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2009-2010 All ABF Team

With the NBA Finals upon us and the end of the River Bar showcase (becoming a weekly open mic starting in July) I thought it would be a good time to announce the first and only All-Always Be Funny teams from both the River Bar and Village Lantern shows (criteria was crowd reaction, my reaction, difficulty of show (tilted heavily towards River Bar participants) and Paul The Bartender’s response if at River Bar).  But before getting to this I’d like to thank every comic that has appeared on my shows the last year. 

Now here comes a long comedy-sports analogy because I like both and know that 80% of comedians will not understand (so hopefully someone will be able to translate it into Marvel Comics language or something else that will compute)

1st Team

Yannis Pappas – The best performance at any show I ran this past year (July 2009-June 2010).  Granted it was at the Village Lantern which is like a Comedy Central Presents compared to half of the River Bar shows this past year, but it was a great performance that would have worked in a broom closet.  Killed it with a relentless energy and various pantomimes of sexual acts on stage.  I’m not sure there’s anyone tougher to follow in the city right now, but one of my favorites to watch. 

Rob O’Reilly– One of only a few comics to actually kill at River Bar when patronage was well down.  Also one of only 3 comics to earn an enthusiastic rating from Paul, the bartender at River Bar.

Helen Hong– ditto Rob O’Reilly – but was Paul the Bartender’s favorite comic.  One of the few comics to actually make multiple appearances at River Bar.

Rory Scovel – At a poorly attended show at River Bar, managed to save the show, by doing a 5 minute play by play of a playoff baseball game as if the pitcher’s inner monologue were a sensitive gay man. 

J-L Cauvin – if only for mere cumulative laughs from having been on every show sans one. And I am Paul the bartender’s 3rd favorite  comic.

2nd Team

Sean Donnelly – except for me, logged the most time at River Bar, which slowly became a torture chamber for comedy.  And despite this, SD was able to bully crowds into paying attention and eventually laughing. 

Matt Maragno– the Pau Gasol performance – great, but overshadowed historically by being on the same show as Yannnis Pappas (Kobe in this analogy with the same verbal aggression that Kobe has on the court and in Denver motels) on the same show.  Every resident of Gramercy should hear “Coffee and Cream” (and my use of the word “historically” above is limited to my memory of comedy shows I run)

Dave Lester– Unlike the NBA we had to wait until here to see our first full fledged black guy (also from the show with Maragno and Pappas).  Got an enthusiastic response from my friend John.  To put this in perspective, John once skipped a show of mine at a bar to go to a bar next door, just to avoid comedy.  So if he considered it worthy, then it was.

Jess Burkle– Saw this guy murder within his first months in comedy (which goes to show a Harvard degree and experience in acting can go a long way in making a comedian).  I was not present for his ABF performance, but word of mouth was very strong and having seen him kill in Hoboken at The Goldhawk (the ABA to ABF’s NBA) I have complete faith in this decision.

Mike Lawrence– strong set on a night that was almost derailed by an awkward Ray Combs Jr. vs. Joe DeRosa quasi-showdown.  It is also worth noting that Mike Lawrence just edged out Ray Combs Jr’s testicles which made a 20 second appearance on stage at the Village lantern.

Thanks again everyone – now come say goodbye to River Bar’s showcase THIS THURSDAY.  It will be a great show and followed by the Lakers-Celtics Game 1. So if you like comedy, hoops and comedy-hoops themed blogs then you should be there. It is free and the lineup is excellent.

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Midtown’s Weirdest & Brooklyn’s Finest

Last night was another installment of my bi-monthly comedy show “Always Be Funny.”  The West Village Edition on one Saturday a month has been consistently strong, even though it costs money, but the Free show on River Bar (located at 42nd and 10th in midtown) has been struggling for audience.  It started out strongly, but with winter months and just general disdain fewer people have made the trek over to 10th Avenue (it might as well be west of the Mississippi).  So last night was a pleasant surprise when I saw a decent group of people in the cozy Hells Kitchen bar.  But looks can be deceiving.

When I tell friends about my show on 10th Avenue I think this is how far they think they have to travel.

When emcee Pat Breslin got on stage he may have felt like Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense because of the 12 non-comedian patrons, 10 continued their three respective conversations as loudly as possible.  To be fair, they may felt like Malcolm X, i.e., “We didn’t land on Always Be Funny; Always Be Funny landed on us!”

But the show continued with Helen Hong doing strong crowd work to get them involved, included two condescending “stage manager,” who I think were just two lesbians who thought this tiny 10th Avenue bar was secluded enough to just have a quiet conversation about stage lighting and organic produce without being bothered by annoying mainstream heterosexuals.

Mick Diflo took the stage next and absolutely killed it. By killed I mean had all the comics laughing and people still largely ignoring the show.  However, I think he did get the crowd’s attention when he began describing his bloody penile discharge.  By this time the crowd was down to about 8, but a few patrons had come in and actually watched and started to appreciate the free entertainment, especially this older black couple who were enjoying the show so much and sitting at attention you’d think they were at a fancy bringer show at a soul sucking comedy club!

Jon Fisch took the stage next and started with a seemingly innocuous line.  There was a small poster on stage for an upcoming Cancer benefit at River Bar and Jon Fisch said (paraphrasing), “Perhaps Cancer is not the best stage prop for a show.” To which a drunk woman (who is actually becoming our show’s first consistent patron) said, “Cancer is not funny!” and continued to berate Jon for most of his set. 

After that I took the stage and did about 25 minutes of work on only 3 topics: the WNBA (16 minutes), relationships (5 minutes) and Obama (5 minutes).  Women’s professional sports just baffle me in general, but i have devised a new video game – it’s called Conquer The Bad Sports.  The first level will be men’s and women’s curling, but as you move up levels it just becomes women’s pro sports. First golf, then soccer and then the last level is the entire WNBA in one arena and you have to destroy them all to save the integrity of sports.  Then, when you think the game is over, you have to face off against the game’s bosses – Serena and Venus Williams.  And just when it looks like they are beating you – it is revealed that Venus is actually a man and she helps you defeat Serena.  Next Play Station franchise – you are welcome.

The WNBA's new slogan: We're like the NBA, but slower, less fun and with slightly smaller cocks.

So after my diatribe/set the show concluded with a solid set from Calvin Cato for the 3 people I had not exhausted with my comedic and legal destruction of the WNBA.  I then went home to chug bleach.  Hopefully our April Fools show does better at River or else I feel like it will be time to pull the plug on that location.  At this point it basically feels like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.

Like my show - she looks charming and talented, but will end up dying a slow and painful death.

But as if one bad crowd was not enough – this morning I attended a showing of Brooklyn’s Finest at the world famous Times Square AMC – with 25 screens and dozens of arrests each weekend.  The movie was actually quite entertaining (think Training Day), but here were the real highlights:

  • The movie started 25 minutes late for no reason.
  • The amount of pre-show talk was at a level I have never heard before in my life. 
  • The talk during the actual movie was surprisingly low, except for when there were breasts on screen (which is when I and twenty other gentlemen of color stood up and ran up and down the aisle screaming “Damn them titties look GOOD!”) and the young Latina sitting next to me who took a 6 minute phone call during the movie for what actually appeared to be a job interview or set up for a job interview.
  • The old white guy sitting behind me who just before the movie started said to himself, “I’m just glad this is not a midnight movie.  This is not one I’d see then.” Racist? Maybe, maybe not. But 100% right.
  • Per information I have been told by someone who used to manage at that location, there was definitely at least one plain clothes police officer at the movie.  That is a job I would love to have.  Carry a gun, shoot people who start sh*t at movies, watch movies while working, get a sick pension and cheat on your spouse a ton (I worked at the DA’s office so I have worked with cops).  Maybe it is time I pursued that.
  • The new trailer for Wall Street 2 is damn good.
Worth seeing if you like tension, violence and latina breasts.

The bottom line is if you find yourself on 42nd street on the west side of Manhattan there will be funny stuff happening. So catch a movie and come see us on April Fools’ Day at 830.

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Sunday Bloody Sunday

First Rihanna, then an anti-“Gentile” heckler.

This weekend I learned of a few widespread rumors concerning Rihanna and Chris Brown.  Apparently love has a lot to do with it for the 21st century’s Ike and Tina.  Or at least daddy issues.  Rihanna is said to be taking Chris Brown back, which sends an awful message to young women in abusive relationships.  After sitting in the complaint room of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for 3 1/2 years telling abused women that they should leave their abusive boyfriends or husbands it will be a tougher sell to to get Maria to leave Jorge if Rihanna won’t leave Chris.  Furthermore, as if trying to undo the symbolic value of Barack Obama in a one-two punch, Rihanna is also rumored to be preggers with Chris Brown’s spawn.  So I guess Rihanna is getting kicked inside and out.  I assume either Pharell or Timbaland is mixing a beat for Chris Brown’s newest single “Forgive Me” or some ridiculous song like that.  We have forgiven men peeing on women (R Kelly), men hitting women (Tommy Lee) and men swallowing women whole (Macy Gray) so I see no reason that with the right PR campaign, the right beat and the right stupid American public why Chris Brown can’t make a comeback.

Well, last night I wanted to make a few current event jokes (hoping certain Jews lost money with Madoff, Chris Brown/Rihanna jokes, talking about Obama shattering MC Hammer’s record for most money spent by a black man in one day), but I was interrupted by a heckler at the Goldhawk before I could start a joke.  I have a sort of repressed temper that used to be really bad.  Last night it almost came out, but instead this heckler simply ruined the end of what was a ridiculously great show.  Here’s a recap:

  • Jim Dodge led off the show brilliantly.  We have our 3rd big crowd in a row – woo-hoo.
  • Pat Breslin steps up and talked about his new engagement – laughs ensue, everybody happy.
  • Jess Burkle, who may be one of the quickest, sharpest comics I’ve ever seen on any level absolutely destroyed the room.
  • Mark Normand – with the toughest job of the night is equal to the challenge and killed.
  • Helen Hong goes up and this is where I start to smell trouble.  Retarded drunk guy comes in and is speaking a little loudly and trying to inject himself into Helen’s routine, but she dealt with him quickly and powered through her routine maintaining the great energy of the room while he sort of stayed quiet.  But like a bad plot of 24 he was just the opening plot line that ends around episode 15 to be usurped by an even worse plot.  Helen Hong’s set ends, enter the The Heckling Jewish Guy (HJG)
  • Jim brings me up to my Craig Ferguson credit:

HJG: Ferguson sucks

J-L: Alright – thanks man.  Any Jewish people here pissed about Madoff(about to go into a Madoff joke)?

HJG: I’m Jewish – right here. Fu-king gentiles are mad because they lost all their money with Madoff.

J-L: OK buddy, let’s be serious.  (scowling at him so that his entire party is telling him to be quiet and apologize for him – mood lost for the show which was one of our best ever)

HJG: Yes, let’s be serious.

J-L (wanting to plant the base of the mic stand through his skull and give him the worst beating a Jew has seen since Jesus): Jim, can we get some staff in here please (sitting meditating, forehead vein pulsing)?

HJG: (leaving with friends): I’m Jewish, Fu-k you gentile (these were the words I heard, perhaps in different order).

I do not deal well with hecklers, especially drunk and stupid ones – they are sort of like the Terminator – “they can’t be bargained with. they can’t be reasoned with.  they won’t stop ever, until the show is dead.”  My response is all or nothing.  Either I let it pass with no response or I really ruin the show by saying something like “SHUT YOUR FU-KING MOUT MOTHERFU-KER!”  I have found the passive route more likely to give me an aneurysm, but maintains a better show.  

I should have probably left the stage and yelled at Pat and Jim – “keep him here!” and then come back while Jim and Pat are having drinks with him and gone Goodfellas on him.  There’s always next show.