Kofi's hat

Kofi's hat

MP3s, music news and reviews, and a sprinkling of pop culture. Named by Aqualung's Matt Hales, after his son.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ink in my blood, a song in my heart. Metaphor is my middle name.



Friday, August 19, 2005

Epic-length Review of The Laugh Factory...

As an alternative to the Christian Finnegan-enhanced 11 PM Best Week Ever Live show tonight, I saw him perform at the Laugh Factory Tuesday night. Fair disclosure: I was on the comp. list (it has been brought to my attention that this is not a term everyone knows. My bad. Sorry. Comp. list = complimentary - the same thing as a guest list. It just means I got in free). More fair disclosure: Comp. list folks didn't have to wait to get in, this much is true. There is a hidden downside to this comp. side business, however. They'll let you in early (at least they did that night) but even if you're not especially early (damn traffic) the programs may not be ready, leaving many comp. list folks programless. Oh, woe was us! Oh, so, they weren't formal real programs per se. They were close enough, stapled handouts with biographies of the comedians appearing in the evening's showcase. It's nice to have a sort of guide as to who will be performing. Plus, as seems standard for plays and comedy showcases alike, half of the photographs beared no apparent resemblance to anyone on the stage, to ensure a lively round of "Which guy was that?" "Was he that guy?" at the end of the night. No one should be deprived of that fun!

That game was made possible because of finally securing a "program", but not because the Laugh Factory hostess was willing to help. They produce laughs, not programs, fair enough. When asked about programs, the hostess' attitude could best be perhaps best be described as "I could care less, but that would require effort, so I won't." Maybe she was having a rough night, and isn't usually rude. Or maybe it's supposed to be funny that the hostess is rude! Heh - good one! I guess.

Equal-time good things about The Laugh Factory: really nice layout, a variety of seating options and I don't know if there's a bad seat in the place, it's comfortable and clean, the servers are great (overworked but they do work so hard), nifty stage and a couple monitors too, just in case the stage isn't visible to all... a really good set-up...

However, another gripe follows. The Laugh Factory requires a $20.00 minimum purchase to use a credit card, which they are not allowed to do, per the terms of their agreements with the credit card companies. If any merchant tries this on you, you could point out that they're not allowed to do that. That is unlikely to work, especially if you're not talking to the owner. If you go ahead and buy something and they did require a minimum fee, you can file a complaint with your credit card company, and I encourage you to do that. I think this generally means writing a letter to explain what happened and including whatever receipt(s)/proof you have. I'm surprised a well-known place like The Laugh Factory is trying to get away with such a blatant no-no.

I probably don't have to spell this out, but of course it isn't about the $20, it's about violating the terms of their agreements with the credit card companies out of greed. Some people complained about the small drinks, but I expected that. It's so you'll buy more and that's fine. A two-drink minimum, and small drinks, fine. Some people said their drinks were watered-down; mine was fine.

Food-wise, if you're a vegetarian, you're having the chips and salsa. It's the only vegetarian food offered, aside from the tortilla chips included with everything else on the menu (sort of the same thing, really). Other than that, there are mini-burgers, chicken or beef burritos, "BBQ delight" sandwich, New Orleans chicken sandwich, or hot dogs. Every food item on the menu is $8.00, except for the chips and salsa, which are $5.00. The chips are salty (drink more!) but good. It may take a while to get food/drinks, depending on when you arrive/can get in (okay... it helps if you're on the comp. list and order food quickly). The servers are overworked and waiting tables is an incredibly hard job. I believe in giving big tips, especially to servers, unless they're a jerk or incredibly neglectful... which is rare.

The comedy (oh yeah, that!) was mostly really good! A bunch of comedians performed, and only one was altogether painful: J.B. Smoove. He opened by ordering music to be played, then kept insisting that it was wrong, and (presumably, mock-angrily) ordering that different music be played. It was the sort of act where you immediately know that it is going nowhere, but is going to take forever to get there. Just dreadful. What's worse is that the guy yelled into his microphone and showed no awareness of how loud he was. He was painfully loud. People were plugging their ears... His act continued past that part with the music, but the yelling continued. I have no idea whether he might be funny without a microphone.

Other than that, it was a strong night, well-run by host Lester Berry. All of the comedians had solid comid credentials... Christian Finnegan for example... is among other things, a permanent panelist on Best Week Ever, Michael Somerville tapes an appearance for Comedy Central's Premium Blend next week, which should be good. Kyle Grooms has already been there, done that (is it a rite of passage? several of them have done the "Premium Blend" thing).

Mike Birbiglia has appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, though his bio calls it "CBS' Late Night w/ David Letterman". You can see a clip of the appearance at his website. A lot of comedians have performance videos on their websites these days, which is smart of them, and cool for us. Birbiglia was very funny, and the crowd liked him a lot. He told a joke about going to a funeral where they handed out Kleenex, "which I thought was cocky." His jokes worked as much because of his delivery as because of the content, and sometimes more so. According to his bio, he's working on a scripted show for Comedy Central "based on his popular 'Secret/Public Journal' segment on the Bob and Tom Radio show."

Ted Alexandro also... provoked many laughs. (must stop over-using "funny"...) He opened with a bit comparing oppressive heat to talking with the elderly. He has (yay, program containing biographies!) a background in acting, which comes in very handy for that kind of joke.

Darlene Westgor had a very likeable stage presence and had an amusing act that flowed very well; it was very cohesive. One of her jokes ended with telling her kid, "Your father's a musician, your mother's a comedian. You're a waiter."

Craig Baldo had a good bit about not knowing whether he was getting invited to parties just because he has a fog machine, and how it makes it easy to just "disappear" away from boring conversations. "So, you work for a web design company?" Craig subtly disappears into the fog...

I laughed during Kyle Grooms' routine, but I wished I laughed more. I found at least a third of his routine overly familiar. Yeah, you're saying the "n word". And observing that we're supposed to be shocked that you're saying it, and imitating the shocked reaction you imagine we're having, although none of us appear to actually be having that reaction (likely because this routine is so old hat). And saying it again dozens of times. Whatever, dude. It's all been done before a lot. I didn't find that portion of the act fresh, interesting... or funny. He joked about Kyle not being an especially tough name, and I found that bit, and some of his others more original and clever. He does tell jokes well.

Michael Somerville reminded me of your stereotypical boyfriend's best friend kinda guy... the kind of guy who basically moves in with you and eats a lot, watches a lot of TV, and just is kind of oblivious. But he's funny and charming in his own way... so you actually like him. But send him on his way every so often, because sometimes three's a crowd. I hasten to add that I speak hypothetically. He joked about laundry day, and his wardrobe being reduced to the point where his choices were going swimming or graduating high school. I criticized Kyle Grooms for a lack of originality, and laundry day material is not exactly new either. However, there was a lot of lead-up to that joke, and a spin on it that made it at least somewhat fresh. It was also really funny and got a great response...

As for the chap I was there to see, I mostly really liked Christian Finnegan's act. He was witty and relaxed, and got a great response from the crowd. The bummer is that there's that "mostly", which I have to address. Two moments stood out as exceptions in an otherwise enjoyable act. First, he told a joke about his girlfriend punching him in the face. He was talking about going on vacations, basically so his girlfriend could annoy and nag him, in new and exciting locales. This was mostly a great bit, and it mostly went over well. But no one wanted to hear him joke about his girlfriend perhaps punching him in the face in a new setting. It was an awkward moment. Do I really have to explain why that isn't funny?

Second, he mentioned drinking a "faggoty" tropical drink. I'm not naive, and I know for better, worse, or neither, words that aren't acceptable elsewhere are casually tossed around in comedy clubs. Oddly, as I alluded to earlier, although the same few words are tossed around a lot, much of the comedy is supposed to come from the "shock" of hearing them. I don't especially enjoy hate speech being used anywhere, but if it's going to be done, I really don't like it being used in this sort of seemingly condoning fashion. If the response is "It wasn't condoning", it's seemingly enough that in this case it sounded like it to me. Finnegan also talked about having been called a "drama fag" by boys who would torment him in high school... getting beat up, called "drama fag" and peed on... I didn't think that was the funniest part of his act either... And if it was wrong for for him to be called a fag (and it was), why later embrace that terminology and use it as an insult? I don't feel like I should have had to explain why I didn't think that was funny either, but there you have it.

I was especially disappointed because I think he's a witty guy, and those moments were beneath him. He's more clever and creative than domestic violence and "fag" jokes. Most of his act was funny, but unfortunately the negative parts are what I remember best. I can tell you he introduced himself by pointing out his resemblance to Biff from Back From the Future... I didn't shut down and stop listening after the parts I didn't like, and I did mostly enjoy during his act... I just can't remember another joke well enough to quote it. I talked to several people about him afterward and each one said the same thing, "Which one was he?" No thanks to the nefarious hostess and thanks to the program, that issue was easily straightened out each time. No, seriously... every person I talked to about him did think he was really funny.

And so endeth my massive, epic review. It was pretty much no fun to write, but at least it's over with now. I hope we can all find some healing and move on. It's the Age of Diddy, after all.

mp3:Barenaked Ladies - The Humor of the Situation (from Maroon)

2 Comments:

Blogger metaeducat10n said...

If your sensitivities on comedy are still giving you word-shock, you might want to avoid "The Aristocrats":

http://www.lnreview.co.uk/media/journal/001842.php

A difficult movie to watch in many ways, and shot/edited miserably, but the result is strangely memorable. The concept of the "aristocratic" abandonment of concern about offending anyone...it's...well, a strange and powerful meta-joke in some sense.

3:18 AM  
Blogger trill42 said...

It wasn't word-shock. The bits that were supposed to be funny because of the "shocking" use of one racial epithet weren't shocking. I was offended by the content and context of two jokes.

Haven't seen the movie, but I'm familiar with it and had seen Cartman's joke (it didn't shock me, though I didn't think it was funny either. I watch South Park, and find it wildly inconsistent. So sometimes I like it and sometimes I hate it).

It seems like every kid hears some pretty nasty jokes. So the idea of this movie seems like a few adults just never stopped telling these jokes.

The stuff about the Friends writers in that article is a whole different topic. I hate the casual way they quote the writers, and leave out the context (i.e. we found out what it was allegedly like there because someone sued). If that was a hostile work environment, it was illegal. That matters, and obviously, isn't funny.

1:05 AM  

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