Art is, in no small part, the audience. On Thursday & Friday young Nicholas Klau & I sojourned to the world famous 100 Club (birthplace of the punk movement, but not renowned as a comedy venue) to see A Lovely Evening With David Cross & Friends. David Cross is an amazing comic talent, most widely known as Dr Tobias Fünke from the US comedy masterpiece, Arrested Development. The evening was standup comedy from Cross, as well as his friends from the US, Todd Barry, Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman. To round out the set each night he also had a guest artist – Thursday was Andrew Maxwell, and Friday was the incomparable and ludicrously talented Tim Minchin.
Thursday's gig was what one would describe as “interesting” – it's really weird when you see talented people perform good solid material, but something doesn't quite spark. It felt to me that the pace of the material was a little out somehow, and the crowd just weren't behind the performers. There was a bank of about 6 in the front middle section who had that kind of sitting-back-with-arms-folded-saying “Come on then, impress me” type of attitude, and that's not a great attitude to kick off a comedy gig with.
The first comic off the rank, Todd Barry, I've got to say left me a little underwhelmed. His material was reasonably solid, if a little spartan, and his bit relied on his deadpan delivery. He was sort of a descendant of Steven Wright, with all of the ego but none of the presence. It seemed that his act hinged heavily on the anti-joke, but that in turn requires a certain buy-in from the crowd, and he didn't seem to have that.
Next up was Kristen Schaal – I loved her delivery, maybe it was her accent, or fairly cute & vulnerable manner, but all that really gave her scope to set up more devastating lines. A bit about her absent comedy partner, the singing, dancing bird didn't have the legs on it she was hoping for, and her piece involving her finding the diary of a caterpillar pretty well promised a punchline and it just became a matter of how she went about reaching it. I loved her delivery, but it was clear the rest of the house weren't playing that game.
Eugene Mirman had some excellent material, such as a recorded conversation between himself and a salesperson from his local region's Christian telephone company, or a retaliation letter he'd written for a speeding ticket. Oddly, the british crowd seemed to warm significantly to the complaint letter story. He finished with a video, featuring himself as a weird stoned detective, which was a bit surrealist and whilst moderately entertaining kind of left you impatiently thinking “I came here for standup, not YouTube”.
Cross's material was solid as well, although mostly missing punchlines and more reliant on amusing retelling of humorous anecdotes – I think he was maybe a little shaken by the deadness of the crowd (you could hear the air conditioning for lots of it), and you couldn't help but feel that some of the press for this show had overstated the hilariousness of the situation. He had a pleasing enough riff on his dog (combining pretentiousness, and bestiality), and nailed a story about a pissing elephant. However the endorsement comments on the handbill – particularly Jack Black's (If you miss an opportunity to see him perform…you're a total a-hole. David Cross dominates my world. I would crawl through glass to see him take a shit.”) – might as well have been written about a comedy show in another dimension.
Andrew Maxwell however stormed on stage & took total control of the proceedings. No stranger to tough rooms (as he regularly MC's The Comedy Store late at night, which is the comedic equivalent of pogosticking blindfolded through a minefield), he gave a solid 15 minutes of A-class material.
So all that considered, it's kinda weird that when we went back on the Friday night the whole night was totally different. Maybe it was the vibe & the crowd, or maybe the performers timed their deliveries better, but every set was tighter and really worked.
Instead of Andrew Maxwell, the guest performer was the wild haired, wide eyed, piano playing legend, Mr Tim Minchin. About the only fault in the night was that Tim only got 15 minutes, which was time enough for 3 songs.
Following the show we thought about going out for a pint, and ended up just sitting around the 100 Club chatting, and after a while the comedians came out & started chatting to the stragglers and groupies. Okay, so this is pretty much the basis of the whole blog post, let's face it. I got to have a bit of a chat with David Cross, who seemed really cool and glad that we'd come along, and out of the corner of my eye I spied Daniel Kitson's head poking around the corner of the band room door so I went & said hi and chatted with him about the Regent's Park gig the other week.
Meanwhile Una was chatting with Tim and managed to score a happy snap, before he got distracted chatting to a couple of American girls who didn't seem to have any idea who he was (i.e. not even that he'd been a performer on the bill that night).
Pretty cool though – I always love a chance to hang out with cool people AND have a beer with 3 of my favourite comedians.