Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre L.A.’s “Comedy Death-Ray” show on Tuesdays sells out in about an hour each week. The theatre is small (around 100 seats) and provides the best comedy show for only $5 so it’s not that strange that it sells out so quickly. Still, only something like two years ago, only the most savvy comedy fans knew about the goldmine across from the diluted celebrity “church” on Franklin Ave. in Hollywood. Now though, the majority of people have caught on and the line for standby tickets starts early and grows exponentially past the bookstore, restaurants and around the corner.
I’ve been a fan of Scott Aukerman and BJ Porter’s CDR for years and have attended quite a few shows. In fact, the driving force behind me finally relenting and registering for a (shudder) Twitter account is the opportunity to get a text message the minute the lineups are posted (and incidentally, tickets are made available). Last Friday, I received such a text message stating, “CDR tickets now on sale! With Michael Ian Black, BJ Novak, MORE!” I immediately scrambled for my laptop and and purchased two tickets, being an enormous Michael Ian Black fan–especially after seeing Stella’s reunion tour a couple years ago. BJ Novak was an interesting addition and with just these two guys, I would have been happy paying the $11 for two tickets.
I arrived early at the theatre last night to make sure I caught Doug Benson’s free show/podcast taping “Doug Loves Movies” before CDR started at 8:30pm. Michael Ian Black was apparently too busy to honor his commitment to “Doug Loves Movies” as he decided to do Adam Carolla’s more popular podcast, which is understandable. The three guests for DLM were Tommy Johnagin, the hilarious and soft-spoken Todd Barry, and CDR co-founder Scott Aukerman, who filled in for Michael Ian Black. I wasn’t too disappointed as I love Scott Aukerman.
I’m going to go over my personal highlights from the show as there were too many comedians to write about in one post. Among those who performed but I won’t detail here were Jonah Ray (who hosted), English comedian Matt Kirshen, and Last Comic Standing runner-up Tommy Johnagin. They weren’t terrible by any means, but the other comedians were pure dynamite and most of them I’ve wanted to see live for quite a while.
BJ Novak, who plays the character Ryan and is also the head writer for The Office, performed a pretty short set–about fifteen minutes. I was interested to see what his stand-up would be like and I was pleasantly surprised. For some reason, I had a feeling his act would be full of pretentious humor that I didn’t feel would play well with the savvy UCB crowd. Most of his material, actually, was regional stuff–little observations about living in and around L.A.
After BJ Novak performed, I sat wondering who the mystery performers would be, knowing that Zach Galifianakis likely wouldn’t randomly appear on-stage like he did last time I attended Comedy Death-Ray. Jonah Ray came out to introduce the next comedian saying, “This next performer also has a television show Thursdays on NBC…”
At that point, I lost my shit. I’ve been raving about Donald’s comedic timing, ability to pull the best facial “re-acks” (reaction shots), and acting prowess since the early sketches of his hugely popular sketch group, DERRICK Comedy–long before his popularity blew up via Community. More recently, I’ve really wanted to go see Childish Gambino (Donald’s hip-hop alias) perform in preparation for his upcoming tour, but I haven’t had the money necessary to buy tickets. Donald performed for about twenty minutes and I don’t remember a point when I wasn’t laughing during his set. I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but he left me pondering the answer to a question I’ll likely never resolve: “Does Keira Knightley lick buttholes?”
After Donald Glover made his way offstage, we were lucky enough to enjoy a (particularly long) set by Todd Barry (The Wrestler, Delocated, Louie) who I assume was kind enough to give us a show while he stalled for time, waiting for Michael Ian Black to arrive. Donald Glover must have been pretty embarrassed, though, as during Todd Barry’s set, we found out that HE is dating Keira Knightley. Sadly, he wouldn’t tell us whether or not she licks buttholes. Todd’s comedy is really interesting and it takes some patience for audience members that don’t get it. Most of his material were thin jokes that he then incessantly deconstructed, which is something that usually disembowels the humor from a good joke. His trademark soft, monotone drawl makes him hard to hear and better than warm milk for tired or drunk audience members looking to catch a quick nap in a theatre seat.
After British comedian Matt Kirshen performed a decent set, it was time for Michael Ian Black, my initial bet for highlight of the night. He started out with a joke that he had posted on Twitter a couple days before the show, which was a little disappointing. Most of his material was about how he lost his drivers license while in Los Angeles and how it’s basically impossible to do normal, day-to-day activities here without a car/license. Really, I can’t think of any other major city where you’re totally fucked if you don’t have a car or proof that you’re legally qualified to operate a vehicle. Black finished with his old but still funny poem entitled “If I Had a Slave”. He seems to know that racial tension in a crowd is hilariously uncomfortable.
The final mystery guest to perform last night had just performed on CONAN earlier that day, the incredibly talented and really strange Reggie Watts. Reggie’s set is a mashup of a bunch of different things: hilarious accents/voices, incredible beatboxing, awkward dancing, and unintelligible lyrics. I had seen some of his material from his Comedy Central special, but in no way was I intimately familiar with his style. After watching CONAN immediately after I got home from the show to see how the crowd responded to Reggie, I wasn’t surprised to notice that they weren’t sure what to make of him for the first few minutes. It was only after his “horse walks into a bar” joke, did the audience start responding positively. At UCB, it was way different. The place exploded during his performance. He puts on an absolutely amazing stage show and is definitely recommended.
I have a hard time saying that any CDR show is “the best I’ve ever been to” as it’s top-shelf each and every time I’ve attended. But I’ve made a decision, and I must concede that last night’s CDR was the best comedy show I’ve ever attended (with like 20 others in a close second place).