out there, so please don’t hold me to this assertion. In fact, feel free to debate the point with me in the comments.

** I find it endearing how she tries her best to create interesting nicknames for me even though my name has no cute permutations.

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Things I used to love: The comedy stylings of Margaret Cho

Last night I was procrastinating on writing up my Iron Man 3 reaction (some more), and so I decided to watch a stand-up special. But I must have felt particularly guilty about my blog-avoidant behavior because I selected a special I pretty much guessed would not work out for me:  Beautiful by Margaret Cho (available on Netflix). And not only did I cue it up, but I also watched the whole program from start to finish even though I barely giggled throughout the 75-minute running time. Because I so badly wanted to love it. But I just couldn’t.

Cho will always own a corner of my heart. I love her. There was a time when her 1994 HBO special played in constant rotation on Comedy Central, and I probably watched it for at least 40 percent of its airings. It was and still is the Best Thing Ever. I wish I could watch it right now, in fact. I would so much rather do that than sit here and talk smack about Cho, who has apparently already had a rough time of it.

But I have to admit, it’s been a long while since I’ve found her material compelling. I’m sure someone somewhere in the world probably criticized her old stuff as simply the generic observational humor that was so immensely popular during that era. But screw them! I didn’t love her act because of what she had to say about her life as a single woman or her childhood or even her definitive bits about her wacky Korean immigrant family. I loved it because of the very specific way she structured the set-ups and pay-offs into her own unique flow. I respected her as a storyteller.

But she doesn’t seem to tell many stories these days. I still respect that everything she says seems to come from an authentic place within her, and I appreciate her messages of support for the LBGTQ community and body love/self-care. We need more messengers on those topics. But her message so totally and completely drives her material that she forgets to style her thoughts into a narrative.

She just throws out there a list of political thoughts and raunchy thoughts. I love political humor, and for what it’s worth, I agree with her politics. But I don’t think political humor is her strong suit, and it’s a highly competitive field these days. And the raunchy stuff needs context to make it funny. Just discussing and miming sex acts doesn’t make me laugh because I don’t find it particularly shocking.

Don’t just tell me factoids about your pussy; tell me a funny story about it. Put your over-sharing to good use.

No one could accuse her of using generic material now. That’s for damn sure. She has firmly carved out a very specific niche audience, a community desirous of representation. She is successful in representing them, so they will adore her no matter what. I guess I’m just a cranky party crasher.

We could all use some laughs.

True Fact: I love live comedy. Probably 50 percent of what I stream on Netflix is simply random stand-up specials.

Recently, I saw Aziz Ansari perform. I really cannot say enough about how Ansari’s new tour exceeded my expectations. Just as funny previous shows, but the material was actually kind of insightful, too. His bits seemed deeper and more personal while still being hilarious. Maybe he’s maturing as an artist*. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend scoring some tickets for one of his performances because he is amazing. And if you don’t have the opportunity, then you should definitely at least check out the two specials he has available on Netflix Instant, especially if you need a pick-me-up after a genuinely horrible week.

But this post isn’t actually about Ansari. It’s about the comedian who opened for him that night on his “Buried Alive” tour, a really funny guy who did a lot of material about his Jewish heritage and whose name, unfortunately, I could not understand at all over the Warner Theater‘s mic system. Every time they said it, I would swear to God they were calling him “Motion Capture.” As in, the technique responsible for just about every CGI-heavy movie ever. That couldn’t be right.

When I got home, Google helped me figure out that his name is actually Moshe Kasher. And he also has a special, “Live in Oakland,” available on Netflix Instant. So I queued it up tonight to cheer me up. I suppose that’s a lot of pressure to put on any performer (“please make me entirely forget for an hour that my whole week sucked”), so I’m not sure it’s completely his fault that this was a misfire. But it wasn’t all me either.

He was genuinely delightful when I saw him opening, and his material felt really original. Intellectual, but raunchy and with some unique life experiences that you don’t hear every comedian discussing. And he gave a solid performance in the special, too, but I felt like the longer set meandered more. The transitions during his live act seemed tighter and carried the audience more confidently down a narrative path. Whereas watching the special tonight, I certainly laughed, but there were several points where my attention began to drift. And towards the end the special totally went off the rails in a spectacularly ill-advised fashion. Sadly, although I was entertained enough to watch for more of him in the future, I’m not nearly as excited about discovering him as I previously had been.

 

*  I’m aware that this is not how most people would describe a performance wherein one of the most frequently used vocabulary words was “jizz.” He also ran a little blue.