Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

I feel like that title loses something towards the end…

What would Rufio do?

bang

Eh, whatever!

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Scott Aukerman’s live comedy show turned podcast turned IFC television show turned touring live comedy show, then you know what it feels like when your stomach aches the next morning because you were laughing so hard you pulled a muscle you weren’t aware you had.

It’s one thing to listen to Aukerman and his rotating cast of comedians and “friends of the show” or watch many of the same comedy-bang-652x367-538x301people reprise their audio personas for the television show, but seeing the magic (I know, I’m groaning too) of live improv by people at the top of their game heightens the experience shared among the audience and performers. You laugh more because the people around you are laughing, creating an energy that’s palpable in the theater. The laughs, however, go deeper and last longer as each new guest builds upon previous riffs and alters the group dynamic on stage. Of course a live audience means some measure of interaction, instigated or otherwise, but it speaks to the skill of the performers that they never lose their cool or their rhythm while addressing their less-than-silent observers.

“But who were these hilariously adept comedians gracing the stage for your viewing pleasure?” I hear you asking me over the internet.

Excellent question. I’m glad you probably asked it. To answer it, here’s a brief synopsis of the tour’s second-to-last show in Seattle, Washington at the Moore Theater. If you actually want to listen to the show, which you can, you need only subscribe to Howl.fm where you can listen to all 21 performances. You can also tell me whether or not I’m remembering the night correctly because I love being corrected in a public forum.

Author’s Note: Do not inform me if I’m remembering the night correctly. Let me have my illusions!scottaukerman

Front and center was Scott Aukerman, the creator and host of Comedy Bang Bang. Aukerman practically bounded on to the stage of the Moore Theater and almost immediately focused in on the eleven-year-old boy seated in the front row, between his parents, for a show that was likely to go blue the minute he brought out the first guest. In his own words, “Now I want to swear more!” After making the customary comparisons to Portland, as is the traditional means of addressing Seattleites, Aukerman was very complimentary towards the city since the podcast recorded its first live show, under the Bang Bang banner, at the annual Bumbershoot music and arts festival in 2011. With his complimentary remarks out of the way, and a brief taunting of one of the stagehands off stage, Aukerman called out his first guest: Director Mr. Gary Marshall as portrayed by Paul F. Tompkins.

A regular guest with a plethora of characters in his repertoire (the Cake Boss, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Werner Herzog come to mind), Tompkins no doubt had his pick of whom to play. As Gary Marshall, the director of all the holiday movies, Tompkins revels in the cranky, pragmatic, yet easily excitable characterization he’s built over the last five years. What’s Marshallfantastic about Tompkins’s status as first guest is the time it gives him and Aukerman to keep their odd couple routine going throughout the entirety of the show. Though Aukerman typically takes on the straight man role as host of the podcast – and to a lesser extent on the television show – whenever Tompkins is a featured player the dynamic changes. Case in point, when Mr. Marshall came out on stage and chose the stool upon which to perch, Aukerman and he engaged in a game of Move-The-Sweat-Rags, which Aukerman commented were there to clean up the guests’ anal seepage. Less than a minute in and the pair quickly settled into their tried and true role reversal with Mr. Marshall acting as straight man to whatever inane thoughts sprang, barely formed, from Aukerman’s mouth. It’s all about the reaction from Tompkins; his bemused stare at Aukerman while the off-color comment gets a moment to breathe and the audience takes it in as well. After several minutes of testing Gary’s tolerance for Scott’s questions, it was time for the next guest to arrive: Manners Expert Carmella Pointe as portrayed by Lauren Lapkus.

Though Lapkus is fairly new to the Bang Bang rotation, she’s definitely earned her spot with fantastic and disturbing performances as Scott’s Nephew Todd, Ho-Ho the Elf, and Murphy O’Malaman. What’s most notable about Lapkus’s guest appearances is her fearlessness in saying the weirdest, darkest, and the most sexually charged musings if only to get a reaction out of Scott or the other guests. During her performance at the Moore, however, she debuted Carmella and quickly solidified IMG_7303her place among her growing list of characters by politely telling Scott to “kiss her fucking feet.” He obliged, of course, getting down on all fours, as is only polite in such situations. Mr. Marshall got a pass because he’s old. As a trio, Scott and Gary engaged Ms. Pointe in conversation over how to avoid being rude and to practice good manners via a smattering of hypothetical scenarios. One had Scott and Gary as gay couple Louie Anderson and Clive Owen, respectively, helping a pregnant woman through a revolving door post-public sexy times. Another revealed the dark secrets of Gary as the adopted son of Louie Anderson still hypothetically played by Scott. With the scenarios concluded, Aukerman moved on to the next guest: Candymaker Peter Finn as portrayed by Mike Hanford.

Hanford was actually the show’s opening act, taking over the position half way through the tour after Neil Campbell had to drop out. Those familiar with his appearances on the podcast know him for his performance as the very much still alive John Lennon, which Hanford brought out during his opening standup routine. He even managed to almost sing a love song to a girl named Kate. For the show proper, Hanford played Peter Finn, a man who sounds like a more depressed Nicolas Cage. Pining Lennonfor his wife who all but ran away from him, more specifically she rolled away in a giant tire down a hill, Peter could only express his feelings by singing somewhat to the tune of Little Shop of Horrors’ “Somewhere That’s Green.” What became the most entertaining aspect of the show was the interaction amongst the performers and their innate ability to make each other laugh. Lapkus was especially capable of cracking Tompkins with her amazingly foul mouth. Hanford, however, managed to get them both with a combination of the lovelorn candymaker’s wispy voice and his surprisingly fancy footwork. The three combined, however, were nearly overshadowed by the dulcet monotone of LinkedIn Creative Officer Tom Boreman portrayed by Tim Baltz.

Though he was the last performer brought out, Baltz’s Boreman quickly made for a distinct voice and personality in comparison to the other comedians. And by distinct I mean flat and sorely lacking. It paid off in spades, however, when Boreman attempted to explain LinkedIn to the perplexed panel of characters and said the magic word, “Boolean.” If you don’t know what a Boolean search is, I encourage you to look it up, but Boreman’s attempt to explain the Boolean to the others Baltzmade for some of the most intense laughter from both on and off the stage. I’m cracking myself up as I type this because I remember Baltz’s voice and the frequency of him saying “Boolean” in answer to any questions put forth about the excitingly lackluster functionality of LinkedIn. Basically, the last ten minutes of this show would be worth the Howl.fm subscription. Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.

By the end of the night, the show gave me the much needed gift of laughter, a new appreciation for the word Boolean, and something to think about in terms of the proper actions when helping pregnant women into buildings while carrying ten bags of designer clothing. And isn’t that what live podcasts are supposed to do?

I wanna say…probably?

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While I recover from three days of exhaustion and sheer joy, and begin the process of transcribing some interviews, here’s some video taken by yours truly of the D20 Brass Band performing outside the Washington State Convention Center at Emerald City Comicon!d20-brass-band-mugshot

Sam has a pleasantly giddy conversation with Claire Hummel. The two talk about Disney, historical costuming, and then pretty much geek out over animation.

Links to Claire:

Website

deviantArt

Tumblr

Twitter

Into music: “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl

Sam talks with Kyle Stevens, aka Kirby Krackle, about the rise of nerd rock and his latest album.

Sam talks with JoJo Stiletto, Professor of Nerdlesque, about all things burlesque and the show Whedonesque Burlesque celebrating the works of Joss Whedon.

Sam, James, and Sean recap Emerald City Comicon. Sam plays the hardened veteran, James the wide-eyed noobie, and Sean…is Sean.

After an oddly unprecedented summer full of mostly sunshine, the first day of Bumbershoot, one of the largest music and arts festivals in America, kicked off with weather more familiar to the citizens of Seattle, Washington: rain. Undeterred, people were ready and prepared for the three-day event with jackets, plastic ponchos, and, yes, even umbrellas so as not to miss any of the music, comedy, and art spread out over the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle.bumbershoot-2014

In many ways, Bumbershoot is indicative of Seattle’s cultural vibe. Have an eclectic taste in music, well there are several stages set up with musical acts ranging from up-and-coming artists to established acts topping the Billboard charts to veterans who show no signs of stopping. Traveling from one end of the Seattle Center to the other I heard new artist, and winner of the Experience Music Project’s (EMP) Sound Off!!, Otieno Terry perform a beautiful cover of The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” only to have the music eventually taper off until the heavy beats of Sam Lachow‘s hiphop set took over at Fisher Pavillion. This is a festival where Bootsy Collins gets driven around in a golf cart and everyone watches him drive by and goes, “Yup, there goes Bootsy Collins!” And I consider myself a winner on all levels when I can sit outside and eat a Skillet burger while members of The Presidents of the United States of America, plus some male audience members, shake their butts on stage as Luscious Jackson sings “#1 Bum”. I also understand that a lot of this is filled with local references, but maybe that’ll just entice you to make your way to Seattle one of these days.

"Finger Power" by LET'S

“Finger Power” by LET’S

The arts are also heavily emphasized at Bumbershoot, which says something when you consider the amazing talent brought in from the musical acts alone. Peppered throughout the grounds were booths from local and out-of-town artists selling hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and ephemera. The great thing about walking the grounds and hopping from booth to booth were the varied conversations people were having with the artists and sellers over their wares. Even if they didn’t buy anything, people were genuinely interested in how the artists created their products. The level of engagement between artists and festival-goers is, in my opinion, what really makes Bumbershoot stand out. Not only are there the outdoor booths, but several art installments were inside various buildings. Flatstock is a staple of the festival with artists gathered who mostly specialize in creating posters for many of the bands and comedy acts featured. But there are also several interactive art exhibits that truly required the full engagement of those participating. Seth David Friedman’s “Black Poem” requires viewers to create a narrative by feeling their way along a series of oblong sculptures without the use of sight. And “Finger Power” by the Seattle art collective LET’S encourages people to interact with the piece by controlling lights, sounds, and video. And because Seattle is ensconced in a region well versed in technology, the Bumbercade offered several games that engaged the senses and morality of the people playing. The most touching exhibit, however, was the tribute to photographer Jini Dellaccio who passed away in July. Selected photographs were displayed to show Dellaccio’s ability to produce striking images through the faces of her subjects. In many of the photographs it’s the eyes that draw you in as if you’re meeting the person face to face.

To top it all off, Bumbershoot pulls in a staggering lineup of comedic acts as well as shows that play on the traditions of storytelling, variety acts, and civil interrogation. The Words and Ideas section of the grounds featured a wide array of performers who, like the musical acts and artists, relied on engaging the public to emphasize the greater meaning of community and the shared experience of those in attendance. One such show, The Failure Variety Show, featured several performers sharing stories of how they failed – whether through relationships, jobs, or reliving past failures from childhood – while two technicians attempted to build a Rube-Goldberg machine for the grand finale. The irony being that the machine wasn’t finished by the allotted time and the technicians madly scrambled around the stage triggering sections one-by-one. Whether intentional or not, the failed attempt at building the machine brought the audience together through laughter and the knowledge that failure isn’t the end of the world and good things can happen as a byproduct of failure.

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

And as far as the comedic acts go, it’s hard to fail with solid performers like Paul F. Tompkins, Janeane Garofalo, Pete Holmes, Rory Scovel, Michelle Buteau, and Doug Benson, just to name a few. Even if you’re not familiar with their standup, going to see one of the comedy shows can quickly create new fans. I got to witness such an event at the first Dead Author’s podcast where H.G. Wells, as played by Paul F. Tompkins, spoke with Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, as played by Rory Scovel. Watching the improvised interplay between the two kept the audience, if not the performers, on the edge of their seats. Or literally out of their seats as Scovel’s Carroll wandered the stage in fear of the tablet Tompkins’ Wells used to record a promo for the podcast.

Three days just doesn’t seem like enough time to cover everything Bumbershoot has to offer, but luckily there’s so much to explore and discover. Even when you think you’ve done everything, something or someone surprises you with something they’re selling, a joke told with perfect timing, or an old song played with as much passion now as it was when you first heard it. One visit to Bumbershoot will never be enough. By the end of the weekend a year almost seems too long to wait for the next festival.

And here are some more photos for you to check out!

Typical Day in Seattle

Typical Day in Seattle

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

The Failure Variety Show

The Failure Variety Show

Flatstock

Flatstock

Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Pete Holmes

Me and Pete Holmes

In a quiet moment during the second act of An Evening with Groucho, Frank Ferrante, now in his 30th year portraying the great Groucho Marx, recounts the meeting between a woman and Groucho.groucho

“You’re him, aren’t you? Groucho,” she says. Putting her hand gently on his arm she then says the most powerful words a person can demand of a comedian: “Never die.”

Sadly, it’s been thirty-seven years since the passing of Groucho Marx, the leader and acerbically witty frontman of the Marx Brothers. But in his absence we have Frank Ferrante carrying on his spirit, acting as a living monument and comedic historian for one of the great comedy teams to come out of vaudeville and hit the silver screen. The one man show – technically a two-man show if you count musical accompanist Mark Rabe – is a celebration of the wit, physical dexterity, and hilarity of Groucho and his brothers Chico, Harpo, Gummo, and Zeppo, chronicling their early years (including the origin of their stage names, though Ferrante easily sidesteps a definitive answer for the eponymous Groucho) through their rise to fame in film and television. The struggles, the hardships, but more importantly, the laughs, are all present as Ferrante serves up Groucho’s somewhat linear body of work with an extra side of ham as is befitting of the man responsible for Captain Spaulding, Otis B. Driftwood, and Rufus T. Firefly.

Ferrante begins the show sans makeup, addressing the audience as a man who was forever changed as a child, a shy one at that, when he first saw the rambunctious, free-spirited Marx Brothers in movies like Horse Feathers, Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, A Day at the Races, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera. His love letter to Groucho truly begins when he transforms on stage, donning the universally recognized visage of Groucho Marx: grease paint mustache and eyebrows, cigar, glasses, and wild curly hair. It’s Groucho as he was in his prime, alive and breathing through Ferrante as he holds court over the audience.

Groucho_on_couchBut don’t expect Ferrante to remain tied to the stage. Oh no! Audience participation is highly encouraged. And by highly encouraged I mean mandatory. Ferrante leaps and bounds about the sparsely decorated yet homey stage, but it takes only a moment’s glance for him to descend the small staircase into the crowd. His laser focus and razor-sharp wit puts Ferrante at the advantage of improvising, almost effortlessly, with any audience member he singles out. It’s also a testament to Rabe’s abilities as a musician that he can follow Ferrante from song to improv and barely miss a note. He proved himself during the first official show of An Evening with Groucho‘s three-week stint at the ACT Theater in Seattle, Washington as Ferrante frequently broke in an out of song to poke fun at a woman slouching in her chair.

And while Ferrante showcases the jokes, puns, and overall wordplay that made Groucho the unflappable performer, he’s just as adept at singing some of Groucho’s famous songs including “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”, “Hello, I Must Be Going”, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It”, and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady”. But it’s through one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s songs from The Mikado, “Tit-willow”, a song the real Groucho sang when he performed as the Lord High Executioner in a production of the musical, that we see the softer, more contemplative Groucho. Here is Groucho the romantic, Groucho the intellectual. The man who regularly conversed with poet T.S. Eliot despite only having a sixth grade education. Ferrante presents a three-dimensional Groucho Marx, a man who was much more than his famous persona. And as each generation becomes more and more removed from the Marx Brothers, though interest in them ebbs and flows, An Evening with Groucho allows us to glimpse, for a brief ninety minutes, a man who was and always will be a comedic icon. Ferrante keeps him alive and vibrant, fully realizing the immortality of comedy and comedians through the passion and love of their fans.

Me and Groucho

To find where Frank will be performing An Evening with Groucho, you can go to his website, or check out his Facebook page and An Evening with Groucho‘s page for updates.