Last weekend Variety magazine teamed up with Electronic Arts and the Noreen Fraser Foundation* to host an event to help raise money and awareness for their initiative ‘Men for Women Now‘, an effort to help promote cancer awareness and prevention for women. The Fraser foundation does all kinds of amazing research and outreach and they have a long list of supporters here in Hollywood, so the line up was really of little surprise. However, with the price tag on the tickets being fairly hefty, especially for where we were sitting, our attendance to this event was (a surprise that is). Getting into a benefit event free made me feel a little bit of a shit, but we were indirectly invited and Saturday night my wife, myself and two friends attended The Power of Comedy and let em tell you, am I ever glad I went.
So let’s talk comedy.
Justin Long hosted and intermittently took the stage to introduce the performers and carry forward his on-going joke that this was the ‘dress rehearsal’. Mr. Long even began the night in his boxers, as though he was ‘ironing out the details’ in front of a group of extras. This wasn’t really all that funny, especially as time (and the gag) wore on, but I like Justin Long quite a bit and definitely give him an ‘A+’ for effort delivering and standing by the material I suspect was written for him. In some cases that can be more impressive than coasting through the tried and true stuff.
Garry Shandling – I remember Mr. Shandling as the some-time guest host for The Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson was around. I’ve not seen him do too much else other than those occasional 80’s tv stand up bits on late night shows, so since reaching adulthood** I’ve not really had an opinion on the man either way. Let me just say Saturday night at Club Nokia Mr. Shandling was spectacular! He hasn’t lost whatever it is he had to put him where he is in the first place (huh? did that make sense?).
Patton Oswald – This man is one of the funniest people to ever walk the Earth in my book and Saturday was no exception. Hilarious.
Bob Saget – I’d never seen any of Mr. Saget’s routine before, however I’ve been aware for some time that his stand up act is essentially the exact antithesis of the, in Justin Long’s words, ‘squeaky clean’ dad from 80’s sitcom Full House, on which he starred for around eight or nine years. True to form Mr. Saget spared no expense with the potty mouth and often rambunctious verbal sexual accosting of members of the audience. At times he was quite funny and overall enjoyable, however I found it slightly strange that fifteen years since Full House went off the air Mr. Saget still very actively feels the need to refer back to it in an attempt to distance himself from that image. But if it’s what he’s gotta do, it works out okay in the end and really, who the hell could blame him?
Next came an unexpected surprise. Rebel Wilson (admittedly I am completely unfamiliar with this woman) and a favorite of mine Matt Lucas (from Little Britain) came out, introduced as being accompanied by Mel Gibson. Those who know me know how much I detest Mr. Mel and in keeping with that theme Lucas and Wilson, who did not have Gibson with them but rather a series of notes intended for the actor to read proceeded to deliver a brilliant bashing on the bigoted and egotistical actor by occasionally ‘accidentally’ reading one of Gibson’s lines, which of course were all remarkably anti semitic or racist. The joke culminated when Wilson obliged Matt’s request to read the introduction mel had supposedly prepared for comedian Sarah Silverman, which was something to the tune of “and now, that fucking j__ bitch…”.
In my opinion any joke at mel gibson’s expense is, in a word, good.
I have long defended Ms. Silverman – a lot of people criticize her for her often completely over-the-top aesthetic but from my limited experience – hey it works and there’s been more than once that she’s had me doubled over in laughter. This particular night however Ms. Silverman seemed distracted and as such her performance… I don’t want to say it was bad, but… uncomfortable? I mean, normally you’d expect the audience to be uncomfortable in a Sarah Silverman routine but here the comedian herself seemed to be the uncomfortable one. There was absolutely no rhythm to her routine and Sarah delivered her bits as if constantly distracted, possibly fighting back a longing to speak out and be serious. Of course who could fault her when the show was, inadvertently or not, addressing something as serious as cancer? A straight heart to heart would have worked better.
Russell Brand was the guest of honor and he was next, introduced by Helen Mirren, who looked and spoke amazingly. I’m not all too hip to what it is that Brand does. I loved his character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but have yet to see him in anything else so the jury’s out. To this point I was unsure what to expect and that led to a delightful surprise. Brand is very funny and very well spoken. His erudite demeanor works in an almost jilting juxtaposition to his almost frantic pacing and expositions on narcissism and libido (his own), and it was funny as hell watching the high-energy Brit run around the stage holding his new award as if it were a weapon, pontificating on the power it would no doubt grant to his ego.
At that point I had assumed the show would be over but I was wrong and anyone who left early suffered a grave loss because the funniest members of the night were still to come.
Despite several good friends repeatedly imploring me to watch a show called Community I have not. Well, if the show is anywhere near as funny as cast member Donny Glover was this night then I am sold. Seriously, this 27 year old comedian had me laughing so hard there were moments where I felt my lungs might not be able to resume doing their job in time to help me make it through the rest of the show. Of particular highlight was Glover’s reaction to the online campaign to have him audition for the new Spiderman re-launch, as it led into a remarkable exposition on the movie Shaft and why Michael Cera should be chosen for a Shaft remake.
Nick Kroll, BJ Novak and Brandon T. Jackson all deserve mention, as they were all rather funny, but the last performer of the night was the highest note the show could end on.
As with Donny Glover I was formerly completely unfamiliar with Aziz Ansari and again as with Glover he was one of the top two acts of the night. Aziz is funny – really funny – and I give him much props for almost turning off my nervous system I laughed so hard. Single life in Hollywood is often touted and tackled by comedians but Aziz was flawless in his execution of the doldrums and disappointments his television “fame” has thus far treated him to.
All things considered not a bad night out. The theme of the show of course was comedy can be a cure and I’d be pretty damned amazed if the cast at the Nokia didn’t save a life or two Saturday night.
** I use the term and idea ‘adulthood’ as a convenience here because as I may or may not have said on this blog before, I do not believe in the existence of ‘adults’. That’s one of the insights thirty-four years as a human and five years as a bartender have given me and if you don’t agree, try really observing the people around you that are over the age of twenty-five and you just might find you have to re-assess your worldview.