One of the secret weapons of this year’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival has been musical comic Drennan Davis. The Angeleno has been popping up at many of the shows I’ve stumbled into this weekend, using his voice and a bank of samplers and loop pedals (à la Reggie Watts) to create everything from the fake theme song to a right-wing chat show to hilarious musical mashups and all the beats backing up the comics trying their hand at freestyle rapping during Eliza Skinner’s much loved Turnt Up show.
Friday night at the Siren Theater, he appeared at the Brent Weinbach and Friends Mega Show. In the middle of a lineup of postmodern and surrealist stand-ups, Davis elicited the biggest laughs of the show with spot-on impressions of various musical styles. The mashup concept—stitching the sounds of two artists together into one—could have been completely hacky, but there was a nice touch of weirdness that made them feel inventive. Singing “Break On Through” in the voice of Morrissey, for example, was just bizarre enough to work, and doing “Kokomo” in the style of the Beastie Boys (or the Beach-stie Boys) was a nicely silly touch. And he killed with his especially far-out concepts, like Ginuwinefeld, which found him honking out the lyrics to “Pony” in the voice of Jerry Seinfeld, and AC/Decemberists, which turned “Back In Black” into a nasally ode to chimney sweeps and sailors.
Davis truly proved his mettle during Saturday night’s Turnt Up at the Doug Fir Lounge, coming up with beat after beat on the fly and encouraging the gaggle of comics onstage through multiple rounds of the freestyle competition. A handful needed all they help they could get. Marcella Arguello (performing as Queef Latina) and Brody Reed (Grody Weed) gamely got into the spirit of things, but made it very clear they were only doing the show as a favor to Skinner. And poor Troy Walker (Destroy Walker) sputtered and struggled through his bars, but somehow won the crowd over through his geeky confusion. By the end, it was down to Myq Kaplan (Snoop Owl) and Zach Sherwin (Bridget Owns), who traded off some impressively dexterous rhymes that spent a lot of time praising each other and referencing the fact that apparently Kaplan was high on 'shrooms.
As with every Bridgetown, the excitement of a festival like this is getting to hear new comic voices. Which is what made Weinbach’s Friday night show the highlight of the weekend so far. Each of the stand-ups on the bill had completely unique takes on the art form, approaching it from unexpected angles and with an Andy Kaufman-esque love of the absurd.
I didn’t expect much from Nick Vatterott, as he'd kind of flubbed his appearance on Reunited the night before. But his short set on Friday was awe-inspiring. The first half was him essentially describing a stand-up comedy routine: “Comedian thanks the audience. Comedian thanks other comedians. Comedian gets really quiet and serious about an issue that only he knows the solution to. Comedian gets vaguely racist and wonders if the crowd can handle it!” That went on for three brilliant minutes, but he then spent the rest of his time doing exactly the stand-up set he was describing, almost beat for beat, including little improvised asides. Equally great was Bridgetown vet Barbara Gray who turned an outrageous bit where she pretended to fuck a stool into something weirdly touching, making use of a perfect extra prop (which I won’t spoil in case you catch her doing it today).
The other great show that I caught yesterday was a live taping of Eugene Mirman’s new Audible series Hold On, in which he invites his comedy pals to tell personal stories that he then interrupts as he seeks clarification or more detail. I need to catch up with some other episodes to see if this always the case, but it was interesting to hear all three storytellers—Guy Branum, Karen Kilgariff, and Kyle Kinane—flame out at the end of their tales. Everything leading up to the end was great; they just couldn’t stick the landing.
Branum’s story especially could have used a lot more time for him to explain the aftermath of an experience he had during his brief time in New York when was a writer/performer on the short-lived Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. As he tells it, he invited a gent over to his apartment with the promise of mutual blowjobs. But after he held up his end of the bargain, Branum was attacked and robbed by his gentleman caller. So, to explain the black eye he got in the experience without having to recount an embarrassing story, he told his co-workers he was gay bashed. Rather than dig for more, like finding out how folks reacted and when he finally told the truth of the matter, Mirman let Branum off the hook and moved on to Kilgariff. The same happened with Kinane whose overabundance of affability made the wet fart of an ending feel a little less disappointing as he recounted bombing at a comedy competition right after moving to LA and winding up doing cocaine with a burly female stagehand. Only he could make it sound less like a tawdry sojourn and more like an almost profound learning experience.