Blogging the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival (prelims 7-8)

You’ve all been waiting for this (sorry about the wait), it’s the two final preliminary competitions in the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest, so let’s get to recapping…

Prelim 7 winners: Byron Bowers, Jessi Campbell, Dave Waite, Drew Thomas

When Bowers took the stage, he joked about being the fourth
consecutive black stand-up comic in this round, as well as how Obama is
a much better presidential option than the Rev. Al Sharpton. A set
routine about his grandmother’s fanciful stories managed to take a
localized turn into a tale of her stripping at the Boston Tea Party.
Another bit, about this summer’s salmonella scare, he took as a plot to
get rid of Mexicans, and demonstrated it by replacing salmonella with X
food to get rid of Y races. Closed with married role-playing and an
act-out of the LAPD.

Campbell had "bitten the bullet" by going first, but the Minnesota
comic — who started out a bit too loud — got some energy in the room
with bits about an encounter with a woman in the bathroom that turned
steamy, buying a gun and reporting it to the cops during a traffic
stop, showering for a ghost, and the dangers in feeding a bear. Unlike
many comedians of her size, she never acknowledged or poked fun at her
own expense. That probably scored extra points with the judges.

Waite, who attended college in Kentucky, joked about his geography
degree makes him a dumb-ass: They already have maps! Cue the many many
asides! Shazam! (He never said shazam, but said plenty in between every
joke that piled up the style and attitude points) Hasslehoff. Internet
porn. Pee-wee football. As he said to the ladies in the audience at one
point, "Buckle up, it’s creepy time!" He got solid laughs from the
audience and comics alike.

Thomas talked about the differences between broke and being "working
people broke." His opening premise, about how men and women describe
getting married, may have been a little tired. But when he started
joking about his money woes, he got some momentum going his way. Closed
with a funny but true notion of how critics make Obama seem dangerous.
Example: "Did you know he fathered two black children?"

From those who did not advance: Shawn Banks seemed very likable, but
the crowd was slow to get on board. Andrea Henry’s dry sense of humor
suffered with her slot in the lineup. Jay Black had a very solid bit
analyzing the importance of America finishing 27th in math, while
Bangladesh apparently is tops in that subject.

OK. Moving on…

Prelim 8 winners: Dwight Slade, Joe Wong, Tony Boswell, Mike Stanley

Slade is an experienced pro (and also a previous Seattle comedy
competition winner), so I was not surprised at all to see him coming
out firing. He opened with a visual bit involving his pants, playing
off how safe and unassming he must look as a white guy. Act-out
involving how you lose your composure when a bug flies in your mouth.
Solid routine that connected strong about he thinks people with
Bluetooths are talking to him, then layered it with a comparison to
tweakers. Also supports gun control because otherwise, he’d be thinning
the heard. Nailed it with the audience.

Wong, like Campbell in the earlier show, went up first in the lineup
and had no problems with it. Wong writes solid jokes and delivers them
in his Chinese accent, and people laugh not just because of that, but
also because he’s very likable. You tend to root for him. Jokes about
being scared of marriage, wondering how one drinks responsibly, and a
closing bit about overnight deliveries and one-night stands during the
Alaskan summer, wrapped up in a bow with a Sarah Palin reference.

Boswell introduced himself by saying he’d be using sarcasm, then did
so. A listing of all of the drugs one can buy legally, from A-Z, but
not pot, got an applause break. A bit about how men debate with each
other, versus with women, was slightly predictable, though Boswell
heightened the tension a bit in his closer.

Stanley asked if he could be the guy from Powder (good thing
Tim McIntire didn’t host his round, eh?) and referred to himself as a
"bald whimsical huckster." His jokes were dark. How dark? A handicapped
person stuck to the front of a truck. Not getting married so his
girlfriend won’t get fat. Asking the audience if anyone had herpes.
That kind of dark.

What else? Bethany Van Delft
had an engaging set. John Garrison was strong, too, I thought. Rich
Gustus was better than I’d seen him before. A couple of others had good
sets but tough placements in the order. There was a guy who did what
appeared to be Bobcat Goldthwait’s act — and I wasn’t the only one who
thought that, as Bobcat’s longtime friend Tony V was thinking and
saying the very same thing, sitting behind me during that guy’s set.
Did he think we wouldn’t notice? OK. That is all. It’s time for the
semifinals. For all of you who did not advance, if I had something to
do with it, I apologize. If not, I apologize. Comedy contests are
always a little funny for the wrong reasons. Which reminds me, Jack
Hurney had me and others tearing up laughing in the back during his
"time-killing set" while scores were tabulated, mostly because he just
kept going and going like the Energizer Bunny. What is the deal with
those giraffes, anyhow?!

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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