One of my favorite festival pastimes is guessing who a festivalgoer is hoping to see, based on how they’re dressed. On day 2 of Boston Calling’s music and comedy offerings, the choice was clear for many: these “Friends of the Pod” were here to see the live recording of Pod Save America. Attendance in the comedy arena reflected that prediction. Hosts Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor were greeted by an at-capacity crowd when they took to the stage, alongside the evening’s guest Erin Ryan.
In many ways, having Pod Save America record a day after its sibling podcast Lovett or Leave It on day 1 worked elegantly; hosts were able to provide updates on topics covered the previous day. And yet it was easy to avoid repetition (save one segment performed twice, but with different topics), as wholly new topics surfaced for the hosts to weigh in on. As they examined the looming policy of family separation at the border, Trump’s commencement speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, and famous – if crooked – alumni and affiliates of the festival’s host site, Harvard University. The numbers rose so high on that last piece that the game contestant, a Yale graduate, shared “I think this is why I went to Yale.”
Through the segments they were able to keep it fairly light and entertaining, though there was an understandable struggle at times (early on, Ryan admitted of the proposed border separation of families, “this makes me so angry I can’t be funny about it). But on the whole, the crowd was wholly with the team as they shared their unique brand of earnest and informed political humor and analysis.
I wish I could say the same for the rest of the comedy slate. Hosted by Martin Urbano and featuring Jo Firestone, Tony Hinchcliffe, and Bridget Everett, it often became hard to tell who was present for the comedy and who was excited about the air conditioning and indoor bathroom possibilities.
Urbano grabbed attention early with his brand of crowd participation, enlisting an audience member toward the front to tell some of his jokes (since, you know, he’s never seen them before). Firestone garnered some audience participation – at first hesitant, but later passionate, in talking about the worst cookie and later about hobbies; she fared better after that opportunity to chat. Hinchcliffe seems to be the most challenged in holding the audience’s attention through jokes about what constitutes a burger, and what it’s like to ruin a group text (but likely because Queens of the Stone Age would be starting soon after; the mass exodus after his set confirmed that divided attention).
But those who stayed on for Bridget Everett were not disappointed. With a surprise appearance by Murray Hill to lead them in, Everett captivated the remaining crowd of about 500 with her trademark combination of storytelling, singing, and…we’ll call it comprehensive audience participation. Props to the unaccompanied sixteen-year-old in the front row who left that arena a different person from when he arrived, thanks to a motorboat and an abbreviated serenade (“I wanna sing this song to you, but I’ll go to jail!”)
Boston Calling’s comedy offerings continue tomorrow with Martin Urbano hosting for Max Silvestri, Cameron Esposito, and David Cross.