Posts Tagged ‘DC comedy’

Bill Maher: Bitingly Funny No Matter the Venue—Comedy

September 15, 2014

Bill Maher enjoys such a devoted fan base that people (including me) will come to his show even when they’re not exactly sure what show they are seeing. Do we have tickets for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” or our tickets for a live taping of an HBO special of his stand-up? In the September 12 crowd in which I stood outside DC’s Warner Theatre, we finally realized we were to be a part of Maher’s comedy special following his also live “Real Time” at DC’s Sidney Harmon Hall. Confused? No matter as long as you‘re entertained and boy were we ever.

Maher1

Turns out Maher’s warm-up act was Maher himself as we watched his  “Real Time” show on the television provided by the theatre. Once that concluded our audience was treated to a play-by-play account of Maher’s motorcade/foot race to the Warner Theatre by none other than Keith Olbermann and filmmaker Michael Moore. Moore had a very funny line referencing Maher’s donation in the 2012 presidential election, by commenting that a “million dollar donation to the Obama campaign evidently buys one a police motorcade.” Whatever. On stage, Maher seemed no worse for wear from doing back-to-back shows. He opened his act with, “I had to run three blocks at breakneck speed to get here. Thank, God, I’m white.” And with that we were off.

Keith and Michael

Despite Maher’s liberal leanings, no one is safe from his caustically funny routine…not Democrats, the President nor the Clintons. But he saves his special bites for Republicans, Congress, racists and religion. Surprisingly, the only person to come out relatively unscathed was the Pope, referring to him as the “Joe Biden of Catholicism”…affectionately calling him, “Frank.”

One line that brought the house down was about the Republicans wondering how they could have lost twice to “Cedric the Entertainer.” But then he went on to say how hard it was to feel sorry for them when they “nominated the world’s oldest man for President who then chose the world’s stupidest woman for his running mate.” The partisan crowd absolutely lost it at that point. Some of Maher’s best small bits were about Donald Trump’s feud with him and John Boehner’s evident hormonal problems which cause him to cry.

Maher admits to showing his age when it comes to social media and taking and posting pictures of one’s private parts, saying he “associates typing with term papers, not sex.” His hour of levity ended with what else—a not to be repeated penis joke.

A Bill Maher comedy special comes with no applause signs. None are needed. The man is smart, energetic, and most important of all, hilarious. The next time his show comes your way, should take every opportunity to go see him…even if you are a religious Republican. Just bring your sense of humor and you’ll have a terrific time. For now, check your local listings for both his HBO shows—”Real Time” and the “Live From DC Special.”

4 nuggets out of 4

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Lewis Black’s The Rant is Due: Paid in Full—Comedy

April 13, 2014

Lewis Black was in vintage form for his Thursday, April 10 show, “The Rant is Due,” at DC’s Warner Theatre. That is a good thing. Full of rage, venom, and just out-and-out funny, Black was on fire.The Rant is Due

So what was it this time? Black is from the DC area and given the fact that the show started late because he was stuck in Cherry Blossom traffic, he was certainly handed a jumping off point from which to rant. And rant Black did…beginning with the once upon a time stupidity of two-lane Virginia vs. three-lane Maryland. Then it was on to pedestrians and  traffic patterns. And don’t get him started on the tourists. Their poor ears must have been burning.

Is there anything Lewis Black does like? Tahiti. Dear God, how he loves Tahiti. To quote, “Lose your f**king kids in the store…get out and get on the plane. It’s the Garden of F**k Eden.  His best line about Tahiti was: “I was confused about my feelings about Crimea and after three days in Tahiti, I don’t “f**king care.”

Then it was back to what he hates. What Black seems to despise more than anything and anyone are politicians…especially the ones responsible for the government shutdown. While he was going on and on, I had a thought—perhaps if these politicians came to his show and listened to what Black had to say and the audience’s reaction to him, they might think twice about ever shutting down the government again.  Calling John Boehner “the mood ring of politicians,” and taking on President Obama for the healthcare web site failure…no one and nothing was safe from his hysterical ire.

Some of Black’s best barbs came in response to the audience’s demeanor. For whatever reason, some audience members felt it was OK (it’s not) to shout out. Given his disposition, this was risky, but Black handled them masterfully and one of his top lines of the evening was, “perhaps we should decorate the set with library books so people will know to be quiet.” Ouch!

Black had two opening acts—John Bowman and Joe Kashnow. Bowman, Black’s long-time show companion had some terrifically droll observations about performing at Penn State during the Sandusky trial. His riff about Justin Bieber was very funny, calling him Michael Jackson in reverse (think about it and it will hit you). Kashnow was recently profiled in the Washington Post. He is a wounded Iraqi war vet who was one of several chosen to appear in the recent documentary “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.” Kashnow did about 10 minutes and shows a lot of promise. His bit about dying on the installment plan was extremely clever and amusing.

But face it—folks came to hear Lewis Black say things many of us think, but pay him to say it funny. He didn’t disappoint.

4 nuggets out of 4

Who is the Next Comedic Star?—Comedy

January 27, 2014

Who is the next comedic star? From where will the next Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman come? It’s quite possible that this new bright comic will be found at the DC Improv Comedy School Comics Showcase.DC Improv Comics Showcase

Held in the DC Improv Lounge on a Friday evening, not just anyone gets to take the floor (there is no stage). These stars-in-the-making first have to hone their craft in the DC Improv Comedy School—an intense program taught by a professional comedian—someone who actually makes a living doing standup comedy. And what happens when you’ve finished the classes? You have your graduation, doing a five-minute set in the “Big Room” before a real paying audience of everyone’s friends and families. Sure, folks will laugh for their friends, but what about you?

I confess. I am a graduate…in fact, a two-time graduate with about five years between the two graduations. Take it from me, those five minutes can either feel like five seconds or five years. I actually got laughs, applause and got a whole host of new, funny friends. And it’s positively mind-blowing to think that you are performing on the same stage that played host to Dave Chappelle, Kevin Nealon, Jerry, Chris and Kathy, just to name a few (I even wondered if I was holding the same microphone as Kathy—that made me sweat just thinking about it). But I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to keep at it…to keep performing. For me, it was just too stressful.

But the folks I saw Friday, January 24, kept at it…and they were terrific. There were six performers, including my former classmate Leon Scott. All came with different points of view. Depending upon your taste, some were better than others—for me, Leon was one of the real standouts, but all were very good. With more gigs under their belts, who knows what can happen? And the whole evening just cost  ten dollars…quite the bargain for getting in on the ground floor of promising new careers.

The DC Improv also holds improv classes with a graduation performance before a paying audience. I took several of those classes and had the thrill of performing with my classmates.

So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive evening out with the chance to discover new talent, take a look at the DC Improv. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to take a class yourself.

http://www.dcimprov.com/comedy-school/learn-standup.html

202.296.7008, 1140 Connecticut Avenue NW, WDC 20036

(One block north of Farragut Metro on Red Line)

John Oliver: Stands and Delivers at DC’s Warner Theatre—Comedy

November 13, 2013

John OliverSubbing for Jon Stewart as the host of “The Daily Show,” John Oliver was a smash. But was that a fluke…the result of good “Daily Show” writers? Judging from the non-stop laughter at his Friday, November 8 standup performance, John Oliver is one wittily funny man all on his own. Playing to a very diverse audience at D.C.’s Warner Theatre, Oliver provided gentle digs at everyone, including himself.  He immediately had the audience on his side with just his self-introduction. From there the rest of the evening was a piece of cake.

Born in England, but living in the U.S. for the past seven years, Oliver has a unique perspective from which to do standup. He’s one of us, but he’s not one of us. He pokes with affection at the blunders of his birth nation—“how could they send their most hardened criminals to Australia, paradise on Earth? What was the thinking?”  But then he goes off on a riff of U.S. political foibles—Congress has a 10% approval rating…however, polls don’t record sarcasm…badaboom.  No one is spared…not White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Rick Perry or others too numerous to mention. Many American “traditions”—t-shirt cannons, home-run derbies…the list goes on and on—come in for their share of jabs. But to our credit, Oliver says that while America may be a bad boyfriend, the rest of the world is a bad girlfriend.

Many comedians come to the District and flatter us by saying that DC audiences are the smartest. While I like to think that is true, I live here and know that might not be exactly correct.  It’s possible that we’re more up to speed on politics, but otherwise we’re pretty much like everyone. Case in point—in starting a story, Oliver threw out the question to a woman in the front row—“What first comes to mind when you think of Egypt?” Her response? “Sand.” That was definitely not the answer he was expecting. It sent him into peals of laughter. When he recovered, he went off on that response for a good 10 minutes. And with the dexterity of a skilled comedian, came back to that response over and over again.

While Oliver’s routine is splattered with f**k’s throughout, his commentary is clean, good-natured comedy. An evening with John Oliver is like sitting next to your high-school class clown for about 90 minutes of just all-out fun. If you love Oliver on “The Daily Show,” you’ll love and appreciate him even more after seeing his show.

Future performance dates can be found at iamjohnoliver.com.

4 nuggets out of 4

The Second City’s America All Better: Relapses from Laughing—Theatre

July 13, 2013

The Second City has put down stakes at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre and DC is the better for it. “America All Better” takes a look at America yesterday and today and no topic, I mean no topic is off-limits.America All Better 2

There is a certain rhythm to what the Second City troupe does. There are very short pieces followed by a longer piece. Some bits are scripted, some pieces are improvised. You might not get all of the short bits—they fly by so fast. At my performance there was a short piece about eavesdropping and it went by so quickly, most folk didn’t have time to process that the skit was about the Obama girls (Hint: it happens at the very beginning).

My showing had a very funny piece having to do with manatees per an audience suggestion. Some physical comedy was involved and it was hysterical.  Another piece was about gay marriage, and for this skit they used a member of the audience and brought him on stage. He was a very good sport and really added to the skit’s humor. A blind date piece in which one of the participants is so socially awkward that he has scripted every possible response to questions in advance was extremely funny, as was a segment near the end about what girls in the future can anticipate. Other funny short pieces were about the NRA, guns, Facebook and photography—Lincoln and Anthony Weiner…use your imagination. Are there misses? Yes…not every skit is a winner. The bit about Jesus addressing Congress was funny, but ran too long. The angry black woman piece was not especially funny or clever and could have used some editing. But in a performance with so many high notes, these are just a couple of hiccups.

The troupe—Aaron Bliden, Martin Garcia, Sayjal Joshi, Scott Morehead, Niccole Thurman and Claudia Michelle Wallace–is extremely talented. They can all sing, dance, act and of course, improvise. I found Joshi to have an especially terrific voice and personality and Martin Garcia seemed exceptionally versatile. The musical director, Jacob Shuda, also contributed mightily to the evening’s fun.

Although Second City is native to Chicago, the company had enough references to local DC life—not just national politics—to give it a real DC feel.  If you’re looking for an evening full of laughs, there’s no place better to be than at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre and The Second City’s “America All Better.”

Run extended through August 18

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

WIT’s in Full Bloom at the Capital Fringe Festival

July 20, 2010

Laughs, groans and more laughs were in abundance Saturday evening as WIT (Washington Improv Theater) rocked the Capital Fringe Festival at the Source Theatre. Special for the Festival, WIT’s theme is iSchool Musical. Although the topic, high school, is a given, the rest of the production is improvised in song by ideas from the audience. Saturday’s suggestion was a high school field trip to Quebec, Canada, where love was most humorously in the air. Not all troupe members had voices bound for Broadway, but all had impeccable comedic timing and were especially quick on their feet.

Unlike other Festival participants, WIT is a local presence, and performs regularly at the Source Theatre and other local venues. Not only is musical improv performed, but more traditional improv is also showcased. WIT also offers classes in improv. More information on WIT can be found at washingtonimprovtheater.com.

Ischool Musical will run on Friday, June 23 at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 24 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Visit capitalfringe.org for information on other Capital Fringe Festival performances.

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