Tag Archives: John Valby

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #8, #7

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#8) Darren Frost: Dead Inside

If there’s anyone else out there plowing the road Darren Frost is on, there’s no way they’re doing it anywhere near as well. Funny, sick, twisted and absolutely for an adult audience not afraid to step out on the ledge with him, Frost holds nothing and no one sacred, including himself. Don’t confuse him with a vaudevillian pervert like John Valby; Frost is a solid writer who sees the same dark thoughts that you and I do, except that he doesn’t filter anything to avoid an uncomfortable moment between strangers. Nope, if you board this ride, you committed, and he’s not letting you dismount. How’s this for a credo?“I do every fucking show like I’m never fucking coming back…”

This is Frost’s third release, and every one of them is packed to the gills with hours of outtakes, commentary, video clips, failed experiments, high-wire acts and heckler mania. Unlike many, Frost gives it to you warts and all, as if he’s his own documentarian. It’s certainly not for everybody, but as he likes to say, “you saw the sign on the door before you came in“. This is daring, gutsy comedy and we are lucky that we have a man brave and honest enough to plunge in and do it, taboos and repercussions be damned. (Comedy Whore)

***

#7) David Cross: Bigger and Blackerer

In an unusual bit of cross-pollination, Sub Pop issued this title separately on CD and DVD, but the material is wildly different. Unlike previous simultaneous Cross releases, where the different titles confirmed different content, it wasn’t until people started comparing reviews that they realized what they were missing between these. So if you know anyone pissed off at this marketing campaign, please don’t remind them that Cross wrote a book, also. Find out when their birthday is and get them a three-pack of DC.

But format aside, Cross has made a strong and welcome return to recorded stand up. Equally intolerant of social, religious and political buffoons, yet willing to point the barrel of the gun inwards as well, his stage work is a combination of logical rants and surreal thoughts. Sure, it’s snarky and offensive, and on occasions he might tread in areas that make even the most open-mided comedy fan cringe. But sacred cows are there for the tipping, and Cross remains a master.  (Sub Pop)

***

The countdown continues tomorrow with #6 and #5

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A Boy and His Log

So the Pope says, "Do you have an eraser? I wrote..."

So the Pope says, "Do you have an eraser? I wrote..."

If I had a bucket list, there would be one less item on it, because last night I finally got to see Otto & George live on stage in a comedy club. And although one of them is made of wood, trust me when I tell you that two minutes into the show no one believed they weren’t watching a foul-mouthed midget go postal on everyone, including the shy guy on stage trying to calm him down.

Brooklyn-born Otto Petersen started out working a normal ventriloquist act, playing clubs and parties and busking in the park. Changing the material to an X-rated routine was both a survival tactic to get work and a stroke of genius. And I don’t care how prepared you think you might be for a ribald puppet, but the twisted, filthy smut that spews out of George’s mouth is as shocking as it is hilarious, maybe the most politically incorrect show on the planet. Nothing is sacred, not celebrities, politicians, alternate lifesyles, nationalities, religions and most especially anyone sitting within shouting distance from the stage.

Otto and George had just played the night before with John Valby, the ribald piano player who is especially popular in upstate New York. I did not see that show, but apparently a few people seated nearby had and returned for a full evening of puppet magic. I don’t know whether some of the other attendees were expecting Jeff Dunham, but between the act’s reputation and the disclaimers, there was no way you could walk into this gig expecting to see anything other than a demented ventriloquist with a foul-mouthed puppet. And while I saw many people laughing uncontrollably at even the most offensive material, there were also a couple who were obviously in way over their heads sitting slack-jawed, mouths agape, like they were being mentally raped.

Sorry, I have no sympathy for those people. If you pay to see an act like this you know what you’re getting. Filthy, sexually oriented jokes that are that much more hilarious because they’re coming from the mouth of a puppet. Otto baits the audience, and you can see his lips moving, but people don’t even make eye contact with him because they’re fixated on George. Hell, I know that’s Otto doing the voice and I’m still staring at the puppet the entire time. (I’ve seen clips where people argue with George!)

What makes these guys great – and yes, I refer to them as two people – is that Otto rarely speaks directly to the audience. He lets George do all the dirty work. George looks as demented as he sounds, and relentlessly attacks Otto as well as the audience. So while Otto is trampling on the sacred cows of every gender, race, creed and lifestyle, he looks like he’s the victim, not the perpetrator. It’s a brilliant idea perfectly executed.

And for those who might snark that his ventriloquist skill is lacking because his lips do move, well…you’re missing the point. It’s one thing to see a guy drink a glass of water while throwing his voice, but you know all the time that it’s a parlor trick. Watching Otto & George, you’re convinced that a demented midget is onstage holding the room hostage. And that’s just what he did through two hour-long sets that I couldn’t reprint a word of even if I wanted to. One of the funniest shows I have ever seen; do not miss them if they perform near you.

Johnny O

Host and opening act Johnny O was flat out hilarious. I don’t expect much more from the M.C. than to make the time pass quickly, make me laugh once or twice and get me to the headliner. I’ll admit that when this middle-aged guy from Parsippany hit the stage I had no expectations, but my ribs ached by the time he was done. Irreverant social humor that was unilaterally funny, whether breaking balls about Italians and their lawn ornaments or the social caste differences between Yankee and Met fans. A bag full of great one-liners, sight gags and dead-on impressions of Sean ConneryIce-T, Nipsey Russell (a killer closer) and Bernie Mac. And an impression of Jesse Ventura coaching his son about birth control? Folks, this was fucking gold. This guy needs to headline and I need to find out where so I can see him again.

The worst thing you can probably tell a comic is “I’m staying for the second show“, but Johnny O juggled his routine a bit and reworked some lines; Otto probably altered his by a third. Frankly, they were both so funny I probably could have watched them deliver the same material word for word.

The smaller opening crowd was actually more attentive and responsive. The later crowd, a bit younger, contained the requisite wiseass who thinks he’s funnier than the comic, the talkative drunk at the front table, the group of twelve sometimes focusing on each other instead of being part of the overall crowd. This is nothing new for a working comic, and both handled it well. And I don’t blame the comics – they were nailing the material and rifling the self-deprecating callbacks when things didn’t go as well as expected. They had the follow-up ready for any punch line that fizzled. They just didn’t get back what they put out there in the second show. Sure, maybe a Joe Pignatano reference plays better in New York City than elsewhere, but if a Bernie Mac imitation is too deep for you, maybe you need to get out more…just somewhere else. But with enough of us in the audience who were gasping for air, they did what professionals do – play to those of us who were actually getting the subtleties.

The Comedy Club in Webster is a great space – perfect sightlines, great sound and lighting, not a bad seat in the house. The food is good, the drinks reasonably priced and the servers attentive and friendly without being cloying. In short, it’s a great comedy room that deserves a great comedy audience. I know a lot of us walked away tonight with sore ribs and big smiles; hopefully Otto and Johnny got enough of a response from the core of both crowds to make up for the sprinkling of cluelsss ones.

Of course, George couldn’t be placated. “Go to Home Depot”, he told me, “and get a rope in aisle 2 and a stepladder in aisle 7 and do it right in the store! Kill yourself!!”

Otto and George2

Otto & George on Letterman

Otto & George website

Otto & George on MySpace

Johnny O. on MySpace

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Stand Up Wit…Nick Di Paolo

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

Detractors call him a racist, a misogynist and/or a homophobe. I prefer the term equal-opportunity offender. But whatever you call him, Nick DiPaolo is funny.

Although the name and accent might scream “Brooklyn”, DiPaolo is originally from the Boston area, although he’s been a fixture on the NY/NJ comedy scene for years. His blunt, brutal sarcastic edge might flow like a river of well-directed bile, but that cadence is a product of great instincts and skill, highly polished over a two decade career. For Nick, nothing is sacred (including, and especially, himself) and we’re all along for the ride. A veteran of the comedy club and late-night TV circuits, Nick was also a main panelist on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and is a frequent member of the dais for the Comedy Central roasts.

Funny How is a Gatling gun of intolerance towards marriage, bad customer service, reality TV, drug commercials, sexual and racial inequality and the general stupidity we encounter every day. Recorded at the ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis prior to the 2008 election, DiPaolo naturally spends a bit of time skewering the candidates, but not too much; only a tiny bit will risk sounding dated years from now. (The John McCain bits were great, but you could tell the physical gestures he was making made it twice as funny for those in the audience!) Despite being an avowed Republican, he rightfully whacks everyone – on both sides of the aisle. Yes, folks, Nick DiPaolo is a uni-ter, not a divi-der

Lots of laugh-out-loud moments; my favorite bits were the “Bat Story” (a bat loose in his bedroom turns Nick into a pussy) and “To Catch A Predator”, which almost made me drive my car into the guard rail. Half the fun is listening to Nick toss out three jokes in a single sentence, see the audience catch one or two and then chide them for missing the money shot. I’ve caught a lot of his televised appearances, and although I imagine a lot of this is seasoned club material to NYC fans, most of it was new to me. The couple of routines that weren’t (like “Dead Pope” ) remain so strong that I laughed as hard as I did the first time I heard them.

If you buy a Nick DiPaolo album you know it’s not something to play at the children’s party, so those with the right wavelength for this material should go grab it right away without reservation. (Also be sure to check out Nick’s earlier albums, Road Rage and Born This Way. Both are really funny, and if you like any of the three, you’ll like all three.)

 roast_logo

I wish I could say the same for the album released by Nick’s frequent Roast partner in crime, Jeffrey Ross. Granted, I popped the CD in with high expectations having enjoyed Ross’s brutal podium work in the Comedy Central roasts. But No Offense: Live From New Jersey is a big disappointment, thin on material and containing very few funny lines. Half the CD is an extended bit where two audience members (and I suspect the second was a plant) come onstage and play piano as Ross recites nonsense poems about his balls or whining in Chinese. It’s the kind of joke that works once if you do it right (Sam Kinison did it to great effect years ago) but it gets tiring the second and third time you trot out another poem, and then after that it’s just painful to sit through. Ask Dice.

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

Maybe it was the blue hair crowd at the casino that caused him to milk a routine that was working, or maybe he didn’t want to cross the line too deeply in front of an audience of relatives and friends…I don’t know. But silly poems? Ross isn’t John Valby, he’s a throwback to the quick-jabbing comedians of yesteryear, only more vulgar and gross because time has changed what’s acceptable in a commercial theatre (the old timers could be filthy and vile too, but most kept that in the clubs). The sharp put-down, whether to others or himself, is his strength, but he didn’t play to it. Then again, I’ve only seen Ross on television; I’ve never seen him headline a full show – maybe this is his act.

Or maybe the whole album was satire and it went over my head? Nah. He’s better than this. Hope he documents a stronger performance on CD/DVD soon.

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