Friday, June 1, 2012

Andy Hendrickson (and Josh Potter, Corey Smithson and Chet Wild)

There were 28 people in the room tonight: 17 audience members, 5 comics, 4 wait staff 1 box office manager and me. A party of four, placed strategically down front in the very center row, decided to move themselves to a booth in the back of the room. Another party of four, stage right, two in wheel chairs, far end of stage center, and seven additional people spread down one side of tables, stage left. We’ve had this conversation before regarding the impact a small crowd can have on a show. Tonight, it was the perfect 28 people. It was 28 people who all wanted to have a good time, 28 people who came to enjoy themselves.

Our unofficial conductor for the evening was a woman with a contagious lilt sitting stage right. Her laugh was bright, genuine and fun to listen to. Thanks to her spontaneous outbursts of pleasure, everyone seemed to be a bit more relaxed, a bit more amusing or amused. It set the tone for the room – laugh loud, laugh often.

Josh Potter was the night’s MC. He was able to make light of the audience size without for a moment implying that it would be a hindrance, and we went with him. This was the best set I’ve seen him deliver at The Comedy Club, cool and confident, as if his radio voice finally agreed to team up with his stage presence. From joking about being born prematurely (he was goo, until he was put in the Creepy Crawler machine) to the pointlessness of chivalry (if you’re too stupid to navigate a puddle…), he moved through his opening with ease.

Corey Smithson even seemed to be smiling more, which is a side of him I hadn’t yet seen. His bit about the Sara McLachlan ASPCA commercials (if I had a cat named Nathaniel, I’d run him over myself) is typical of his darkness. The comparison of his OCC peers with Syracuse students was lighter, brighter and very funny. I actually found myself Googling “self-dividing cells that stop when you look,” just to try to understand how he wrote that joke.

Chet’s new material included suicide humor and some added tags for his (true story!) missing kidney tales. While the overall topic can seem dark, the jokes are not maudlin. I said in my very first review of Chet that one of my favorite things about his comedy is how he can find the humor in some pretty challenging situations, and tonight that’s exactly what he did. Even better, and what made me most excited as his friend, is that tonight I saw Chet relax and truly enjoy himself onstage. It’s easy to forget, when you’re in the dark seats, that comedy is a business, that those people standing in front of you are doing a real job. The good ones make it look too simple; knowing how hard they work to prepare, how angst-ridden some of them can be about each punchline, I am always thrilled to see a comic friend grinning like the Cheshire Cat when a set is going well. Tonight was that kind of night for Chet.

It was the same experience, seemingly, for Andy Hendrickson. He showed no outward anxiousness about the size of the audience. He stepped onstage, planted his feet and showed fake Rochester exactly what we were in for: fairly clean, well-written, relatable humor, delivered with a confident style and easy pace. Andy is part of the Astoria crowd – a group of smart, talented comics with varying degrees of edge who hone their delivery at places like the Comedy Cellar or the Comic Strip and seem to be the next graduating class of Ha Ha High.

I assume the apparent ease of Andy’s delivery is the simple result of good writing coming from a naturally confident speaker. His material is found in life’s common spaces: home and family, sex and relationships, health insurance and technology-induced idiocy. His bits about his mother, from the scrapbooker’s cult, to grocery shopping, to her endless phone messages (you spoke so long, you filled the computer, Mom!) are observations any of us could make, but few could articulate so well. There’s a litany of sharp images in his set: catastrophic insurance, valium on a candy necklace, internet ADD, the Tootsie Pop relationship scale and masturbating to Game of Thrones. When Andy tells you his skin is pasty from living in the shadow of his Navy Seal, Harvard-educated brother, you understand his pseudopain. When he talks about his roommate’s (Keith Alberstadt, seen and reviewed here a few weeks ago) religious habits, like making the sign of the cross before meals, but not snacks, you know you could have had that same thought, but just didn’t. Andy, seemingly without effort, makes you wish your brain worked like his.

Go to and sign up for his mailing list to download his album, You Idiot, for free. While you’re there, check out his videos, especially “The Switch-Up.” You’ll have the combined pleasure of seeing some of my other favorite Queens guys (Pat Dixon, Joe List), and a different, yet equally funny side of Andy.

After some interesting weeks at The Comedy Club, it was refreshing to just enjoy myself, to be able to cheer on old friends and laugh at someone new. Now it’s your turn, people. I got this one done early, so you could read it, be intrigued, and come out tonight or tomorrow night to see Andy Hendrickson. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 and 10 pm. Go to and make your reservations, or show up at least 30 minutes before the show to buy them at the box office. We’ve had a few sunny days here in Rochester, but the gray is back and you aren’t getting any Vitamin D for the next 48 hours. Might as well come inside and laugh your way to better abs and lower blood pressure.

And a special note to the Lady of the Laugh: you should come to The Comedy Club every week. You seem to be the epitome of a live comedy audience member, and your contribution to the show did not go unnoticed. Thanks for leading us in the pure simple pleasure of laughing loud, and laughing often.

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