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 comedianpatdixon.com 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.