Depression, like ADD and OCD, seems to be fairly common among stand up comics, although it’s still a chicken/egg question: Do depressed people use laughter to try to heal themselves, thus leaning toward comedy, or does the life of a road dog comic, with its hours of loneliness, constant travel, tight finances and interrupted intimacy, lead to depression? I have yet to hear a definitive answer. And on this Thursday night, it didn’t seem to matter. The whole room felt depressed. The audience was quietly eating, politely focused but not seemingly eager to laugh when Josh Potter took the stage to start the show. Austin Lafond delivered his set, but couldn’t get more than a chuckle or two from the group.
Mike Gifaldi had a bit more success. As one of my favorite local comics, I watch him nearly every week at DubLand, and always enjoy a chance to see him at The Comedy Club. I like Mike because he’s sorta’ the opposite side of my coin. He’s all tattoos and metal, irony and darkness on the outside, and a generally nice guy on the inside. The thoughts he shares onstage are not for everyone, but tonight’s crowd seemed willing to go with him. He started by telling them he’s always nervous when he goes onstage, that “the voice in my head usually convinces me I'm going to be fine, which settles my nerves, but today I realized it’s the same voice that tells me I'm going to pull out in time.” His jokes flow from the homeless dude who never begged from him to being bit by a feral child living in the local WalMart; from his “Charlie Brown with a drug problem” hair style to his actress girlfriend who said he never helped her become a star (I lit her on fire and shot her into space.). I enjoy guessing how Mike will go over in a particular room. Tonight, although the group initially seems unsure if laughter is even part of the program, they loosen up and laugh a little.
Which is perfect, because the experience they’re about to have with Marc Unger is, for me, nothing short of spectacular.
Marc Unger’s web site bio describes his humor as “fresh, edgy and brutally thoughtful,” and I can’t argue with that. It continues, “Armed with dynamic stage presence, his explosive rants … are not only powerfully funny, but provocative as well.” Again I agree, but for one thing. While his presence is certainly dynamic, I never felt like I was listening to an explosive rant, not in the way I’m used to. That description led me to believe I’d be hearing a delivery similar to Leary or Hicks, maybe even a Kinison rage. It could be that Marc toned it down a bit, given the somber beginnings of the evening. I should have asked when he graciously sat for awhile in the back booth and discussed his comedy with me; because I hadn’t prepared by doing any homework, I didn’t realize I’d feel this way until Friday, when I checked out his net presence. Now it’s like I’ve somehow missed out on great opportunities because I didn’t know Marc Unger sooner. I would have gone to see his one-man show “Drinking Up the Pieces,” or any of the older ones (Nocturnal Emissions, Mindblanking). I would have watched the “Friends” and “Veep” episodes on which he appeared; actually, that’s one I can remedy, so I will watch those. How do I see “The Filchaks Take a Gamble,” which I’m sure I’d enjoy both as a new fan and as a fantasy football fanatic? I need more of Marc Unger.
"Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously." - Og Mandino, psychologist and essayist