“Due to the snowstorms on the East Coast, I’m sorry to have to tell you that our New York guests will be unable to appear tonight.”
Those were the words that started off the sixth-annual Comics Come Home showcase, held Saturday night in the Memorial Union Theater. The absence of the “more famous” guests, such as Jim Bruer and whoever the surprise guest was to be this year, was disappointing (although Bruer apparently vowed to make a Madison stop in January), but the rest of the cast succeeded admirably in entertaining the near-capacity audience.
Complementing the comedy was the in-house band, Isthmus Band-to-Band Combat winner Jimmy’s Comet. Dressed sharply in matching suit-and-tie ensembles, the four-piece provided half an hour of music while the audience was being seated and played some riffs while stand-up acts were taking the stage.
The set-up of the show was quite conducive to a variety of comedic tastes, as a group of six or seven comedians performed improvised skits, which were interspersed among the five solo stand-up acts. Almost all of the improv sketches used suggestions from the audience, which allowed spectators to put a customized touch into the skits, but at the same time plagued the comedians with, frankly, some really stupid suggestions.
For example, one of the improv acts involved a male customer and a female salesperson in Starbucks. The two would perform a short scene, then take an audience suggestion for a film genre (“That’s like the headings at Blockbuster” the host quipped), “rewind,” and do the scene again in whatever genre was suggested. Predictably, one of the loudest and first suggestions was “PORN,” which probably wouldn’t be particularly challenging for the comedians or exciting for the audience.
In fact, it was the improv skits that ended up being the least funny of the two elements of the show. Perhaps there were too many comedians involved in the improv, as many of the skits went on for too long and got too confusing to really be funny.
There was one skit in which two comedians took center stage and performed a scene; at any point, another comedian could yell, “freeze,” tap one of the center actors on the shoulder and take his or her place. The problem was that the scene seemed to change drastically every time someone tapped in, and by the end it was hard to find any cohesiveness.
The Farley brothers, however, were a definite highlight of the improv acts. Fans of the late Saturday Night Live great Chris Farley can’t fail to see the resemblance among the siblings, and their comedic styles are similar as well. It’s as close as the world will get to seeing that style again, and it was refreshing.
The stand-up acts were where Comics Come Home really impressed. Ranging from a Wisconsin-native questioning the fact that in Wisconsin gas stations, hunting magazines are wrapped in cellophane whereas pornography is not to a Pakistan-native wondering what his children from an arranged marriage with his first cousin would look like, the solo acts were truly side-splitting.
Kevin Bozeman, a Madison-native who has appeared at every Comics Come Home event, finished up the night as the headliner, in place of the surprise guest who could not attend. He didn’t miss the opportunity for a joke about the replacement, saying that he wasn’t thought nearly as funny at noon as he was at 4:30, when the event organizers found out that the New York comedians couldn’t make it.
Bozeman stuck fairly closely to the themes he includes in his Comedy Central Premium Blend routine, but didn’t shy away from improvising when his microphone cut out halfway through his performance. Being the only Black comedian at the show, he claimed, “That’s racist,” then went on to detail how when bill-collectors call him he accuses them of using a racist slur. “That is,” he said, “until it’s a Black man who calls. Then it doesn’t work.”
Thus the night was ended with a bang, and the comedians went on to the traditional after-party at Café Montmartre. The sixth-annual Comics Come Home was a success yet again and will continue to raise funds for the Chris Farley Foundation for many years to come.