Do you really need a tornado to be transported to another world? Maybe. It certainly helped add to the theme last night when thunderstorms brought funnel clouds through Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, uprooting trees just a block or two away from the start of the third annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which just so happened to be kicking off at The Bell House with a show themed "An Evening of Comedy From 1986."
Mirman says the festival is a joke, but one in which he and his organizers have committed to fully. Each year they provide fun things for audiences to enjoy, both free and available for purchase. A merch table last night offered traditional items such as posters and free guides, but also "Industry Rocks" (rocks engraved with names of real-life comedy industry people, for $15), velvet Eugene paintings ($25) and more. Inside the venue, audience members could feast on free roasted duck, set up on a table beneath a banner that read "Eugene's Pee Your Pants Comedy Villa." At the door, each audience member received 3-D glasses to watch Mirman's 3-D "welcome video."
As for the show itself, Mirman introduced Tony V with the credits he would have had in 1986, and Tony joked about his small role in the 1986 movie, One Crazy Summer. The "best impressionist" Sandy Gorman followed, played by Larry Murphy in a white wig, holding a giant phone and wearing a suit jacket with the sleeves rolled up. Among his impressions: Jack Nicholson, Ronald Reagan, Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro on a party line. Mirman next brought out Teddy Ruxpin. Yes. The stuffed teddy bear that can talk. Mirman sat the Teddy Ruxpin on a stool in front of the mic and walked off, letting Ruxpin spew forth a filthy NSFW stand-up routine. Ron Lynch opened his set by reading off notes of how a stand-up should act, then noted that the rolled-up sleeves really was a trend in stand-up back in the 1980s.
"How did that happen? Who was the first? How many of you have no idea what I'm talking about?"
In a special treat, Lynch played the cassette tape that Louis CK sent him back around 1986 as an audition to get booked in a club Lynch ran in the Boston area. Afterward Lynch mocked him, which prompted Louis CK himself to appear in a cameo that delighted the crowd. Lynch closed with his classic bit from the future in which a Disney-engineered robot explains what stand-up comedy was all about.
Jon Glaser than messed with the audience with his bit as "high-energy" comic Dr. Attitude, who was depressed about his cat.
Emo Philips, in a showcase set, showed everyone why he remains one of the greatest joke-writers we have. Philips closed with his classic bit about running into a suicidal man on a bridge. Throughout his set, he also incorporated an unspoken bit involving his pants pocket, which he told me later he used to do back in 1986.
We all saw Louis CK in that cameo, and we all got to see him close the show with a half-hour of completely new material. As he riffed off of notes and ad-libbed, we also saw that this comedian is working on another level.
All in all, a stellar way to start the third annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Shows continue tonight through Sunday in multiple venues in the Park Slope and Gowanus neighborhoods of Brooklyn.