Friday, February 24, 2012

Pat Dixon and Marcus Cox

Starting out in any performing art can be brutal. The first few plays, the first few dance recitals, can make you toss away the tutu or swear you’ll only work on costumes and props for the rest of your life. Stand up, in my opinion, is a particularly harsh beast; it not only eats its young, but seems to savor the flop sweat marinade as the carcasses fall in a heap on some makeshift stage at the local Elks Lodge. Beginning comics will never become the seasoned vets we so enjoy if we don’t give them stage time, audience support and constructive criticism. When a less experienced comedian takes the stage for a feature spot, I want to laugh and I listen for the lines that will allow me to do so.

When Marcus Cox stepped on stage, my head instantly filled with another comedian’s bit – Tim Minchin’s song, “Prejudice.” Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger. I had seen this wholesome-looking ginger-haired manchild perform just a few weeks ago as part of a young comics showcase, and I remember really loving the contrast between how he looked and what he said. When someone that clean cut tells me he supports free speech in Larry Flynt’s Hustler Clubs “one carefully placed dollar at a time”, I can’t help but laugh. His bit about buying a used Volkswagen Rabbit was unexpected and well-written. Marcus has good material. He seemed to rush tonight, letting his nerves or the difficulty of playing to a room of 29 cause him to swallow some of his punch lines. Still, I see the potential; I want to keep the beast at bay, to buy this guy some time. After the show, completely at ease, he sat across from two girls recounting some story, and they laughed themselves silly. I’m excited to see how the rest of the weekend unfolds for Marcus.

Pat Dixon was a bit of a revelation for me. I know him from his Comedy Central Presents set, “Ain’t Love Grand,” but not much else. Based on the delivery at that show, I expected a good vocabulary and a bit of sarcasm, maybe even cynicism. What I saw, instead, was a warm, personable guy in a stylish suit who joked about being high but was exceptionally smooth and on point. He combined familiar material with jokes off his new cd which, at 34 tracks and a 54-minute run time, is well worth the ten dollars he’s charging. The audience, though small, laughed and stayed with him for the entire set, probably because of the good-natured way he handled their cell phone transgressions. He worked his way around the room, pulling in anyone willing to play along. There was one moment where I almost hoped he would unleash. Word of advice, lady: saying “that’s for me to know and you to find out” may have seemed witty when you were six, but it can get you a verbal smack down in the land of live comedy.

Pat is one of those comics that appeals equally to men and women. He jokes a lot about sex, gender and relationships, but doesn’t seem at all bitter, which is impressive for someone who has been married and divorced twice. The contrast between his performance tonight and that of Marcus is one of experience. Pat Dixon is polished, having survived his formative years with nary a bitemark. If you want to sample more of Pat’s sensibility, go to and check out his podcasts. Then come out this weekend to the Comedy Club and see him live, before he chokes to death on another hotdog at 2:30 in the morning on some deserted train platform.

I warned you. Comedy can be brutal.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

12/30/11 Funny Fuckers

I have spent an average of 40 nights in each of the past three years sitting alone in a comedy club, listening to (mostly) men share their positions on everything from politics to pussy. I’ve probably heard every dick joke currently in circulation, and laughed at most of them. I love stand up and the men who dare to deliver it. It’s a little strange to admit that HBO and I share the same standards for a One Night Stand: amusing lines, a skilled tongue, great timing, a strong finish. Bonus points for being able to fill the room. For me, there are few aphrodisiacs in the known universe as strong as my own funny bone.

Still, I hear many of my comic friends complain that, while women say they want a man who will make them laugh, being a comedian is doing very little to get them laid. I have two theories about that.

The first is quite simply this. Women do want men who make them laugh, the same way men want women who will fuck them. I just think that very few of us want professionals. Dating a porn star may seem cool, but I don’t know many men whose egos can handle the reality of it. Most guys I know freak out if they discover their girl’s “sleep number” has double digits. Imagine if all the cock sizes did, too. And, sure, your friends would be impressed for a few days, but then they’d start buying up the videos and practicing for the inevitable night you do something wrong and she comes to them in tears, “just wanting to be held.” And don’t forget that one family reunion where Uncle Frank spends 20 minutes squinting quizzically at her, then suddenly spits out his Irish Rose all over Aunt Vonnie’s potato salad. You both know he’s seen the films, and there’s a whole new level of awkward ahead.

As for women, we do love to laugh; we don’t so much love being the punch line. A professional comic needs evolving material. If he’s in a committed relationship, it’s inevitable that his partner will become part of the act and, while we honestly enjoy laughing at you, we aren’t quite so proficient at laughing at ourselves. But then, we’ve been trained not to. You’ve spent years telling us we aren’t funny. We didn’t develop our senses of humor; we were too busy learning to relax our gag reflex and doing Kegels.

In the less committed arena, sometimes your polish as a comedian works against you. I can be a good listener for awhile, but then I want YOUR attention. Don’t go to the back of the room in your head and start analyzing your performance, leaving me flailing like a receptionist doing open mic because her girlfriends all say she’s the funny one. If you’re a comic of the ego-driven variety who finds himself utterly amusing, you don’t seem to need us. Your hand, my hand – does it really matter? You’re getting off, either way. And as for the self-deprecatingly adorable type – well, you do turn us on. The fantasy starts with laughter. It has to escalate, though. Once the bodies hit the floor, you need to bring out your balls. Fuck with some confidence. I promise you, there are two types of tears you will never regret bringing to a woman’s eyes – tears of laughter and tears of orgasm. When you take us to that place of total release, you enter the Big O Hall of Fame. Crashing on the couch is now a distant memory. There will be a scrapbook shrine; you’ve earned it.

Of course, this only applies to casual partnerships. A real comedian, one who has to do the college and cruise circuits, one who hasn’t yet had their thirty minutes on Comedy Central, has to work harder than most people can imagine. Life is lived on the road for too many weeks. In order to survive, marriage to a real comedian requires a good cell phone plan, a strong support network and an even stronger sense of self. You will be alone much of the time. Teachers will assume you’re a single parent. Your comic may forget you are not an adoring fan, but someone who needs them to turn off when they are home. Being in a relationship with a professional comic often comes nowhere near the fantasy, much like dating a porn star.

So. Theory one: We enjoy each other’s talents, but prefer Amateur Hour.

Theory two is less complicated. Theory two is more likely.

Theory two is that comedians get laid all the time and just lie about it.

Admittedly, if all I knew of you was your stage persona and your set list, I could easily believe that no one fucks comics. But I have something else. I have had a number of strong friendships with comedians over the years, and I know how much many of you turn me on. What’s not to want about someone who has to think about the words they choose, be aware of their physical presence and gauge their performance through constant feedback? I don’t mind that you’re paying such close attention simply to get a reaction – seriously, isn’t that the reason most of us talk to anyone? I love a sharp mind. I adore a rapid-fire wit. I lust after a good sparring partner who can play nasty, stay funny and appreciate the joke. Yeah, chick flicks and Rom Coms do it for some girls, but I want to invite you over for an Eddie Izzard marathon, laugh with you through the Holy Grail and blow you to Blazing Saddles. If only there had been more comedy clubs in Central PA in the 80s, I’d have been a very different kind of groupie. Alas, we were overrun with garage bands and I developed a horrible habit for drummers.

One of my comic friends thinks I like comedy because I’m turned on by comedians, but he’s got it completely backward. The attraction is to laughter, and comedians are usually the best suppliers. My performer friends have told me many a tale of the carousing coed, cruise ship shag and comedy condo contortionist. I listen with real interest because, one, everyone needs a place to brag and, two, I need my own fantasies. These guys are good men, with girlfriends, wives, children, stability. All the intimacy we will ever share will take place in my brain, and I’m fine with that. On my mental stage, they keep me reeling on the edge while their tightest seven minutes spurts through my earphones and satisfies my aural fixation. I understand I may be a bit rare in my overwhelming attraction to funny guys, but I’m not alone. Many women want men who make them laugh. That’s why I believe the truth of this situation is closer to theory two.

Theory one: no one really wants a pro.

Theory two: all the world loves a clown.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alonzo Bodden and Chet Wild

I can’t say anything bad about Chet Wild that isn’t already part of his act. No, really, even if I were to come up with something novel, it would be in his act tomorrow. And that’s what I adore about Chet’s comedy. He can take the depression and anxiety of every day life and make it laugh-worthy.

I guess I need a disclaimer right about now, so here it is: over the past two years, I’ve spent time getting to know Chet to the point of comfortably calling him a friend. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll still bust his balls if the punchlines aren’t solid, but I’ll do it in a kind way, so as not to tip the delicate balance between confidence and catastrophe on which he seems to teeter. Chet’s personality makes him play well with audiences, who mostly enjoy being part of his show. His quick wit allows him to riff off whatever they give him. His scripted humor can be dark, but not despairing, even when he’s being way too self-deprecating. Chet sometimes strikes me as a live action Bad Luck Schleprock. He used to describe himself as looking like Hurley from “Lost” and wasn’t too far off. After taking much grief for his unruly long hair and uber-casual fashion sense, he currently can be seen sporting button down pinstripes and a lovely pageboy. As a frequent MC for the Comedy Club, you’ll read more about Chet as the weeks ensue. (Hey, Chet, notice I used Arial?)

At 6’4”, Alonzo Bodden is tall, but somehow not as tall as he seemed on season 2 of Last Comic Standing. Heffron be damned, I thought at the time that Alonzo should have won; of course, I’m partial to that smart/funny/sexy trifecta. He has the ability to talk about race, religion and politics in a way that feels neither condescending nor uncultured. He doesn’t have to tell you he’s a liberal – his description of a black conservative as a “unicorn in the mist” gives it away. His breakdown of the GOP primary candidates is both enlightening and funny, and when he says he used to be someone who hated Sarah Palin, then tells you why he doesn’t anymore, you think he’s sincere.

Bodden’s strength as a comedian, to me, has always been the way he can mix smart, silly and salty into pure entertainment. His word choices seem specific enough that even people who don’t enjoy a little cursing won’t feel too offended to get the point. Playing to a Thursday night crowd that included one very loud birthday party, Alonzo made allies of the audience while good-naturedly ribbing the hecklers. Although he had had a busy day, he graciously stuck around to take photos and autograph his DVD. I enjoyed the show so much, I bought one for myself and one for my possible future ex-husband.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go to and read a few of his blogs. If you enjoy any of them, you’ll enjoy the show. Fortunately, there are two more tonight and Saturday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Girl's Giggle...

Laughter is universal. Comedy, on the other hand, is completely subjective. What makes me laugh out loud may leave you scratching your head or wincing in pain, and that’s ok. In the end, one girl’s giggle is another girl’s groan. I completely understand if you disagree with everything I write.

Before you do, however, let me share a little, give you some sense of where my favorite comedy comes from.

When I was 9 years old, my parents joined a Friday night bowling league. I would sit in the playroom, reading book after book until 11:00 pm, when the small black and white television became MINE to control. I got lost in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, even though I didn’t understand half of what I was watching. Saturday afternoons were spent with my father, Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Benny Hill. Sunday after church was prime time for spinning Bill Cosby, Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin albums on my crappy little turntable.

As I grew, so did my love. Saturday Night Live mesmerized me. I would tape Fridays on my little GE recorder and replay the episodes at 2 am when childhood insomnia got the best of me. During college, my hilarious friend Jonathan would get me out of deep funks by doing Woody Allen’s “I shot a moose once in upstate New York…” bit in his finest Brooklynese. After college, when I moved to Indiana for a boyfriend who dumped me a week later, Comedy Central was my Haagen-Daz. Stand up became an all-consuming passion. My affair with comedy, like all good sex, has been long, deep and constant.

I have friends who are comics. They make a living at it, they build their lives around it, and I feel some sort of hero worship for each and every one of them. I spent many years of my childhood performing for people, either in church or school choir or competitive drama. While I enjoyed it then, I have no real taste for the stage at the moment. I understand it isn't easy for many people to allow themselves to sing at karaoke night in their mother's living room, much less reveal their idea of funny to a room full of people who may or may not have come to laugh. If you get onstage, you automatically earn points with me.

Once there, however, bring your A game. Stand up has a history. There are many people like me out here who see it as an art form, and want you to treat it with some respect. I know the difference between a good comedian who maybe shouldn't be doing shots during his set and a drunken idiot who never should have taken the mic in the first place. There are few sweeter sensations in my life than giving my mind to someone else for an hour and letting them exhaust it with laughter. And, though critiquing comedy is a lot like Monday morning quarterbacking, I'm taking a shot at it, because I want to build the audience, fill the club and pay these people back for the joy they bring to me.

So, expect that my Earth Mother nurturer side will try to put a positive spin on unpolished sets. If someone is just starting out, I won't hold them to the same standards as a 20 year veteran. I will try to find the kernel of potential in everyone, because that's the Pollyanna personality I was born with. I will also, however, point out weak lines, bad audience interaction and material that didn't hit home.

Still, it's just one girl's opinion. I will always tell you to go check out the show or the artist for yourself. I welcome you to share your view, your comedy loves or hates, here on the blog. Feel free to drop me a line at any time.

Ok. The lights are out. Mark's just told us all to keep our table talk to a minimum and our laughter to the max. Put your hands together for your MC....