Ever since the Purple Onion tried to re-establish itself as a comedy destination some seven years ago, weekly series have come and gone, and the place has mostly been a spot for fledgling local comics to find stage time. A good thing, to be sure.
The historic laugh lounge's latest stab at renaissance is its new weekly Comedy & Cocktails series, a free show featuring a long list of comics of varying experience levels. We'll assume that means short sets for all involved, save the headliner. Like speed dating, but with comedians.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Jay Pharoah sure loves to kiss some arse. Thursday night at Cobb’s Comedy Club, the SNL prodigy spent the first 40 minutes of his set mimicking the patriarchs of hip-hop and Hollywood, as if he were rehearsing for a hosting gig at the BET Awards. The kid is clearly skilled, if a tad one-dimensional.
The 23-year-old Virginia native tills the same comedic soil as MadTV’s Aries Spears, who brought a very similar routine to Cobb’s earlier this year. Both are virtuoso impersonators, holding up mirrors to high-profile rappers and other idiosyncratic personalities of urban culture.
We’re all too familiar with the narrative infrastructure of ODC Theater’s latest musical, OMFG: Lonely man meets lonely woman. They flirt. They exaggerate their case for why they’d make ideal companions. True identities are revealed. Love is in the balance.
Once upon a time these types of encounters were the marked territory of contrived rom-com cinema, but the veils and deceptions of the Internet have made everyone with a laptop a potential author of such yarns. All the virtual world is a stage (too), the perfect place to ignore what we see in the mirror. So people bend the truth and hide insecurities as best they can. Until they can’t anymore.
Like any great artist, comic Dan Cummins knows how to source his inspiration — or where to source his inspiration, to be exact. In his weekly Off the Pot YouTube series, Cummins goes to that last solitary place where man can escape the distractions of modern life and be alone with his thoughts — the porcelain god. OK, so it's not exactly Walden Pond, but there's a certain genius to it. He riffs topically, and quite cleverly. It's potty humor, technically, but it's not.
Cummins has been on the comedy beat for some ten years now, having matriculated to Los Angeles from the Pacific Northwest to pursue comedy and all its related fields: TV, film, novel writing, web series, etc. His tongue has sharpened and he seems primed to be L.A.'s next great comic you may or may not have heard of. Before his stint at Punchline this week, he took a moment to answer some of our questions:
There’s something vaguely Cobainian about San Francisco’s latest prodigal punk son gone national, Ty Segall. Perhaps it’s all on the surface — the stringy blond hair covering his face, his nihilistic, alyrical groan, his haphazard yet taut soloing. But there’s a certain grunginess to his band’s aesthetic, also a nuts ‘n’ bolts alignment of guitar, bass and drums. All of it begged a certain question: were we watching something special on Saturday night at The Independent? Was this what it was like to see Bleach-era Nirvana in a Seattle club in the mid-‘90s, when all that mattered was the channeling of angst?
For over a decade now — yes, time flies even for insomniacs — Adult Swim has been a green-light-happy home to “alternative comedy,” whatever that means (our guess: the jokes involve long hair and abstract guitar play). The cult followings of shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021 and The Venture Bros. have paved a road for countless successful and not-so-successful live action and animated sitcoms to follow.
Myq Kaplan (pronounced “Mike”) gets laughs the way your quirky math teacher did, turning what some might consider boring laws of the natural world into innuendo and snarky word play. He’ll make jokes about rhombuses and the difference between sets and subsets while making a point about dating or sex or other racier subjects. All with the charm and delivery of a sinister school boy turned Meghan’s Law regular (Bay Area comedy fans might draw comparisons to fellow creep-comic Brent Weinbach). Trust that it works, and regularly kills.
Before we discuss the Mountain Goats’ performance last night at the Fillmore, please accept this prerequisite information: It’s been documented that many of the great canonical authors of American literature had a particularly strong love-hate relationship with the areas that shaped who they became. Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck — all of them were distinctly of a place, and a conflicted passion for their homeland informed their best works. Ask any English lit major; they probably BS’ed their way through a class on said argument.
San Francisco’s always been a fertile breeding ground for comedians, but the current crop of laugh-makers is especially prolific. Catch them now before they head off to the major leagues.
Few SNL veterans have had to deal with the pigeonholing and character-branding Jim Breuer has had to eschew for the last decade. To most, he’s either the perma-bed-headed stoner from Half Baked or the bizarrely polymorphic Goat Boy from SNL, or both. Each was an iconic character, and at least partly responsible for the cult following the comic has enjoyed over the years. But those creations were also from a lifetime ago. “I’m a different person now,” Breuer said in a recent interview.
So how does one shake a reputation of such scale? Simple: old-school metal rock. Of the arena-filling, lazer-lit, "You Shook Me All Night Long" variety. I’m serious.
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