Review: Gerry Red Wilson benefit

If the lineup for the 7th annual Gerry Red Wilson Foundation comedy benefit didn’t warn me, then the crowd waiting outside Town Hall on March 5 should have…as much as the comedians onstage wanted to celebrate and honor their late friend, the audience in the seats wanted jokes about sex and hating their girlfriends/wives.

Host Greg Fitzsimmons, who serves on the foundation board and noted onstage that both his wife and his son have contracted meningitis since Wilson died, had to face the rowdy crowd first. When he said he’d moved to Los Angeles, the crowd booed. "Great. Fine. Boo a city," Fitzsimmons replied. "I hate living there, too. You don’t have to tell me." He then surveyed the crowd and found more than a few Opie and Anthony fans, and even more Howard Stern fans. "Why can’t they get the (Sirius-XM) merger done?" he wondered. Having surveyed them thusly, Fitzsimmons went straight into dick jokes and stripper jokes and porn jokes. He did get a strong adlib riff out about the spotlight guy’s gaffe after a joke about how nobody’s having sex with Asian men.

Pete Correale saw the afterwork party crowd and addressed them immediately with bits about drinking and partying, then veered into material about being married and having single friends. He ended his 16-minute set with airplane jokes.

Jim Norton didn’t care what the audience wanted. He spent the bulk of his 16 minutes on the 2008 presidential campaign, with thoughts on Hillary Clinton ("She’s not a good enough actress to hide what a fraud she is"), Barack Obama, John Edwards, John McCain ("Do you really trust a Vietnam vet with the button?") and Rudy Giuliani. Norton also weighed in on the San Francisco tiger attack from Christmas. These choice bits had immediate repercussions for Nick DiPaolo, who had to follow Norton and still wanted to make his set political. DiPaolo has recently started an online talk radio show, but he managed to remain bitter enough onstage to unleash some questionable bits on race, homosexuality and women. And in case you’re wondering, he’s also nostalgic for drunk driving and cocaine.

Which proved enough of a transition for Artie Lange. "Do I look tired?" Lange asked. "This is one of those cocaine nights." Lange really needs to get it together. Sure, his fans might be appeased by seeing this mess play out on the radio and onstage, but Lange has to regain some focus on making himself better, not just comedy-wise but also health-wise. He joked about his gambling habits and winning big on the Giants, saying he should’ve bet that he’d live longer than Heath Ledger. Then he segued into old and beyond hack material on Brokeback Mountain. At least he apologized for it. "Yep. That’s the most updated bit I have. I had to use Heath Ledger to get there," he said. Dozens of people stood up and walked out once Lange finished, not to protest him, but because Lange was the only reason they’d come to this show.

Dave Attell, up next, tried to get their attention with: "Who leaves a benefit early? A c*nt, that’s who!" Attell tried tackling the tiger attack but the crowd had already heard that from Norton. But Attell turned it around with some choice one-liners and a strong bit about presidential candidates withdrawing early "for the good of the party."

That left it to Louis CK to bring the show home. After an opening line about masturbation, he had the audience in his hands for the next half-hour, with several of the honestly raw hits you’ll see in his next "Chewed Up" special.

Fitzsimmons returned with a cardboard checking representing a $50,000 donation to the Meningitis Foundation of America, and said they should have another $20,000 to donate in the coming week. If you’d like to make a donation or learn more:
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Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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