Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Casey Rea Has Balls

When I was dragged to open mic comedy night at Higher Ground last night, I expected an empty room, a lot of loud coughing and some painfully bad mother-in-law jokes. I figured there would be a lot of booze needed to make the evening worthwhile.

It's a good bet that the first joke was a combination of schadenfreude and toilet humour. When the first group of punters gathered around the original village idiot and started laughing at him, it was probably because he was exposing himself or eating turds or bellowing obscene nonsense. - Tony Allen

So I was more than a little surprised when we walked in to a packed house - standing room only - and a familiar face up on stage: Casey Rea, our dear music reviewer and blogger from Seven Days was working the mic and cracking jokes in a surly, monotone.

"Hey wait a minute, I know that guy! Is that...Casey on stage? Wha...??"

Sadly, his set was almost done by the time we got there but my first impression was that Casey Rea has a feel for comedy. Who knew?! I'd say that he owned that stage which is no small feat. In a worst case scenario, if his writing gig/music career/blogging mastermind/dwarf hamster chronicler routes fall through, he has another path on the backburner. And as tough a mistress as comedy can be, those who master her must feel on top of the world.

Lenny Bruce delivered his witty insights and opinion in a spectrum of personal voices all in close attendance, but none getting to solo for more than a few seconds. While it wasn't always immediately funny, it made for a decidedly vital performance. He chatted honestly and openly, confided conspiratorially, wisecracked asides, mused soulfully, shared very personal observations, pleaded world-weary bewilderment, groped earnestly to understand and laughed delightedly at his own conclusions.

He also rattled off opinionated short-hand information, sampling two decades of popular culture with comments, quips, quotes, snapshot characterisations, imagined official conversations and references to the local-immediate. Any of it could escalate into flights of nonsense and surrealism or slow to thoughtful reflection.

There was a continual reprising of some of these references throughout in a range of fresh contexts. Another part of the textural glue uniting his act was a generous peppering of Yiddish slang, hip slang, jazz slang, showbiz slang, concocted language and verbal sound effects.

All of it a deliberate artifice to help release his stream of consciousness and its free associations. He even alludes to this fact in his act, one voice offering an ongoing explanation of his comedy technique. Listening to Lenny Bruce, you get the feeling there was nothing in his life or art that he couldn't express through stand-up comedy. - Tony Allen

All stand up comedians have to find their own unique "voice," the one that can effortlessly deliver jokes without making you feel like they've been rehearsing the damn thing for hours. The voice that makes their monologue feel fresh and real. The natural, comfortable, I'm-just-chatting-with-you-here sort of ease that only a truly skilled comedian can capture (Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien).

It must be a hard voice to master. It can't be forced or pushed. It has to be carefully learned, adapted and honed to each audience it encounters. It has to stay flexible and lithe like a rubber band and bend with the ebbs and flow of the room.

Stand-up comedy is considered difficult to master, because the stand-up comedian is at the mercy of the audience, which is an integral element of the act. An adept stand-up comedian must nimbly play off the mood and tastes of any particular audience, and adjust his or her routine accordingly. - Wikipedia

There was an odd assortment of comedians trying their tricks last night. They were generally male with some high school students thrown in the mix as well. One guy was so nervous that you could almost hear his voice shivering but he managed to pull off a good set nonethless and the audience responded well to him.

I am amazed that high school students can be so confident at such a young age. Wish there had been some girl high school students up there but I know I was too shy at that age to try something like that.

Each comedian had his/her own voice which totally changed the mood of the crowd. Hysterical, fast talking, frenetic, monotone, high pitched, angry, spastic - everyone had their own way of relating. And then there was the guy who brought up a UVM female student and made her read some gross newspaper headline before taking out his AX and brandishing it.

The ax got him kicked off stage and that became the MC's joke of the night, "The man with the ax has been taken off the premises, really, I am not kidding."

All in all, not a bad night after all. And my hat goes off to all the gutsy comedians who had the balls to stand up in front of a room full of blank faces waiting patiently to be entertained. And now for some British birds who always make me laugh with their effortless sketch comedy, 3 Girls in a Boat:


Brooke said...

I wasn't sure what to expect at the comedy battle, but I was impressed by many of the performers. I was glad to see so many comedy styles represented. One of my favorite acts was a woman who did a lot of wordy humor, which is a sub-genre that I'm keen on. Unfortunately, the crowd didn't respond to her as much as Casey and I did.
I'm actually looking forward to the next show.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

darn it, i missed the wordy humor lady - i dig that myself. my least favorite is what i call "angry humor" - that just makes my skin crawl. when is the next comedy battle and did casey make it to the next round?

Brooke said...

The battle is on Decemeber 17. He still doesn't know if he made it, because we left before it was all over.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

cool! Casey had better blog it if he gets to the next round cause i wanna be there to hoot and holler!