Our friend Ian Brill, proprietor of the Brill Building blog, attended our big show yesterday, and here's his rundown of the events...
For Afternoon Tea with Patton Oswalt and Friends, a comedy show benefiting Anarchist publisher AK Press, headliner Oswalt wanted to see if he could bring in a healthy crowd only through blog, podcast and other internet publicity. Oswalt did mention the show when he appeared on Alice 97.3 but other than that it was solely net coverage that brought a good hundred or so people to one of the less glamorous parts of Oakland for some of the Bay Area’s finest comedians.
Oswalt started off the show thanking the crowd for coming out and had a little fun with AK Press’s books, doing a reading of Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. manifesto as Kick Nolte. Oswalt also gave a shot out to TSOYA, where you can hear “celebrities calling in a favor.” Rusty Mahakian started his hosting duties with some well received jokes about his appearance as “Fat Fonzy” and stories of living in China, where women would have no problem with coming up and informing him of his girth. Mahakian also apologized for the lack of seats although the crowd didn’t seem to mind sitting cross-legged or leaning against the wall. Mahakian did a great job as host, never slowing down the momentum of the show.
Mary Van Note, the youngest comedian on the show, was introduced. Her set was devoted to sex. If comedy is all about being relatable than Van Note proved herself well skilled at the craft on Sunday. There was plenty of exaggerations for comedic effect but underneath it all the character she played reminded me of a lot of my female friends when they discuss sex and relationships. Van Note took things to a higher level when her last bit involved a male audience member, leashes, plenty of spanking and Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. I can’t recall seeing a comedian doing such an elaborate bit that worked out as well as Van Note’s did. A true crowd pleaser.
Brent Weinbach has been getting a lot of good buzz in the Bay Area and he lived up to expectations on Sunday. Weinbach’s real power is presenting such a thorough and compelling character. Little moves like the quick profile turn, making him look like something from Peanuts, are so effective at making Weinbach’s absurd and simple humor enjoyable. Like Van Note Weinbach ended his set with an extensive piece of audience participation, this time with Weinbach as an orchestra conductor using the audience to play a symphony of bodily functions. Again it was Weinbach’s disposition that made it all work, all his hand movements and feigning of exhaustion were just so much fun to watch.
Arj Barker was a real treat to see. The Bay Area rarely has too few inexpensive comedy shows, let alone ones featuring two acts so successful as Barker and Oswalt. Barker got the most out of the AK Press connection, taking on the role as a proselytizing political speaker. A call was made to unite all men and women across the planet Earth so we can fight the real enemy: the planet Earth and its nefarious natural disasters. Barker’s deft at “going big” without ever being grating, only very funny.
With only a short introduction Oswalt came to the stage triumphantly. At this point seeing an Oswalt show is watching a man who has the whole idea of stand-up comedy down, from bits to crowd work and everything else. Oswalt has been trying a lot of new material with his latest shows and even though I saw him last month at L.A.’s Comedy Death Ray I still saw some new stuff. Oswalt’s description of the lobotomy-calm world inside airplane safety films was a great example of his ability to take one absurd situation and just destroy it. Oswalt was sure to bring out his latest audience pleaser Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People and it worked as usual. Oswalt was sure to thank the volunteers at AK Press for their hard work and indeed they were great hosts for the entire show. Far from a typical Sunday afternoon AK Press’s bookstore saw great entertainment with some of the funniest people in local and national comedy. That’s better than your typical author speaking night.
A few clarifications, offered by my parents, regarding my piece in the Metro:
* My mother wanted to clarify that when she got arrested for bank robbery, there was NO LSD in the car. It was hash, and they were selling it to get a friend out of the hospital.
* My father wanted to clarify that he wasn't in the hospital for six months or so, but for a couple days. He's crazy, not insane.
I'd like to point out that both of these erroneous assertions on my part were reprinted directly from James Frey's bestselling memoir "My Friend Leonard," as promoted on The Sound of Young America.
Alan Leeds was a longtime tour manager for artists like James Brown and Prince. His brother, Eric, was a key part of Prince's band on saxaphone, and still plays with Prince from time to time today. Anyway, Alan has a fascinating blog on MySpace, full of great stories about life on the road with James and so on (he's the white guy above), but I found a recent entry particularly fascinating. Here's an excerpt:
"Of course I'm humbled that young generations can be fascinated by us children of the 60's and 70's - we who took part in, or at least witnessed that which shaped much of what life is today. It's reassuring to see young folks study Malcolm, remember Kent State and listen to more Marvin and Marley than Usher and Fiddy. BUT here's the rub. One reason there's no Malcolm or Marvin today is that nobody will put down their Blackberry, Ipod, DVDs....or even vinyl collection(!)...long enough to take the risk to go OUT THERE and BE that!"
The full post is an interesting stew of ideas. He says the young people of the 60s and 70s weren't all they were cracked up to be... and he shows an obvious respect for hip hop... but at the same time, he feels like to some extent, it's all been done before.
Here's the link. Something to consider.
This week on The Sound of Young America: two great New York comedians.
Dave Attell is a legendarily blue standup, but he's just as respected in "alternative" circles as mainstream ones. His charmingly low-key show "Insomniac" made him famous among third-shifters and college students, but he talks with us about why he pulled the plug when it was just beginning to take off.
Michael Showalter has been a member of The State and Stella, and is currently on a national tour as a solo performer. He also wrote and directed the feature film The Baxter, and co-wrote and starred in the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. He talks about, among other things, the relationship between comedy and semiotics.
If you or someone you know is in a sketch comedy group, SF Sketchfest has issued a call for entries. I've worked with the Sketchfest the past few years, and I think it's the best-run operation in the country. You'll get paid, have great audiences, and meet cool people. The festival is in January.
Just wanted to thank Sound of Young America listener Chad from One Heart Press in San Francisco. When he heard I was moving to LA, he emailed and offered to print me some business cards. I had been putting off getting them printed -- they can be expensive. I couldn't believe it when Chad offered to do them for free, because he loves the show.
One Heart does really beautiful high-end printing -- wedding invitations, custom books and the like. What an honor! Thanks Chad! Take a look at their website, and check out the stunningly lovely pieces they make. I bet if you called and told him you heard about One Heart here, he'd give you a discount.
It's free here, on Google Video. A full hour.
Couldn't someone at PBS get up off of a couple grand to get rid of that cable access theme music?
The New York Post reviewed Season Four of The Wire, which HBO has provided in it's entirety to reviewers (where's my copy, HBO? Let's do this thing.)
"The shows are so powerful - so well-written, acted, filmed and edited - that the experience of watching them has left me a complete wreck.
I am so blown away by this show that I will go out on a limb here to declare that these 13 episodes just might comprise the single finest piece of work ever produced for American TV."
A great audio clip: Scott Aukerman on the airwaves of ClearChannel's Indie 103.1 in Los Angeles as entertainment expert William Perth, offering his analysis of The Emmys. Great stuff. Scott was a writer on Mr. Show and is the co-creator of Comedy Death Ray in Los Angeles -- you may remember him from this Sound of Young America episode.