Bumbershoot Comedy Report V: The Other Guys

The logic as to who's headlining the comedy stages and who's supporting (or roving among them) isn't always clear. The name talent is often eclipsed by the lead-in and following acts; and the performers themselves don't seem to observe such hierarchies. Over three days, a cheerful professional camaraderie prevails. So in no particular order, some quick impressions of the comedians who didn't appear in the Bumbershoot schedule or whose names you had to Google.

Doug Benson is an unbilled comic who'll be lurking around the two main comedy stages today. As we know from his spoof documentary Super High Me, he's fond of pot, fond of making pot jokes, fond of playing the memory-addled stoner. How much is stage persona and how much is real THC damage, you're left to guess. His basic affability is stronger than his material, and he rolled on unruffled with his semi-raunchy act even when discovering pre-teen kids in the audience. (True all weekend long on the comedy stages.) With a smile and shrug, he said, "Well, ya gotta hear this stuff some time," and continued with his act. Not a bad model of parenting, actually.

You'll have once more chance tonight to see Patton Oswalt and his ensemble...

Jimmy Pardo didn't make a huge impression with his short intro, though he's got a radio DJ's trained voice, which he employs on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny (which I unfortunately missed on Saturday). More interesting was the fat, raspy, cherubically smiling Eddie Pepitone, known to some from Last Comic Standing. He freely admits to being 51 years old, and looks it. His humor is of the exaggerated confessional variety: Look at me, I'm so fat, I'm so pathetic, I'm so old, "I have an eating shirt" when scarfing down raisins and pudding and watching UFC from the sofa. He doesn't bother using the mic for half his jokes, but just screams them out to the back row. Not much continuity or depth, but always smiling. You get the feeling he's past his last chance for a big break, and he knows it, but he doesn't care. On the other side of that slope is Nic Kroll, newer to stand-up. With stale targets like Michael Jackson and Nickelback, and riffs on cats-versus-dogs, he abandoned half his hacky jokes and went to the audience for help. We, in turn, gave him none, since all were waiting for Patton Oswalt to appear. Comedy Stage South (Charlotte Martin Theater), 8 p.m. Monday.

There are never enough female comics at Bumbershoot, because there are never enough female comics in comedy. Thus, Morgan Murphy is both doubly welcome, though her laconic stage demeanor isn't so welcoming of the audience. Half hidden by her enormous mop of hair, she wallows in her own introversion. Booze, bungled sexting, and an aversion to dating aren't exactly fresh topics, but she burrows into them at her own pace. (An L.A. stage comic from her college years, she now writes for Jimmy Fallon in New York.) The mope-com approach would be better suited to a small room of hipsters; but on a big stage at Bumbershoot, you need a little more energy and command of the stage (see: Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron, and David Cross last year). Her sullen shoegazer thing didn't hold our attention. Jamie Kilstein had no such problem. High-strung and overtly political in his act, he launches himself into five-minute, foot-stomping rants, barely pausing to breathe, as he assails Republicans, homophobia, Prop 8, and hypocritical opponents of gay marriage. I liked the fact that he was so much more political and out there than his comedy brethren at Bumbershoot. At the same time, all the unrelenting, aggro talk of "shamefisting" and James Dobson and Ted Haggard seemed slightly dated (one election cycle behind us) and excessively stacked. The audience seemed relieved and more willing to laugh when he interjected smaller, more personal asides, like his bafflement at the Lost series finale. Sometimes it's a good thing to pause for breath and change direction. Both will appear with Marc Maron. Comedy Stage North (Intiman Theatre), 5:30 p.m. Monday.

You've got one more chance to see Bring the Rock with Greg Behrendt, and should. The veteran host and headliner has got one of the more interesting comedy résumés at Bumbershoot. Stand-up comic turned script editor for Sex and the City (the show's token straight guy), who then parlayed that into the bestselling tongue-in-cheek advice guide He's Just Not That Into You (which then became a movie), he now shifts to long-form storyteller mode (with a tale that will resonate with any guy who grew up in the '80s) and caps it with an affecting Smiths cover. (His band also backs Chris Hardwick.) Accompanying himself on a cheap Casio keyboard is David O'Doherty, an Irishman who also excels at narrative comedy. In one story, he confronts the silence bullies on a train. In another, he relates how he wrote a novelty song to crack the Irish pop charts. (The secret? Record and distribute 300 copies of the song during Ireland's worst retail sales week in February, then buy back every copy from record stores.) He sings that effort, "Orange," made all the funnier when he forgets some of his own lyrics. Comedy Stage South, 6:15 p.m. Monday.
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