I had high hopes for Big Terrific last night, and by the size of the crowd at Washington High School last night, so did plenty of other people—I'm not sure I've ever seen a Works show so packed,
The show started out strong, with hosts Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman, and Max Silvestri riffing on their inclusion in TBA ('it's really nice to be called art") and introducing a new installment in their great webseries Bestie x Bestie. Bestie stars Liedman and Slate then did a hilarious joint standup routine, riffing comfortably off each other and their long friendship. This portion of the show included TBA's SECOND reference to Game of Thrones (yes, I have been counting)—in this case the TV show, which they described as "a fantasy show on HBO about people getting reamed from behind." I also really liked Liedman's bit about fantasy: "I don't like the name of the fantasy genre because I think it's presumptuous," he said, explaining in considerable detail how his own fantasies differ from George RR Martin's. His proposed name for Game of Thrones' genre: "alt medieval horny nature magic." I'm not sure I've ever seen a two-person comedy routine quite like this one: Slate and Liedman easily drifted between bits, taking turns or talking over each other. The jokes were tight, but it seemed completely spontaneous and relaxed; Slate has the more vivid stage presence, and her high-energy physicality was nicely grounded by Liedman's lower-key crankiness.
After this promising beginning, the trio shifted into a more traditional comedy format, with each performing a few minutes of standup. This is where the evening lost considerable steam, and it was mostly a problem of scheduling. Presumably at their Brooklyn comedy showcase Slate and Liedman typically act as hosts, rather than hosts AND featured performers; here, it was as though they opened for themselves, which proved awkward. Slate and Liedman's joint act should've closed the show; instead, they were the comedic high point after which the rest of the evening was a gentle downward slump. The likable Silvestri would've been great as an actual opener, warming up the crowd (and I liked his joke about how people in Portland must be so sustainable that they eat their garbage because there are NO GARBAGE CANS ANYWHERE), but Slate and Liedman were so funny together that it pretty much set Silvestri up to fail in comparison, and the individual acts of Slate and Liedman were less engaging than their work together. I wish I could go back in time and just rearrange the elements of this show; as it was, I was drifting off by the time Slate finally closed the show out at about 12:30.
As TBA's first comedy show, I think I'd call it a qualified success. From an attendance standpoint it was certainly a winner, and I have no doubt it brought in people who don't typically go to TBA shows. That being said, from a comedy standpoint it was a pretty traditional show—you're likely to see more weirdo experimentation at local showcase Comedy Is OK (they've got a show at Bunk Bar tomorrow night, matter of fact). I'm looking forward to seeing if or how TBA handles comedy programming in the future.
Side note: Washington High makes a pretty solid comedy venue.