Friday, August 07, 2009


AltCom Festival, Somerville Theater, 5.8.09 Live Review

AltCom Festival, Somerville Theater, 5.8.09 Live Review
By Jordan Clifford

Friday May 8th
Janeane Garofalo, Jamie Kilstein, Leo Allen and Myq Kaplan & Micah Sherman.

I arrived at the Somerville Theater 45 minutes early in hopes that the funniest part of the AltCom Festival would be outside before the show. Not to undermine the billed performers, but maybe if the Theater had billed “Crazed Right-Wing Teabaggers” on the marquee alongside Janeane Garofalo’s name, they would have shown up and caused the huge scene that they so ineffectually threatened . Unfortunately, the only teabagging I would see that night would be… when I got some tea after the show, you pervert. I had been so looking forward to the laughable protest signs of the nutjobs who, deserving every intended pun, were estimated by the entendre-happy media to arrive in hundreds and destroy Garofalo’s mostly apolitical stand-up with incompetent heckles. Instead, the only protests came when the lively Somerville audience slowly realized that the theater stopped selling beer somewhere between 9 and 10pm.

The festival was hosted by the largely unprotested duo of Myq Kaplan and Micah Sherman, two homegrown favorites that recently migrated to New York. With Kaplan on the ole comedy geetar and both on vocals, they proved that Jews are still just as funny as New Zealander’s with a song about the conventions of hack comedy (a brave move in a comedy song), and Sherman’s self-deprecating song about his awkward looks.

I was excited to see Leo Allen, a remnant thankfully recovered from the canceled May 7th show, and Jamie Kilstein, both well known in New York’s “alt com” scene. Allen, with credits from UCB, SNL and Comedy Central, is a casual neurotic who concluded that Microsoft Word was designed by anti-Semetic Rastafarians (based partially on the program’s assumption that the word ‘jew’ is a verb) and reacts violently in his head to imagined confrontations (deciding the stupidest thing to think about someone else is “he’s so judgmental!”). Jamie Kilstein, a last name that is itself anti-Semetic, hit his highest with religious questions. Like jokes about the “what’s next?” conservative position on gays being unnatural, Kilstein asked about how “natural” can the son of God who was born of a virgin possibly be?

As good as these acts were, Janeane Garofalo, whose expected death-by-heckle via misguided historical recreationists did not come to pass, completely owned the night. Her enthusiasm resonated through the audience in a physical way, starting most literally when she ran through the isles like the cheerleader she never wanted to be, climbing back on stage while covering her backside to the exclamation, “never let them see your taint.”
Addressing the much-overblown Teabagger talk, she began with “Welcome and, as always, white power” - a statement as subtle as her original MSNBC claim. She recounted how earlier, the lone protester, Ken Pittman, a small-time conservative radio host who apparently orchestrated the entirely fabricated protest, followed her into a Starbucks with a camera demanding for Bill O’Reilly that she apologize. “Can you imagine?” she said in a tone of adorable pomp, mocking such a preposterous idea, and proceeded to call the queasy sickness in her stomach “the ole Hannity’s” or “the Glenn Becks.”

What surfaced through the hype of her caricature as a loud-mouthed liberal hard-ass is that it isn’t Garofalo’s politics that make her popular and infamous, it’s her personality. Of course she’s a loud-mouthed liberal hard-ass, but in the best, most endearing and purest sense. Her set is political when it needs to be, social commentary when it strikes her, and any number of other things when - and only when - it is randomly woven into her tangential tapestry of a set. Less a set than it is Garofalo loosening the spout for as long as they’ll let her talk, she is admittedly unaware of time on stage and is herself unaware, after some frequently long and multi-branched tangents, of what she’s talking about.

Personal insights, such as “life’s too short not to try anti-depressants” and that Twitter is narcissism from people who don’t have the self-hate to recognize it, are interrupted with abrupt exclamations of “Oh Wait! Listen to this!” segueing into how Natalie Portman is made of porcelain and has but a mere suggestion of genitals (“like a dent in a car door”), or “-oh by the way, when will David Caruso get his Emmy?” make her set endlessly entertaining.

Garofalo is a thinker, and maybe as a byproduct she’s a comedian – or as she puts it, she’s “very stupid, but intellectually curious.” She equates the g-string with carrying buckets of rocks up a hill and, once at the top, howling, “Yes to the Patriarchy!” She uses effective, precise language, like the word “precise” in describing the burning pain of freshening her lady bits with hand sanitizer in a public bathroom. She narrows her childhood stint with religion as rejecting life, and makes sense of religion by thinking of God as an adolescent boy with Aspergers, which is as perfect a philosophical view as any, but funnier and truer than most.

Her closing bit warned us not to wear flip-flops because when it’s time for the rapture, or fast-running zombies, or the ape uprising (whichever comes first, I suppose), we won’t be able to get away. If the threat of right-wing conservative idiots protesting in hordes and then wimping out is any indication, the apes are among us, but they no longer have the interest for an uprising.

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