Friday, March 16, 2012

Jon Fisch, Dario Josef and Steve Burr

There are a few comedians about whom I will never be able to write an objective review; one, in particular, because he owns too much of my heart, and a handful of others because the line between funny onstage and funny while moving cheap furniture around a studio apartment is razor-thin. While I could just be the annoying chick they feel obligated to be nice to - you never know when your car will be out of commission and you’ll need a ride to do 20 minutes at the Diaz-Leon quinceanera in North Tonawanda- I know I have some genuine friendships that started here at the Comedy Club. Steve Burr is one of those friends.

Steve wants me to tell you that I thought he was a pompous jackass when I first met him. He also expressed a desire for me to rip him to shreds in tonight’s review for being disjointed on stage, not his usual smooth-flowing self. While both of those things may be – ok, ARE – absolutely true, neither has anything to do with what I really want to tell you about tonight’s show.

It all began with a scheduling mix-up. Steve was under the impression that he would host, and Anna Phillips would be doing a guest spot. Dario Josef, another local guy, happened to come for the show and told him Anna had listed the event on her Facebook page for Saturday. In a last minute game of Who’s Got the Mic, Dario agreed to MC, while Steve worked the sound board and middled. Big deal, most people would think. So the order got switched. But it’s more than that. Dario hadn’t planned on hosting, so he’s got to get up cold and weave his jokes around the audience. Steve, who was prepared to play with people, now has to shift more to his straight material. It’s like being the weather guy and hearing five minutes before the live broadcast that you’ve been given the sports report, instead. Sure, you’re a pro and you’ll make it work, but it’s harder than it looks to the viewers.

Though it seemed there were several parties more interested in their own conversation than the comedian, Dario did a good job with the small crowd. His Facebook controversy bit was well-received; his Italian/Puerto Rican comparisons and Walmart parenting practices coaxed them along. By the time he saw the red glow from the back of the room, they had warmed up to him and reluctantly given themselves to the show.

Steve took the stage and immediately raised the energy in the room. His humor is silly, almost boyish, even when he’s talking about sluts and suggesting the best way to get over a break up is to fuck a comedian (for the record, it doesn’t hurt). He did a number of his familiar bits, including walking out of an argument like a Muppet. And, true, maybe he did have a different pace, a second or two longer between jokes, a scrambling of the set order. Didn’t matter. He was funny. I laughed, and I probably know his set as well as he does. As I mentioned from the start of this piece, sometimes objectivity is just not an option. I know a bit about Steve’s struggle with his muse right now, and having seen him perform on three of the past four weekends, I may have been watching a different show than the rest of the room. For me, Steve just has an impish quality, whether he feels he’s on or not.

It was the perfect lead-in to Jon Fisch.

I like to do some homework before a show if I’m not really familiar with an artist. At three this morning, I found myself listening to several episodes of “In the Tank with Jon Fisch”, a podcast that can be found at For good measure, I watched his recent Letterman appearance on YouTube. I was expecting well-crafted jokes, but I also knew from the podcast that he could be casually amusing. The audience tonight kinda determined his direction. He started easy, discussing body hair or the lack thereof, then segued into the crowd a little. When it became obvious that it had a mind of its own, John pulled up the stage stool, took a seat and acknowledged that it was the kind of show where he was gonna’ do jokes as filler while talking to the audience. From there, it was a fun ride between the set list and throwaways. “That joke did well at the bar. Not that they could hear it, they were just laughing at my cadence.” When two men in the back of the room got chatty, he said, “You guys should have a radio show. I can see it now. Well, I can HEAR it now.” I love those types of lines, even though I sometimes find myself laughing at them alone. I had the same experience watching “Spinal Tap” in the theater; I was the only person in the audience that laughed out loud when Derek (Harry Shearer) described David (Michael McLean) and Nigel as “both like, uh, like poets you know like Shelley or Byron, or people like that.”

I don’t know exactly what happened tonight. For some, this may not have been a memorable show, but I can’t remember when I have simply gone with the flow and laughed so easily. The whole thing kinda’ snuck up on me. As a true lover of the art of comedy, but also an intellectual who much of the time overanalyzes performances to death, I can honestly say I giggled tonight, I laughed freely, unexpectedly and with total abandon. What my funny friend Steve Burr did was a great primer for Jon Fisch. What Jon Fisch did definitely did not make me feel like I wanted him to shut up (watch the Letterman clip). What all three guys did tonight was remind me that sometimes I can think less and laugh more.

I can’t wait to go back tomorrow night and watch them again.

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