Sunday, January 16, 2011
Big Comedy From (Some) Small People
I am a nut for comedy. Some of my favorite films are "Bringing Up Baby," featuring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, as well as "What's Up Doc?," one of the films it inspired. Also, Dudley Moore, as "Arthur" is an all-time great in my perfect world. Of all the cable channels available, Comedy Central is one of my top picks, along with ESPN and Discover, mostly because they both have amusing content at any given time. Those of you who are fans of "MythBusters" and "Pardon The Interruption" know from whence I emerge.
I have seen a respectable number of live comedy shows over the years. My eyes were opened in the early '80s when some smart person in Knoxville first opened a place called The Funny Bone, a low-rent comedy club located behind an unpainted furniture store on Kingston Pike. That was my first experience with live, stand-up comedy, and I fell in love with it to the point that I actually took a stab at it once on open mic night. While I didn't totally bomb, I can see with clear 20-20 hindsight that I am not cut out for the comedy stage. I'm not adept enough, in the verbal sense, and I have a tendency to go ugly-sarcastic more quickly that I ought when heckled.
However, let me tell you about the big-time names I've seen through the years.
Years ago, in the early '90s, my Young Bride and I saw Paula Poundstone at the Comedy Catch, in Chattanooga. We also saw Pam Stone there, she who played Dauber Dybinski's girlfriend on the TV show, "Coach." At that show, we were seated front and center, and Ms. Stone quizzed us and bantered openly with us for improv material. Those were both very good shows. I also saw, at the Comedy Catch, my high school buddy Bart, and his comedy troupe that worked out of St. Petersburg, Florida, in the waning days of his service in the United States Navy.
In the early part of the past decade, my Young Bride was visiting her sister in Las Vegas. My sister-in-law, Amy, called one afternoon to inform me that she had scored tickets to see Kathleen Madigan at Harrah's Casino, and they would attend that very evening. I called Amy ugly name, and charged her with getting me an autographed T-shirt. When my Young Bride returned, T-shirt in hand, I almost forgave them.
However, only a few months later, I learned that Ms. Madigan would be headlining at Zanies in Nashville. I was, at the time, still employed by Tate & Lyle, and had ready cash and loads of vacation to burn, so I nearly ripped my hip pocket off to nab my VISA for procurement of tickets. It was at that show (photo above -- my autographed T-shirt in evidence) that we first saw a youngish man named Keith Alberstadt (It's Pronounced Jenkins). Now, opening acts are always a roll of the dice at comedy clubs, as the entrepreneurs normally rely on local "talent." This is understood; however, we were blown away by Mr. Jenkins and his observational humor.
Turns out he is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, which doesn't suffer fools, and has since moved from Nashville to Manhattan, where he writes, now, for Weekend Update on SNL. He has also been across the oceans to entertain our military troops several times, and appeared on David Letterman. All of these things can be learned on his website, keithcomedy.com.
And, lest we forget, the trip was made to see Kathleen Madigan, whose career I had followed since the early 1990s. Smart, self-deprecating, and loves to rip on her Irish-rooted family (something we have in common). She was rip-roaring funny, and my diaphragm hurt for a couple of days afterward.
At the post-show line-up, I got a photo (above), and a hug from Kathleen, which I still can feel when put my feeble mind to work. She's hot, don't you know? And little. She must get the bulk of her clothes from Gap Kids. I also wrote a column about it for the local rag, which she posted on her website, kathleenmadigan.com.
Since that show, we have seen Keith three times in Knoxville at the club that began as The Comedy Zone, and has evolved into Sidesplitters. We have also seen Blake Clark there, twice, and I acted as a host for a charity golf tournament sponsored by Mr. Clark, who is the nicest, most down-to-earth guy ever to be forced to live in the insanity that is Los Angeles. After the first time we saw him, we waited in the bar at The Comedy Zone. He had gone to his hotel to change clothes, as the lights cause anyone to perspire profusely.
When he arrived in the lounge, he and the Young Bride had old home week, because they both originate from Georgia (the state, not the former Soviet country), and exchanged pleasantries about places only they knew.
At Mr. Clark's golf tournament, I played babysitter to Tom Parks, one of my favorites from the late '80s and HBO's "Not Necessarily The News." The night before the golf began, we were introduced at a hotel off the Cedar Bluff exit. We chatted, as middle-aged men will, and I was explaining to Mr. Parks that, if I began acting erratically while on the golf course, he should instruct me to drink my juice, which would be in the cart with us. He rolled his eyes at me, and withdrew an automatic syringe from his right pocket. As co-diabetics, we watched out for each other.
Since that time, we have seen Ron White in concert twice, once at the Civic Auditorium, and once at the Tennessee Theatre, both shows rib-graspingly hilarious. We also saw Lewis Black at the Tennessee Theatre, and his anger-inspired, physically demonstrative comedy was even better live than it is on "The Daily Show" and HBO.
Recently, I got notification from Keith Alberstadt ('cuz I'm on his mailing list) that he would be appearing in Knoxville yet again, and we should come see him, which we did. He's as good as ever, though he seems to be misplacing more and more of the hair from the front of his head, which he covers more than adequately in his program (the "losing-his hair" subject, not his balding head). Now, while at Sidesplitters, we learned that only the next week, none other than Bobcat Goldthwait would be appearing there at Sidesplitters.
Let me iterate, here, Bobcat is one of my top favorites -- ever. His HBO special, "Is He Like That All The Time?"(1989) is a remote tosser at my house to this day.
Okay, I don't have that great-paying job anymore (which, we understand, I only had for 27 years, so no great loss), but -- come on -- it's Bobcat. So I jinked a little here, juked a little there, and came up with the cash for three tickets down front, stage right. Bobcat, if you know who he is, has a history of interaction with people near the stage, and he had a blast talking to The Boy, because he's eighteen years old, and looks about thirteen. He also had a heckler get on his bad side about half-way through the show, so he had a mid-show snack, and I cried, it was so funny.
After the show, of course, we stuck around to see if he would emerge in the lounge. He did, and -- you can believe this or not -- he was as gracious and nice as any celebrity with whom I have been confronted. Well, he didn't hug me like Kathleen did, but -- hey -- I didn't ask.
And, of course, the photographic evidence of our meeting is on my blog page now, 'cuz it's Bobcat, for God's sake! Notice the similarity of our eye-wear, and how very tiny a person he is. I never realized, but he may be one of those leprechauns that Ms. Madigan talks about in her latest Showtime special, "Gone Madigan (oh, my God, she's still hot)."
Anyway, it was great, and I will remember it much longer than Bobcat does, naturally.
I can hardly wait until Keith AlberJenkins shows up again. I'll go. It's comedy, and I like it.