If you’re following this blog regularly – and I know at least three of you are – you probably have a sense of the kind of comedy I love the most. Smart, dark, edgy, political, sexual, surrealistic word play is not as easily surmised as “observational” or “prop comedy.” The things that really fire my brain synapses are varied, and for that I am grateful. It allows me to enjoy many different comics; it lets me be a little more Pollyanna in my prose because I can find something to laugh at in nearly every performance I watch. The flip side, however, is that I’ve been told I’m too nice to trust as a reviewer, that I need to give equal shrift to the elements of a show that I don’t like. Well, that’s not so easy. As I keep stressing, I’m a fan. I want to move people to check out live comedy, I have a selfish desire to keep The Comedy Club open because my entire social life takes place in its booths. As an educator, a motivator, I want to encourage beginners, acknowledge dedication and show proper respect to the trailblazers. And even my dearest comic pals don’t hesitate to remind me that I should only have so much criticism for something I am not actively doing myself. Of course, that line of thinking disappears when they are Monday morning quarterbacking.
I admit it is much more natural and simple for me to find your good, your strength, than to attack your weakness, because it’s a way I’m choosing to try to live my whole life. It doesn’t mean that I love every show, that I can’t express my dislikes. What it does mean, though, is that on those days when I am struggling, when I’m just not getting it, I try to defer to my puzzle-solving nature and seek the reason. Why am I not enjoying this so much? Is it the material? Is it the persona? Is there something else going on in my life that’s distracting me and not allowing me to give this person a fair shake? I have an obsessive need to understand things. Why? Why now? Why this? Why me? Why her? Why, why, why?
Why am I telling you this? I had one of those awkward experiences this week and want to be honest about it.
We’ll start with Mike Gifaldi, one of a handful of up-and-comers on the local scene whose material cracks me up. “Science is religion for smart people.” That’s the kind of line that puts a smile on my face. And while Mike’s set has a number of those, it also has some really dark moments. “I love the summer fashions. They show off my favorite feature on a woman – bruises.” I know, not for everyone, right? So it comes as no surprise when a room is hot and cold with Mike. Still, I believe, the longer he does comedy, the larger his repertoire of jokes, the smoother his seven minutes will be.
Tonight, Dario pulls out his most audience-friendly fare, his Roman helmet bit, his RG&E envelope full of dreams, and it pays off with laughter and applause. He’s working The Comedy Club more these days than some of his peers, and it shows in his stronger stage presence and more relaxed delivery.
Finally, our headliner for the week takes the stage. Marianne Sierk is a local gal, a comedic actress and a very funny talking head on Tru TV’s “World’s Dumbest…” She establishes her character immediately. “Who’s drunk? It can’t always just be me, you guys.” The crowd is with her as she talks a bit about her personal life, her previous relationship with the MC and what it will be like when her family comes to the show. And then it’s back to the alcohol. (I’m on this diet where I’m only allowed 1200 calories a day. I think I drank all my calories for the month of July.) I laugh, but I’m not really into her set. It’s not her, it’s who she’s being on stage. I’m not down with party girl cuteness, and I know the show is not going to get any better for me.
Let me claim that. My personal dislike of the “Gosh, I was SOOOOO drunk, I can’t believe I…” nonsense will not shut off. I’ve always given my friends, both male and female, a hard time when they’ve used that excuse to do something they actually wanted/planned on doing or when they find themselves embarrassed by the previous night’s choices. I grew up in a dry town, in a dry house, and alcohol has just never been a big part of my life. I’m not claiming to be better than my friends – God knows, I’ve managed to do plenty of ridiculous, disgusting and bewildering things in my life. I just did them sober. There’s something about that loss of control, that surrendering of your own power and decision-making, that freaks me out.
And that’s why I asked audience members and the other comics what they thought of Marianne’s set: they loved it, thought she was hysterical. So I went back for Friday’s show in full-on puzzle-solving mode. Was it her or was it my bias? I listened through the giddiness and focused on the jokes. There were a number that were relatable – playing Barbies, disappointing Mom, restaurants that advertise home cooking – and I agreed with everyone else that Marianne Sierk is one funny lady. I just wish I could hear her material a different way, or through a different comedian.
So, this is how my mind works. I love many types of comedy. I always want to find what’s good in people. I am working hard to practice kindness and be positive as much as possible. And I’m always aware that I am here, writing in a very public forum about other peoples’ livelihoods. I am not trying to kiss comic ass; I am not trying to pretend all is well when a show goes off the rails; I am not lying when I seem to equivocate. I am choosing to find the positive while reminding all of you, and myself, that this is simply what makes one girl giggle. Laughing together or laughing alone, it’s all good.