Tag Archives: No Offense

Stand Up Wit…Jeffrey Ross

Although I love Jeffrey Ross’s stinging barbs on the Comedy Central Roasts, I was not a fan of his first CD/DVD release, No Offense. Matter of fact, I gave it a kick in the nuts at the time, and I stand by that review; he’s capable of much, much better.

But I need to give credit where credit is due, and over the past few weeks I wound up viewing his film Patriot Act and finally reading his book I Only Roast The Ones I Love. Big thumbs up to both.

The book is a combination of three things – light biography, showbiz back room stories and a how-to-be-a-Roastmaster primer. Credit the author or credit the editors, but it juggled the three topics adeptly and for the most part is a breezy and enjoyable read. The how-to part is obviously written tongue-in-cheek, since being funny is a gift, not a trade. But he offers some valuable tips for the weekend/wedding roaster which should elevate a clumsy act with potential into at least a clumsy act that’s organized.

The bio and backstage bits are well-balanced; lots of caustic one-liners from the roasts, some inside and backstage bits about famous comics and several heartfelt exchanges with or about legends (i.e. Milton Berle) who Ross obviously reveres. While obviously charting his own success he deftly describes this rise with a minimal amount of ego-stroking.

Fans of his generation will no doubt appreciate the anecdotes involving contemporaries like Jimmy Kimmel, but anyone who appreciates the art of comedy will see the respect that he has for the history of the art form. By extension, they’ll learn to respect Ross a little more in the process. I know I do.

But that Bea Arthur story is going to give me nightmares.

I’m as much an avid fan for films about stand-up comedy as I am films of stand-up comedy. Ross promotes this as little more than a “home movie”, but it’s simultaneously as strong a documentary about comedy as it is an endorsement of our brave troops stationed around the world. I don’t mind when those of us with different political agendas get caught up in deep discussions about our political beliefs, but it’s a weak mind that thinks a person opposed to a war is “against the troops”.

Maybe it’s the word troops; these are people like you and me, or our sons, daughters, siblings and parents, who have volunteered to serve our country and by that definition, serve the rest of us. When I hear some politico accusing another of being “against the troops” I know they’re out of mental ammo and gasping. It’s bullshit cheap shot rhetoric that only idiots and talk radio sheep buy into.

I wish all those poison hearted people who toss words around with such callous disregard could watch how a group of comics interact with our military personnel and juggle full frontal comedy with complete deference and respect. But even if you miss the more important point, you’ll come away having enjoyed some great jokes courtesy of Ross, Blake Clark, Drew Carey, Rocky LaPorte and Kathy Kinney. (And as a longtime fan of Drew Carey, I was glad to see his tireless efforts for the troops get some overdue recognition.)

Coincidentally I just re-read Jay Mohr’s book Gasping For Airtime this week. He and Ross both revered Buddy Hackett, and while I grew up watching Hackett on television and in the movies (It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World is a stone cold classic), I came away with a new respect for him as a both a comic and a mentor. And seeing a new generation of comics paying genuine respect to those who laid the foundation is heartwarming; both Mohr and Ross knew Hackett well (and Mohr does a killer impression of the man). Maybe someday the DVD wizards will finally release this gem.

Jeffrey Ross on Wikipedia.

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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.)

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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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