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Comedy Stray Notes October 31, 2021
Come for my ridiculous Halloween costume, stay for a quick "What We Do In The Shadows" Season Three appreciation
• For Halloween, Anna and I couples costumed it up and went as Jimmy McGill (Saul Goodman, if you’re an amateur) and Kim Wexler. No one guessed it right- I blame the $18 wig. A bartender thought I was supposed to be Kenneth from “30 Rock.” I see that.
• Now for real, good old-fashioned notesy notes. Here’s an appreciation of all the things I read, saw and participated in this week.
- For a measly $5, I read a lively, fresh ebook dripping with cynicism, insight into the modern American male and pointed cultural criticism. That electronic book is Davidson Boswell’s “Boredom” which I sped right through. “Boredom” is the story of Jacob, an unfeeling Manhattan office drone who finds himself becoming so obsessed with the alt-right podcasts he loves that he ends up heading to a rally in North Carolina where what can go wrong, does go wrong.
The 100-page novella reads like if “Catcher in the Rye” was written by a comic with sharply realized observations that come with punchlines. One of my favorites was about what “up and coming” really means when realtors describe neighborhoods. I’ll let you discover it on your own. The book pounces on a number of niche targets like this, taking aim at indifferent middle managers, Craigslist roommates and most importantly how podcasts can have lasting effects on our fragile minds. It’s dark and an of the moment cautionary tale that you have to read.
Buy it. You know you want to.
- Tucked away in the back corner of an Upper West Side watering hole is one of the best up-and-coming bar shows in Manhattan. The place is E’s Bar and the show is Dan Fitzpatrick’s weekly Stand Up Comedy Night. At last Monday’s edition, one side of the room was populated by audience members that looked like they were in middle school and the other side was made up of older folks game for audience participation. All comics on the lineup pulled off the difficult feat of connecting with both demographics and finding the universal. The all-star lineup, made up of Drew Drevyanko, Kendall Farrell, Chris Calogero, Trent Mabry and Jay Jurden, made Dan look like a genius for booking these heavy hitters. Highly recommend adding this show to your rotation of hangs if you’re in the City.
Also, I’m on the show on Monday, November 1 if you want to see the rough material I’ve been working on.
- My good friend Clayton Porter writes the best short stories about basketball. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re poignant and often they’re a mixture of both. However, for Halloween, Clayton left his comfort zone and wrote an engrossing piece of action/horror titled “Now You Know.” Medium calls it a 15-minute read but by the time you’re done with this “A Quiet Place”-esque short, you’ll feel like only a minute passed. Written with a restrained yet pulsing first-person voice from the perspective of a father who must protect his family and their home from unknown “creatures,” the action jumps off the page. Written fight scenes don’t often resonate but when you have passages like:
“Panicked, I took off running down the hallway towards our bedrooms, the creature hissing on my heels. As I made it to the master bedroom I quickly closed the door and pressed my body against it. I did so in time to absorb the first blow of the beast ramming the wood. The hinges, frame and myself all shook.”
Hell yes. That’s just a taste too. Read this story.
- Hatched is one of my favorite YouTube channels. The regularity in which they put out quality sketches is astounding and honestly awe-inspiring. This week, their “I've Been Acquired by a Fortune 500 Company” directed by Matt Somerstein hit that gold standard once again. Based on the title alone, the three-minute sketch has a simple yet unique concept that they predictably took to exciting and surprising places as soon as the Vice President of Acquisitions for Arco Holdings enters a man’s apartment with his assistant. The justification for the bit and eventual conclusion is eerily prescient. This is satire at its finest ripping worthless Millennials and soulless corporations a new one.
- In 2014ish, I recall doing an open mic at Pioneer’s Bar in Manhattan. I always liked the bar as a bar but the actual mic was not great. Loud and none of my jokes landed. For the past seven years, I have gone back many times but avoided doing comedy there to avoid another fat bomb. Well, this week, I bucked my close-mindedness and went back for Fluke Human’s Sunday 2 p.m. mic. I’m happy to report this was a great decision. With the mic starting so early, a) just a few comics showed so everyone got to do seven minutes and b) there weren’t a ton of patrons sullying the sound so everyone performed free of distraction. I had a great time, laughed a lot and most importantly, added a new mic to my weekly rolodex of places I can try new stuff out at. Pioneers, now you not only rule as a bar but also a mic venue. Cheers.
• 2021 has had a number of sitcoms elevate the form. Here are glowing reviews of two whose seasons I just completed.
- “The Other Two” seemed like it was destined to be a one-season wonder on Comedy Central. I’ve seen it time and again- a hysterical sitcom gets dumped after a glorious ten-episode run and audiences wonder what could have been.
Thankfully, HBO Max rescued the show allowing “The Other Two” to go much dirtier this second season. The show, run by former SNL head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, follows Cary and Brooke, who are repeatedly overshadowed by their Justin Bieber surrogate younger brother Chase Dreams in Season One; in Season two, their mom Pat (Molly Shannon) becomes Rachael Ray-level famous and the season centers around her success.
That’s not what makes the show great though. It’s the one-of-a-kind characters and the behavioral jokes that accompany each of them. Pat says yes to any job like hosting the game show “Tic Tac Toe” (a brilliant send-up of dumb game shows) which culminates in a grounded finale that’s equal parts funny and dramatic. Cary is desperate for acclaim and this leads him to moonlight as a nurse at a hospital which upsets real patients and keeps getting paid off throughout the season. Brooke celebrates being named on a “30 Under 30” list until she realizes that no one important actually cares about these things. Best of all, Pat’s boyfriend and manager Streeter (Ken freaking Marino) does everything he can to insert himself into any situation. Then, there’s Cary’s boyfriend Jess, an AVClub “West Wing” episode recapper who cries because he loves Cary so much. Each character is desperate in their own sad way and it propels the season’s trajectory.
There’s still so much more to like. A farcical episode where guests on Pat’s shows are mistaken for bigots. Another poked holes at new-age celebrity religions turning faith into a hashtag. Cary getting so into Cameo that he tracks down his fans he records birthday messages for and drinks with them.
Chock full of humanity while also skewering the vapidity of fame, this show couldn’t be a breezier and more substantive watch. It’s a weightier “30 Rock” for 2021.
- As much as I love “The Other Two,” pound for pound, the most fun show on the air at the moment is “What We Do In the Shadows” and its third season is a damn masterpiece. Every time I think a mockumentary based on a movie about vampires has painted itself into a corner with its limited premise, they zag where I expect them to zig.
If you haven’t seen the program, I’ll catch you up. Vampires Laszlo, Nadja and Nandor live in a gothic Staten Island mansion with Nandor’s “familiar” Guillermo and “energy vampire Colin Robinson (comedy MVP Mark Proksch embodying a weird cross between Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute). It’s your classic fish out of water as the undead attend Super Bowl parties and city council meetings while lacking a basic understanding of chain emails. They’re not human but they’re flawed and live sort of like us. In season three, “WWDITS” expands its universe while fleshing out its characters. Audiences get a better view of Guillermo’s life and devotion to Nandor which is mostly hinted at in earlier seasons. A flirtation between Nandor and a gym receptionist turns into an exploration of how each character would seduce a crush. There’s even a Bob Seger tribute and extended Donal Logue arc for good measure.
Most impressively, the show somehow finds a way to always pack three (!) compelling storylines into each episode. Some feel light and goofy but at the end of the season, each character’s arc is paid off in ways no one could have seen coming. Well-earned twists mix the supernatural with the mundane culminating in one of the best season finales of any show I’ve ever seen simultaneously wrapping up loose ends while also setting the stage for the next batch of episodes. It’s satisfying, hilarious and in a league of its own. Don’t let a disinterest in vampires fool you; this show is for everyone that loves comedy.
In honor of “What We Do In The Shadows,” I’ll sign off Laszlo style: