While guest spots are fairly regular at The Comedy Club, it’s a rare treat when we have the traditional MC/feature/headliner arrangement onstage. Steve Burr welcomed and wooed the audience on Thursday, and Ralph Tetta led the way for the rest of the weekend. As you’ve read about them here many times before, I’m simply going to say they both handled the responsibilities with their usual funny flair, and move on.
Adam Lowitt describes himself as “a less muscular, Jewy version of Vin Diesel,” or “Stanley Tucci after a couple of days on the Appalachian Trail,” both of which are plausible. I’m starting with a physical description because a Google Image search in thumbnail mode made me initially think there was more than one Adam Lowitt out there. The facial scruff and glasses, the curly receded hairline pic in the “Jewish World” newsletter, the action shot from a college bulletin, all look like different guys, until you blow them up and see the same dark eyes and subtle smile in each one. It sticks with me because Adam does a joke comparing himself to an M. Night Shyamalan film: People think I’m a nice guy, and I am. For a while. It takes about an hour and a half of hanging out with me before people say, “Oh I get it. He’s been a dick the whole time!” If he is, he does a great job of hiding it.
Adam’s a story teller of the best kind. His topics are relatable – having a cell phone stolen, going on bad dates and trying to find similar-minded people to do things with. The pace is slow enough to let you absorb a lot of punch lines, but fast enough that you don’t lose the narrative. And among those punch lines are some real sparklers: at 32, my friends all do couch-based shenanigans; we prefer the term optically persistent; even before I sent it, my cell phone said, “Really?” I’m not teasing you this way because I’ve had Barry Sobel in my head all week. You should go to AdamLowitt.com and hear the complete bits, or find some of his older material on YouTube.
I will give you a little more of two of my favorites. The first is not only a good joke, but unintentionally topical. He’s talking about a friend who wants to desperately be involved with someone. His friend says, “Sometimes I see these girls in the streets, I start having these passion attacks." I was like, “Wow, did you just try to redefine the word ‘rape’? I don’t think we’re allowed to do that.” Given the flurry of activity generated over Daniel Tosh vs Heckler Blogger, this is a great example of why I personally think there are no forbidden realms of discussion in comedy. I emphasize that this is my belief. Don’t waste time in your head getting upset – you’ll miss the rest of this review and I haven’t even told you about the pleasure of seeing Joe DeRosa for the first time. Stay with me.
The second bit is probably funny to .000000002% of the population at large, but cracked me up. Adam tells the story of playing in a celebrity ping pong tournament against Will Shortz. I know who that is; I am laughing alone. He explains to the audience that Will Shortz is the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, not the first person who comes to mind when you think of celebrities. He taunts Will: I’ve got a five letter word for what I’m gonna’ do to you. I’m gonna’ pummel you. Will fires back: That’s a 6 letter word. Let’s go. Adam loses 11-0. To us, he makes a call back: I got passion attacked out there. Good joke and geek appeal.
When introducing Adam, I didn’t lead with the usual “Emmy-winning Senior Producer of The Daily Show,” because, as much as I am impressed by that (I love you, Lizz Winstead!), it isn’t relevant. Adam Lowitt, stand up, is a very funny guy. Check him out.
Joe DeRosa is another very funny guy, with plenty of cool credits: regular on Opie and Anthony; short filmmaker on his own and in collaboration with Bill Burr and Robert Kelly; coauthor with those two of the book “Cheat”, coming in October; his own Comedy Central half-hour. I didn’t check out any of those things before the show. I thought I would walk in blind, like many regular folks who just come to the club for a night out with no real attachment to what they will see. It’s not always an easy thing for me to do, as my head, hard drive and bookshelf are all constantly full of comedy. The only point of reference I had for Joe was that he was a guest on Robert Kelly’s podcast, which I mentioned a few weeks ago.
Joe DeRosa has a unique type of confidence about him. The energy is right at the intersection of “I know who I am” and “Don’t you wish you knew me,” which seems like a strangely balanced place for a comic. Many come off two steps short of the first, or waaaayyyyy into the second. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this show.
He started Thursday with a bit that reminded me of Dario Josef’s airplane girl joke (she says the stuff the rest of us are thinking), because not 10 minutes before the show started, I found myself arguing with another comic about the Tosh scenario. I love comedy for many reasons, one of which is that I am pro-communication. The more we can truly talk, honestly express our thoughts to one another, the better we can be as a collective. I have very rarely been offended by a joke in my life, and I have always been a fan of comedy with a conscience, material that forces people to think, to talk, to debate. I myself am fairly blunt when it comes to language, although I’ve learned the social grace of diplomacy and tact through the years. So, having said all that, here’s a paraphrase of how Joe DeRosa opened his show Thursday night.
A lot of comics have been getting in trouble lately. Daniel Tosh. Tracy Morgan. I’m so glad I’m not famous; I can still say whatever I want. I think of comedy as an art form, but I know there are people out there who have no idea what comedy is, they see one comedian and they think that’s what comedy is. Then they see someone else and get offended. We don’t do that with music. We don’t see Slayer, think that’s music, then go to the orchestra and get pissed off.
I was hooked. Joe DeRosa is my airplane girl.
Joe’s topics, like Adam’s, are the stuff of everyday life: nurses and health care, the difficulties of dating, the experience of shopping at IKEA. He talks about having moved back home with his mother for two months while she was recovering post-surgery (the sexual tension was so high you could cut it with a shitty misdirection joke). He uses the example of his 98-year-old grandmother to point out that God doesn’t always get it right, that sometimes wonderful people die too young and spiteful, passive-aggressive jerks get to stick around way too long. He reminds us that it gets harder to make friends as we age, that people are expendable when we are kids (You don’t like my Nintendo game? You are dead to me.), but that we become much less discerning as adults (My neighbor is an asshole – I think he beats his wife. But he’s the only guy I know who drinks. If I drink alone, I’m an alcoholic, so….).
He sprinkles his set with smart references – Malcolm X’s bamboozled speech, “there’s the rub”, looking for an apartment and going into his own “Glengarry Glen Ross” Mamet-speak about “man tits, Thailand, prostitutes, close.” He talks about the word cunt in a voice reminiscent of Judy Holliday channeling James Cagney. “I ain’t no broad, mister. I’m a lady, see?” His almost-closer, the Jesus blooper reel, had the audience roaring. His voice work is excellent and, without seeing any of his short films, I have a sense I’m going to enjoy him equally as an actor. The closing bit, the ballad of Bailey Jay and Buck Angel, is so well-written and delivered that you forget that you’re listening to a straight guy talk about which transgendered partner he’d most like to get busy with if forced to choose. With perfect timing and one conjunction – …or… – he brings us to the end, having earned a lot of laughter and applause along the way.
You can find Joe all over the internet. Start at www.joederosacomedy.com, and make sure you check out his reel. Prefer a podcast? You can link directly to “Uninformedradio” with Bill Burr. Then, maybe jump to YouTube’s “The Warner Sound” channel for one of his web series, “What Are We Waiting For?” Since the written word is still my favorite medium, I’m certain I’ll pick up the book in October.
Rochester, it’s Saturday night. Aren’t you tired of standing around, fighting festival crowds? Come to The Comedy Club. Grab a seat, order a drink and enjoy a great night of comedy. And don’t forget the Funniest Person In Rochester 2012 contest continues tomorrow night, with shows at 6 and 8:30.