Tag Archives: standup comedy

Joe Machi (Zanie’s, Chicago Old Town)

I learned of Joe Machi from Last Comic Standing, a show that is way better at what it does than American Idol is at identifying reasonably talented people. I think he’s hilarious, although I’m slightly biased, as I benefit from raising the status of pudgy awkward white men.

Machi enters the stage with a manic energy, pacing the stage as if he just wants to leave, and his faux faux confidence makes his material pop that much more. He intersperses dark humor (“I bring the heat!”) with sweet jokes to offset them. His comedy is neither physical nor ridiculous, and yet he uses his pacing and his high-pitched voice to emphasize his material which is very well written.

His dialogue with someone in a poor country, inaccurately paraphrased here, may have been the highlight:
“What problems does America have?
“Too many fat kids. Yeah, we just have too much food.”
“…”
“There’s also a drought in California.”
“Is that leading to famine and warfare?”
“No, but some people may not get to fill up their pools.”
“What are pools?”
“…you’re not gonna like this. They are artificial, alligator-free lakes that we have in our backyard and never use.”
“Oh, like a store of fresh water for emergencies?”
“No, we poison the water.”

I’d quote more, but it wouldn’t do it justice. Here’s a youtube clip with, basically, the last quarter of his set, which is even better in person.

Joe’s opener, Adam something, is like Joe Machi if Joe Machi told a punchline and then tried to repeat it in different ways seven times.

Netflix Review: Bill Burr

Bill Burr: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way

I’ve reviewed Burr’s specials before, and I even got to see him live last year. This special covers some of the live show I saw (for example, the practical difficulties of adopting an African child soldier as your son) and some new stuff (like his new marriage). Typically unabashed and unrestricted by social norms, Burr unloads on political correctness (“You can’t hit women. Have you ever seen them fall? They fall like toddlers. It’s like they’ve never fallen in their lives. It’s horrific to watch.”) and those offended by daily life (“What did you expect an 80-year old billionaire to think? He did well! He didn’t even say the n-word once!”). Burr’s acerbic wit hasn’t changed one bit, which usually works for him. (He revisits the dangers of overpopulation again, which is unfortunate.)

Highly recommended.

Netflix Review: Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman: American Ham

I saw Nick Offerman’s show two years ago, and this special captures a big chunk of it. Nick Offerman, who is basically Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation, gives us his life tips for a better life. He’s not a joke teller but a story teller, and it’s not easy to repeat his jokes. The wise, salt-of-the-earth persona evokes a mood and an aura before it makes you laugh, and it works across the board. Offerman peppers the show with songs reinforcing his advice – advice like “always keep a hanky” and “make romantic love.” The songs feature a special bonus: appearances from a copyright lawyer forcing Offerman to change his tune or (as he does) refer the audience to youtube, where his copyright-violating performance is sure to be found. Offerman’s all-American style is exactly what you think it is. If you like him, you’ll like the show. It’s that simple.

Recommended.

Brian Regan (Chicago Theatre)

I’ve enjoyed Brian Regan’s standup comedy for at least a decade but seeing him in person gave me a new perspective on his work. His physicality and his facial expressions are among the best in the game, to the point where you’ll find yourself laughing at lines that aren’t, in the strictest sense, jokes. I dare anyone not to laugh when seeing his expression responding to a waiter at a fancy restaurant telling him he made an excellent choice. Obviously this is hard to transcribe, but it’s not like Regan isn’t an extremely polished joke teller – he is. He admitted to his most terrible joke about wanting to put a second NBA team in Miami solely for the introductory press conference: “What are you going to call your team?” “Well, it’s not the Heat. It’s the Humidity.”

Regan reportedly got divorced recently and for the first time in a long time is doing dating jokes, most of which land and many of which people can relate to. (Cue story about difference between “this exit” and “the next exit.”) As always, he’s clean and family-friendly, and of course, can make you laugh just by stating the obvious. (“I got your post card.” “Good! I’m glad you got it! That’s why I sent it, so you’d get it!”)

As a special treat, I’ll quote here my favorite extended story that had me laughing for three straight minutes and which just won’t be properly represented in just text. Before I do, a note on the opening act: he was a less good Brian Regan.

They make asking women out look so easy in the movies.
“Would you like to have dinner with me Saturday night?”
“I’d love to!”
“Pick you up at 8.”
That doesn’t really work in real life like that.
“Would you like to have dinner with me Saturday night?”
“I’d like to, but I can’t Saturday. My sister’s in town this weekend so I have plans with her. But I’m free Friday, we could do it on Friday.”
“Alright, Friday. Pick you up at 8.”
“Oh, 8 is not gonna work. My office holiday party is that evening, but it’s probably gonna be over by 9, so you can come by at like 930, and we’ll do a late dinner at 10?”
“Alright. Pick you up at … 930. On Friday.”
“Don’t you need to know where I live.”
“…I do need that information, yes.”
“I live in Jefferson Township. You can take route 27 there, but you can’t take it all the way ’cause they’re doing construction for the last two miles so you can’t go all the way in. So for the last two miles you have to get onto Elm Meadow Lane. That’s parallel to route 27. Then when you get in, you’ll be coming from the west side, you’ll see a place called Alhambra Apartments on the left. That’s where I live, but you can’t park there because they’re doing a water treatment thing. They’ve been doing it all year, they were supposed to be done three months ago, we’ve written to the city a bunch of times, it’s all very frustrating. Anyway, you can’t park there, but if you go across the street, there’s a fence with a sign that says “No parking,” but you can park there because they know about the water treatment thing so they let people park there now. So you can park there and then walk across the street and ring the buzzer of 8B. And also I should tell you I’m gluten free.”

Netflix Review: Chelsea Peretti

Chelsea Peretti: One Of The Greats

A few times during this special, the camera cuts to audience members, faux audience members, and manifestations of Chelsea Peretti’s psyche, and shows their reactions to the performance. This is not any less strange than it sounds, and it’s unfortunate that it distracts from an otherwise very good performance. Peretti gives off great confidence, and it’s strange to see her feel the insecurity implied by those gimmicks. They certainly weren’t necessary, as Peretti is a gifted comedienne with great material. She’s willing to get to the line and cross it (“The ‘don’t text and drive’ ad campaign should have one guy whose last text was a dick pick. ‘Was it worth it?'”). I also agree with many of her important positions (“‘Hubby’ is equivalent to the ‘n-word.'”). My favorite joke of hers plays on the aforementioned vulnerability I didn’t expect from her: “It must be great to be a guy; to wake up and think ‘I’m awesome! People probably want to hear what I have to say!'” Peretti gives the impression that she wakes up feeling this way, too. She certainly should.

Recommended.

Netflix Review: Donald Glover

Donald Glover: Weirdo

As a lover of Community, I was bound to be disappointed by Donald Glover’s standup comedy, and he warns everyone that his standup is very different from the show. (It is.) Glover’s humor is that of a young black New Yorker, and it’s unfortunate that you already know what I mean by that. Don’t get me wrong: he tells good jokes, and I laughed. It’s just that Glover doesn’t bring a whole lot of originality to many of the topics, and that limits how funny you can be even if, as he does, you execute to near-perfection. He covers the usual race and dating areas that you would expect him to, making some exellent observations along the way. (“How is AIDS different from kids? You get it through sex, you have it for life, and you can only date people who also have it.”) Glover’s energy is also infectious, which helps carry through his weaker material.

Recommended, if you like Donald Glover.

Netflix Review: Wyatt Cenac

Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn

As a storyteller, Wyatt Cenac is very solid, and his performance is more a one-man-show than it is a straight standup comedy set. Titled “Brooklyn” and performed in Brooklyn,” it has essentially chosen both its topic and its audience ex ante, and it doesn’t veer much from the bounds that imposes. Cenac commits to a topic for minutes on end sometimes it works: his experiences with a doorman are fantastic, and the awkwardness he conveys when the cab radio announces that the “taxi cab rapist” is still at large. (It was unclear to all involved whether the rapist was a taxi cab driver, which created confusion.) Of course, when the story isn’t that interesting (hockey games, hoarding), you have a few minutes of waiting for the next topic. Cenan isn’t particularly polished (yet), so these moments do happen. There is enough here to make you laugh, but remember that it’s uneven in parts.

Netflix Review: Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler: Uganda Be Kidding Me

Watching someone else’s vacation slides is not the most interesting thing, and having Chelsea Handler narrate is only marginally better than that. Handler mostly badmouths her friends and shows us pictures of Africa, and only between the two do any jokes find their way in. Every now and then Handler’s joking ability shines through, but it’s hidden between an unnecessarily shrill persona and mostly pointless shock value. If you’re gonna watch it, put in on the background and have something else to do.

Gary Gulman (Lincoln Hall)

Gary Gulman’s “In This Economy” was one of the most pleasant surprises on Netflix in the past couple of years (my review here), and I enjoyed watching him live as well. He’s still very clean and family-friendly – the closest he comes to being off-color is explaining that he doesn’t wear a yarmulke because he’d like to have sex with non-Jewish women. (“I wear a yarmulke sometimes. I’m not one of those guys who has it attached with a paper clip. That’s a varsity Jew.”) In fact, at times Gulman slips into the comedy of a much older man: one of his best bits was recounting the things his parents’ genreation put up with (“a military draft”) and comparing it to things we would never put up with (“a draft of cold air”). Those jokes aren’t original, but the writing and delivery are first-rate: “I want all my music on my phone. Sorry, I meant to say, I want all THE music on my phone. What do you mean, how much do I want to pay?”

The risk with Gulman’s set is that one of his extended stories is a miss that you’re stuck with for several minutes, and that happened once when he recounted his encounter with an entitled woman at a Manhattan Trader Joe’s. Gulman closed with some of his greatest hits, of which I hadn’t heard one (role playing) which was indeed excellent.

If you have a chance to see him live, highly recommended.