Thursday, December 07, 2006

Comedy Cellar

We decided to do some research. Ed Murray, Alex Grubard, Mike Drucker, Tim Warner and I took the night off and went to see every comic at the Comedy Cellar, five hours of stand-up. We had no idea what we were in for.

We got there early enough to see the end of their open mic. I hadn't been to a mic in a long time. Seeing people get up for the first time, not yet having the skills, reminded me of how far I'd come. The rest of the night would remind me how far I need to go.

Marina Franklin took the stage as MC and showed poise, grace and inflappability. I was an immediate fan. The mic didn't even work and she smoothly got it fixed before bringing up the first comic. She asked us what we did for a living and Alex mumbled, "work in a warehouse." It was like we were undercover.

Sixteen comics took the stage and it became a once in a lifteime event.

Julian McCullough opened with great joke writing skills and great crowd work. He went after a stone faced guy in the front row but it was so good natured the rest of the room was behind him. Lesson learned.

Lenny Marcus hated the crowd but his material was too good to hate him back. He made me realize someday a good response is not going to be enough.

Jim Norton was a drop-in with some of the filthiest material I'd ever heard. He had a cold but you'd never know it from his performance. In the moment, hilarious and topped himself with every bit. His closer was both disgusting and made me think I didn't get laid enough when I was single.

Gary Gulman just had a Comedy Central special and I really need to see it. He did only two bits in twenty minutes but they were filled with jokes that seemed to come from every angle. He loved us because we got one obscure reference and shook all of our hands on his way out.

Gregg Rogell is just as tight and quirky as when I first saw him ten years ago. I've been a fan of his style for a long time and I would have gone to see him on his own.

Keith Robinson closed the first show with some of the best crowd work I have ever seen. There was material in there but I couldn't separate it.

The Cellar has an interesting format. They don't ever end the show. Marina made an announcement that they'd take an intermission and if we wanted to stay we could. About half the crowd took off and were replaced but we weren't going anywhere.

Jessica Kirson is a saint. She's done "the World" a few times (bumped me once and apologized to me for two minutes) so she kept looking at our table. She went up to Drucker. "You're a comic right? At the Improv. You're all comics. You shouldn't have to pay the cover." She went away and so did the cover. We were stunned. We came as fans and she treated us as professionals. Then she got up and destroyed.

Pete Correalle was new to me but I'm making a point to search him out. His point of view knocked me down. He would throw out a setup and I had NO idea what the punchline would be. Loved his attitude as well.

Sherrod Small has a set that, according to Tim, has been working for a long time. And you can tell. It's bulletproof. Hit every fifteen seconds. I could barely keep up. He did one bit and it made me think of a great joke. Then he did that joke.

Dan Naturman's style just appealled to me. It sat comfortably between Jon Lovitz and Norm MacDonald and I was with him anywhere he wanted to go.

Jim Florentine has the greatest shirt ever. His set was greater and a far cry from his "Crank Yankers" characters. He was understated, with solid down to earth material on relationships. Affable and easy to listen to.

Shawn Wayans showed up. Did twenty minutes from a different place than anyone else. You could feel the L.A. comedic actor style in his set. It was full of act outs and character pieces. If he wasn't a drop in, he would have had the perfect spot on the show.

Dave Attell could have closed the show and it would have been incredible. I've become a huge fan of his joke writing lately and he did not disappoint. Everything was new but sounded as if he'd been doing it for years. The great thing about Attell is that he'll give you a hilarious joke right away. Then tag it. Then tag it. Then tag it. By the fifth tag, you're in a different place than you started. And he'll do that for EVERY joke. My respect for him grows every time I see him.

Then Dave Chappelle got up. Dave Chappelle. He had no material and killed for 45 minutes. He just asked for news stories and immediately spun them into jokes. I'd seen him back in college in my student lounge and thought he was okay. The years have been good to Dave. Whether it's success or the thousands of shows he's done since I saw him last, he was 150 times the comic he was then. And the most comfortable comic that night.

Ardie Fuqua followed all this at 2:35 in the morning and showed us how it's done. People were leaving in droves after Chappelle walked off but Ardie just did his act. And it was great. His energy and confidence just plowed through and anyone who listened couldn't move. He had a decent, responsive crowd for his entire set but the man deserves a medal.

We were still buzzing in the street at 3 a.m. After months of shows (I just performed my 101st the night before), we were jaded. Five hours in the Comedy Cellar restored our faith. I can't wait to get on stage tonight.

Here's Alex Grubard's take on the night.


Monica said...

damn, you got to see filthy dirty norton live! yes, i'm jealous!

Hoopachoo said...

Man, that sounds un-freaking-believable. I wish I was there with you guys. Someday, we'll be like that!