Bentzen Ball 2015 ends with a surprise guest from curator Tig Notaro

The Bentzen Ball, an annual comedy festival curated by Tig Notaro and presented by Brightest Young Things since 2009, was an unequivocal smash hit this past weekend in Washington, D.C.

From the moment it began on Thursday with an all-star lineup sitting on the sofa with Dr. Katz (Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo and Morgan Murphy joined Notaro for sessions with Jonathan Katz), all the way to a surprisingly emotional and hysterically funny closing night session of “Tig and Friends” on Sunday, fans from inside and outside the Beltway were clapping, cheering and delivering standing ovations.

The biggest drop-in surprise guest, however, was not a comedian but a college-aged breakdancer.

Because that kid, 19 going on 20, was Anthony Notaro, the half-brother Tig had only met just once before Sunday evening’s show.

So, somehow, Notaro found herself once more with a most unique way to start her set. Only this time, instead of immediately telling her fans at Largo in Los Angeles, “I have cancer,” she was telling her fans at the Lincoln Theatre in D.C. how normal it must be to turn 44 and find out that your 20-year-old half-brother whom you’ve only met once before, that he lives near D.C., then find out he’s a breakdancer.

And so, somehow, Tig Notaro found herself following her instincts and inviting her half-brother and then his crew, Rhythm Puppets, onstage to perform and attempt to teach her a trick or a dance move or two.

“They destroyed the room,” Notaro said.


“The Most Very Specialist Evening With Tig Notaro” lived up to its billing, then! Even before the impromptu Notaro family reunion, Janeane Garofalo crushed with a routine that included musings mixing up Bobby Flay with Josef Stalin, as well as observations on D.C. pedestrian culture. Karen Kilgariff and Drennon Davis floored them with their looped musical numbers, and particularly their impersonations of famous musicians voicing your car’s GPS systems. And after Rhythm Puppets boogaloo’d electric, Notaro had her audience in the palm of her hands. Or in the case of one audience member, Carter, kicking leprechaun-style to see if a running joke Notaro shares with comedian Kyle Dunnigan could translate to a wider audience. It could, and it did!

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Janeane Garofalo! So funny, so great, so on point. #BentzenBall #tigandfriends

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Final edition of Blaria Live! with #2DopeQueens Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson visiting #BentzenBall

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A night earlier, the same Lincoln Theatre audience bowed in loyalty to the 2 Dope Queens (formerly known as Blaria! Live), Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, as they regaled them with tales of dating white men, and had guests such as Nore Davis, Jacqueline Novak and W. Kamau Bell, who later described it as “The. Greatest. Night. Of. My. Life.”

The. Greatest. Night. Of. My. Life. #bentzenball #Blaria A photo posted by W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) on

Meanwhile, across the district at the D.C. Improv, several more comedians already had submitted themselves to Ian Abramson’s “Seven Minutes in Purgatory.”

And Tim Heidecker and Brett Gelman were taking their comedy disciples to church. So to speak.

Bentzen Ballin’ backstage #bentzenball

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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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