Prelim 4 is when everything you thought you knew about the Boston Comedy Festival contest went out the window and onto the bricks and cobblestones below. A much stronger field of contenders — perhaps five or six of the 12 comics could’ve landed the two semifinalist slots. And yet. Well…let’s go to the recap.
In order of appearance:
1) Jim Tews: Remarks on his Coast Guard past and how that’s not exactly the best thing to have on his resume. Has interesting uses for the memo line on checks. Being poor is the difference between bologna and ham. “Bologna tastes like failure.” Closes with a letter he wrote to cigarettes not long after quitting smoking. Understated, but quite funny.
2) Stewart Huff: Looks like a mini-Me Mitch Hedberg, but with a Tennessee drawl (and lots of other differences, but enough about that). His mic gets disconnected early on, which could spell trouble (they eventually trade out mics later in the show). Most of his set revolves around hick gas stations — the “pump-n-munch” — but it’s a fully-formed, solid routine. A good start to the show.
3) Benjamin Roy: Drinking, jail, sex, in that order. It’s funny, yes, but too raw for this type of contest.
4) Danny Rouhier: If you go to his Web page, you’ll see a Current TV video titled: “Are you a hack?” Rouhier ends his set by mocking the Boston accent and its misuse of the letter ‘R.’ I’ll now refer you back two sentences.
5) Mike Baker: Apparently, Mike has sex on the brain. Audience members want to make out with him, but he’s married. With kids. And that’s a problem. Because they’re cockblockers. Can I say that on this blog? Can he devote almost his entire set to not having sex with his wife and make it to the semis? Stay tuned.
6) Adam Ginivisian: I can describe his set in one word. Emersonian.
7) David Powell: Wry observations, one after the other. Each one of them quite funny. The kind of set that wins comedy contests. And yet…
8) Brent Sullivan: Acts out a delightful scene depicting how you’d react to a raccoon in your trash can, and suggested an intriguing telephone game to try out. The game: “Who would you rather f—?” “Try to keep them on the phone for at least three names,” Sullivan advised. It was funnier than it looks here on non-paper.
9) Murv Seymour: Why is Sinbad cursing onstage? What, that’s not Sinbad. My sin. My bad. Otherwise good jokes about black people going to Denny’s, shark safety tips (in both cases, why? and why? respectively).
10) Kelly MacFarland: Gets an applause break for her bit on running. Infectious personality. Funny stuff. Like I said, this judging will be interesting. Afterward, her quote to me: “Kelly MacFarland was funny, in a kind of cutesy way. And she had nice hair.”
11) Bob Gautreau: Calls himself an “impressionist,” which is another of the most overused, misused phrases in comedy, if not the world, since he is an impersonator. Monet was an Impressionist. Gautreau impersonates Robert DeNiro AND Sylvester Stallone. Can you believe that? Wow. I’m going to stop now and let Mike Baker take over: “If Kelly and I lose to Bob Gautreau, I’m going to…” Let me stop Baker right there, since he has eaten those words.
12) Tim Kaelin: Devotes almost his entire set to drinking and driving. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
For time-killing, Mr. Juston McKinney. Good stuff from the former Mainer. Although, as my memory recalls, in 2002 in Aspen, he won the festival prize for cleanest stand-up. Times have changed.
The judges have tallied the scores. Your prelim 4 winners, Huff and Gautreau. May I refer you to my first-night remarks on comedy contests and judging. Thank you.