Friday, June 24, 2011
Tonight was the final show of the 2011 season of Wits. Now a tradition, we dined with Miranda and Adam before the show; this time at The Liffey. An added bonus was a brief appearance by Kyle Delahunt. We then arrived at The Fitzgerald at the exact time my friend, Allie and her boyfriend, Dan and friend, Nuria arrived. A great start to fantastic live performances by Neil Gaiman and Josh Ritter; phone chats with Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage. One of the highlights was getting to pet Neil Gaiman's dogs (oh and being one of 12 winners of a Wits prize - mine was a free drink).
Our other Wits dates:
Wits featuring Patton Oswalt & Grant Lee Philips
Wits featuring Chuck Klosterman & Craig Finn
Wits featuring Sandra Bernhard & Roseanne Cash
Friday, May 20, 2011
Scott and I met Miranda and Adam at Fuji-Ya in St. Paul for dinner and drinks before the third Wits of the season. I have so much fun talking to Miranda and Adam and always look forward to these double dates. The only snafu of the evening was our late arrival to the restaurant due to commuter traffic. After dinner, we headed over to the Fitzgerald and enjoyed the pre-show tweets on the screen and the strolling accordion, which apparently is a divisive entertainment option according to the Twitter stream. Sandra Bernhard and Rosanne Cash were the in-person guests and Eugene Mirman called in. It was a fabulous night and I look forward to the fourth and final Wits of the 2011 season.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
As a fan of comedy and putting myself in potentially awkward situations, my friend and co-worker Jen knew I'd be game to accompany her to the Funniest Person with a Day Job competition at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy. It is also fitting that my friend and co-worker, Miranda joined us since she and I have never had a normal night on the town together.
I recently listened to Marc Maron's description of the Mall of America and his experience performing at the House of Comedy. He mentioned that this club does everything it can to make the comedian feel small. It is a pretty big space as far as comedy clubs are concerned and they have a giant mural of the Twin Cities behind the performer which does have a surprising dwarfing effect. Then, at the beginning of the show, they played a montage of Twin Cities life and it was at that point I knew I wasn't with "my people" and that the whole vibe of the place was a bit more low brow than I prefer. The host did his best to get the audience excited to be there but most of us were there to support a particular person. In my case, it was someone I didn't know and who previously worked for my employer.
The comedians all have full-time jobs doing something other than write and perform comedy. As a Career Counselor, I found this fascinating and their jobs ranged from stay-at-home dad/bouncer to search engine optimization manager to pizza delivery driver to human resources trainer. The skill levels were as varied as the day jobs. Some comedians are polished, have a defined style and possibly will be able to quit their day job (except the dad, he's stuck driving his minivan for quite some time). Others, and in the case of the person I was supporting, crashed and burned. I suppose sophomoric humor is a natural place to start for many comedians, especially since the artform is predominately male. But, it bothered me that many of the acts were straight up racist, sexist and homophobic. I am not a complete prude but the whole set-up of the evening was uncomfortable because two of the "celebrity" judges are African-American, one of whom referenced the host being racist in a previous evening's set. Since the audience was 99% white, it just got really awkward fast. In the case of the person I went to support, it is still unclear to me if he was really drunk or if his schtick is to act drunk and then say ridiculously racist and out of date phrases like "colored people". I should say that this performer is a white male in his thirties. HIs act involved drinking an audience member's beer and eating another person's burger. So, I really hope he was drunk.
I am focusing on the negative but I must say I had some genuine laughs and thought the humor of the top three of the evening were smart, well executed and not completely reliant on sex or making fun of the audience.
So, I won't be rushing back to House of Comedy but it did reinforce my interest in comedians and trying to find out what famous comedians were like in the beginning of their career as well as supporting the acts that do stand out above the open mic train wrecks.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
The great comedian, Paul F. Tompkins, performed two shows at the Parkway Theater. Because of a ticket purchasing procrastination problem, I missed my chance to purchase tickets to the originally scheduled 9 PM show but fortunately, Paul added a 7 PM show! I've only heard Paul a few times and have never seen him perform stand-up. His Pod F Tompcast is hilarious and he recently got a lot of laughs from afar when he was a call-in guest on Wits featuring Patton Oswalt.
Paul is booking his shows with the help of Facebook and the power of social networking to generate a fan base in a city who agree to attend the show. When 300 people pledge to go to a show in a particular city, Paul will book the gig. From following him on Twitter, it seems he is also trying to perform in atypical comedy venues. I think he had a hard time booking this particular show which bums me out because I would really like Minneapolis to be a place where artists can easily find a venue that matches their needs. I guess it all worked out and he performed at Pepito's Parkway Theater. This was my first time in the theater. The set up was a little odd, but fun- couches on the left and right sides of the stage and tables at the front with general admission in the theater seats.
The show itself started with Paul's impersonation of Ice T introducing Paul to the stage. What i love about Paul is that breaking character and laughing doesn't only makes the bit better. He seems to be having so much fun while performing that I can't help but want to join in on the fun. He then did about 15 minutes of stream of consciousness improvised comedy. This photo is while he was commenting on the excessive number of microphones on stage and his attempt to be the only comedian who performs with 3 microphones. Definitely a "you had to be there" moment to appreciate why that'd be funny. Another thing I liked about Paul's act is that he made an announcement that he was going to start his prepared material and while this would have been jarring and odd if a newer performer did this, he can pull it off. He spent the rest of the show taking us on a journey of his career. Perfect for this career counselor. It involved Hats in the Belfry, Beta and VHS videos, Tom Cruise, his critical role in There Will Be Blood, and Weird Al Yankovich. Tears were running down my face at times and I can't wait to see him live again. When I got home, I listened to him talk with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast which gave further insight into his career as a comedian.
Scott and I had Pepito's and Pumphouse Creamery before the show making this a great early evening date night!
Friday, April 15, 2011
It was another great evening in St. Paul for dinner, drinks and Wits with friends. Scott and I met up with Miranda (@mirjohns), Adam, Alex and Nick at Great Waters Brewing Company. Scott (@scottoberfest) and I enjoyed learning about bike polo, chatting about movies that are so bad they're good and documentaries we want to watch. After a relatively smooth start to the evening, Miranda's weird spell on me took hold and as you see in the top right photo, I seemed to have misplaced my tickets and I'm scrounging through my giant camera bag/purse that doesn't seem to work great for either purpose! After arriving to The Fitzgerald Theatre, we had no problems replacing our lost tickets at the Box Office. Once we settled into our balcony seats, I took in the views of Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) and Bill Corbett (@BillCorbett) in the box seats. You may notice already that this is a twitter friendly (encouraged!) event and Bill and Joseph provided the "halftime entertainment" by way of ribbing John Munson (@munsongs), John Moe (@johnmoe) about their respective slips- Leslie Gore and Superman and his "magic powers". The in person guests, Chuck Klosterman (@CKlosterman) and Craig Finn of The Hold Steady were amazing. Chuck made me want to go back to school and take more history of rock and roll classes (yes, I took one my senior year!) as he played samples of his formative music memories. Craig played never before played solo songs for us as well as a cover of The Beach Boys "Get Around" and Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" as the end of the evening sing-along. The phone-in guests were Nikki Sixx (@NikkiSixx), co-founder and bassist of the band Mötley Crüe and Maria Bamford (@mariabamfoo), a comedian originally from Duluth, known by me from her appearances on Target commercials and Marc Maron's WTF podcast.
An added bonus for me was getting a chance to chat with Julia Schrenkler (@juliaschrenkler), Interactive Producer for American Public Media & Minnesota Public Radio. I met her at MinneWebCon and she is fantastic. So glad to know so many amazingly talented people in my own backyard!
A great evening all around!
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Last year, Scott and I went to a Wits show with hosts John Moe and John Munson with guests John Roderick, John Hodgman and Neil "John for the night" Gaiman. It was fabulous. I am so excited there is a second season. So excited that I put an appointment on the calendar when John Moe was going to be tweeting the guest information and release of tickets. The guest list is phenomenal and I didn't give it a second thought to commit to the entire season. Scott and I have guarenteed date night for March through June!
I attempted my first 365 photo project in 2011. I made it to Day 246.
The Nivens Family