My latest adventures in comedy go all the way back to when I was at Just For Laughs in Montreal this summer. It’s been said that being at JFL is a lot like being at comedy summer camp and just like being at summer camp, you have the chance to make loads of new friends. Antoine Griffin and Cathy Carlson are two of the awesome people I met this summer and I was super happy to reconnect with them this fall.
I kept seeing Antoine at a bunch of the same shows I was at, so eventually, I decided to introduce myself. His name was Antoine Griffin and he was at JFL checking out potential talent for the comedy club he works at. He manages the D.C. Improv and has been with them for the past seven years. I told him I was a huge comedy nerd who loves traveling around, seeing comedy. He suggested I come to D.C. and check out his club. I seconded the notion. As the festival carried on, I continued to run into Antoine at various shows and parties. During one of our hangs we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Dave Attell and his unparalleled talent. Before the festival ended Antoine let me know that Dave Attell was going to be at his club in October. To which I replied, “I’ll see you then.”
Autumn was here, my trip to D.C. was booked and it wasn’t long before I started thinking about what other shows I could see while I was going to be in town. I remembered that during my time at JFL, I also met Greg Godbout. Godbout owns The Drafthouse Comedy Theater which also happens to be in D.C. I was hoping they’d have someone good scheduled on the night I was going to be in town, so I checked out their website. They had Joe List and Sarah Tollemache. Perfect! I’d start the night with Joe and Sarah, then head over to The Improv for Dave Attell and Mike Finoia. Sweet! My agenda was almost complete. Then, shortly before my trip, Brian, a fellow comedy super fan and ridiculously talented comedy artist/promo-maker let me know about a late night comedy club he recommended I check, called The Big Hunt. Done and done. One night, three shows. My comedy trifecta was set and it was sure to be a winner!
I arrived in D.C., checked into my hotel and headed to my first show of the evening, Joe List and Sarah Tollemache at The Drafthouse Comedy Theater. Just as the name suggests, this place is in fact a comedy theater and not a comedy club. The differences between a theater and a club are subtle, but certainly not lost on me. For example, there was no kitchen or menu, only a concession counter that sells beverages and snacks in the lobby. There is also no “two item minimum” purchase policy, which is par for the course in most of the comedy clubs I’ve been to. The Drafthouse is a general admission, “seat yourself” establishment and does not have hosts or waitstaff inside the theater, so I bought a beer in the lobby and made my way inside.
I listened to some “Tuesdays With Stories” to get me ready for the show.
Sarah Tollemache opened the show. I watched her perform on The Late Show With Steve Colbert on YouTube, but had never seen her perform live before that night. She was hilarious and every bit as likable as Joe. Sarah Tollemache had the whole place laughing. She did a solid 20 minutes and then brought out the headliner of the evening, her husband, Joe List. I’ve seen Joe do spots at The Stand Comedy Club in New York on several occasions and he is always hilarious. Joe came up and did about an hour set. I’m a huge fan of his self deprecating style. He’s hilarious, super likable and is always able to charm the audience and get everyone on his side. I would be completely shocked if he’s not the next comedian in line for a comedy special of his own.. My only note to Sarah and Joe is this, in the spirit of “Stiller and Meara” I would love Joe to bring Sarah back out at the end of his set and do 5-10 minutes with her on stage. They are both extremely talented joke writers and I’d love to see their talent and chemistry come together. I’m sure they would be as funny together as they are on their own. Very!
I stopped and said hello to the newlyweds before I headed out.
The next stop on this D.C. comedycation, was The D.C. Improv to see my buddy, Antoine Griffin and the show I had been waiting to see since July, Dave Attell! I arrived at The Improv and the line to get in was already down the block. I noticed that as people arrived, they were checking in with a man who was standing outside at a podium. I went over and gave him my name. He gave me a slip of paper with a table number written on it. Antoine came outside to say hello and he explained their process to me. For the late show at the Improv, they assign seats before the show begins. They go in the order people bought their tickets from the front of the room to the back. I love this idea. It provides incentive for people to hurry up and buy their tickets as soon as shows are announced and is probably one of the reasons why the Improv never has trouble getting butts in seats and why Dave Attell’s shows were sold out over a month before the event. Talk about a hot ticket! Antoine brought me inside and showed me around. Like all great comedy clubs, you have to go downstairs to get to the main room. It was a good sized space and didn’t have a bad seat in the house. Antoine and I talked about the comedians we are looking forward to seeing in the future and the places we are planning to visit to check out shows. He brought me to my table and the show was ready to begin.
Me and Antoine before the show at The D.C. Improv
Our featured act of the night was Mike Finoia. I have seen Mike perform a few times before in both New York and in Chicago. He is always a killer and D.C. was no exception. I love that comedians like The Impractical Jokers, Jay Oakerson and Dave Attell recognize Mike Finoia’s talent and are bringing him with them on the road. I am sure it is only a matter of time before he is headlining rooms all over the country and we start seeing him featured on the late night talk show circuit.
After his set, Mike brought out the man of the evening, Dave Attell. Dave looked great and was as funny as ever. His performance was made up of a bunch of new material with a couple of his greatest hits sprinkled in throughout the night. He did more than an hour on stage and he kept his lively, sold out crowd laughing the entire time. Dave Attell has the best fans in comedy. When we go to a show we are there to laugh and have a good time. Dave Attell has been making me laugh since I first saw his show, “Insomniac” on Comedy Central in 2001. The thing I always loved about that show was how freaking hilarious Dave was as he interacted with the people he met on the street, in bars, or at their late night jobs. His ability to be so comically present in so many crazy situations not only made for good TV, it also gave viewers the unique opportunity to see a comedy genius at work in real time. Dave Attell is my favorite comedian and I’ll tell you why. He is as prolifically talented at Improv/crowd work as he is at writing and sculpting the perfect joke and when you put these two components together they equal the perfect act. As open as Dave is with his comedy, he remains pretty guarded of his personal life. I’ve heard him interviewed on podcasts and radio shows and the man is as good at evading questions and turning them back onto the interviewer as Kellyanne Conway. The most I have ever heard him share about his life was when he was on Barry Katz’s podcast, “Industry Standard.” Dave Attell is a prodigy joke writer and crowd worker. I would love for him to add story teller to that mix. It would be awesome to hear him tell a couple funny stories from his childhood, his college years, or from any of the crazy shit he’s experienced in his life as a comedian, during his act. I know this is completely out of his element, but why not? Stories are meant to be told and he has so many. I would love to hear more. Seeing Dave Attell is always a pleasure. Thanks for the funny!
Dave Attell after the show in D.C.
After the show I hung out for a minute to say hello to Mike and Dave. I also wanted to tell Antoine how much I loved this club and what a great time I had before I headed out. I had The Big Hunt in my phone and like a true tourist was ready to order my Uber. Thankfully, Antoine stopped me and let me know that it was only a couple of blocks away from The Improv. He is such a class act that he actually walked me there himself and introduced me to Sean Joyce who not only books and produces shows at The Big Hunt, but was also responsible for getting Joe List and Sarah Tollemache out to Drafthouse Comedy Theater as well. I was impressed. The Big Hunt has a pretty large bar area upstairs and an intimate comedy room on the lower level. The late, late show on Saturday night was an open mic, 5 minute set type of show. That gave me the chance to see a bunch of D.C. talent during the time I was there. It was a good show and everyone was funny but out of all of the comedians I saw go up, Paris Sashay was the standout for me. Her jokes were funny and her style was smooth. She was a natural on the stage. She has a look that would work for television and a voice that was made for radio or podcasts. My “spidey sense” was telling me that she is a star. Check her out!
Me and Sean Joyce at The Big Hunt
After my trip to D.C. I returned home to Chicago and had a very pleasant conversation with another friend I made during my time at Just For Laughs this summer, Cathy Carlson. I was introduced to Cathy by a mutual friend at one of the JFL after parties. Carlson is the creator and director of the comedic documentary, “Everybody Has An Andy Dick Story.” She was at the festival because her film had been shown earlier that evening. I gushed over the big names like Ben Stiller, Pauly Shore and Nick Swardson she had featured, telling Andy Dick stories in her film and she remained as humble as can be. Cathy was extremely cool and from the moment we met, I felt like we had known each other for ages. The reason for her call was to let me know that she was bringing her documentary to The Chicago Comedy Film Festival and was interested in putting on a live, stage version of “Everybody Has An Andy Dick Story” while she and Andy Dick are in town. Andy got his start in Chicago and I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome him home.
I made a couple of phone calls, wrote a couple of emails and was able to make the arrangements for Cathy Carlson, Dino Stamatopoulos, Andy Dick to bring this movie to life on the stage at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago. They were planning on showing the film at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival on Saturday, November 11th and then telling their own personal “Andy Dick Stories” live on Zanies stage with special guests on Sunday, November 12th.
Of course all of this took place before Andy Dick became swept up in what they are calling The Harvey Weinstein Effect. This week, Dick made headlines when he was pulled off of two movies for behavior described as groping and licking people on the face and propositioning people on the set. In his defense, Dick answered the allegations saying that he is known for outrageous behavior but denied that any of his behavior has risen to the level of sexual harassment or intimidation. But in the wake of recent events, the Chicago Comedy Film Festival has banned the film. She, Andy and Dino are still coming out to Chicago and will be showing it at another venue.
Comedy brings people together. In addition to the “summer camp” experience of JFL I also made a new friend when I went to Skankfest comedy festival this summer as well. Her name is Erin and she lives about 30 minutes away from me, but it was comedy that brought us together all the way out in New York. After Skankfest ended we made plans to see Bert Kreischer, one of the headliners from Skankfest play The Chicago Improv when he comes to town. Time flies when you’re having fun and “Bert Kreischer Day” was here before we knew it. We saw him do a set at Skankfest but I had never seen him do an hour before. Bert is a story teller extraordinaire. He keeps the audience with him as he takes us on wild rides through his memories and experiences. One of the stories I particularly enjoyed was of the time Kreischer was in grade school and got chastised by 7 ft 4 NBA legend, Ralph Sampson in front of the entire student body for saying that he liked to “party hardy.” Bert might have been “partying hardy” from a young age but he and fellow comedians Ari Shaffir, Tom Segura, and Joe Rogan are putting their party days on hold for the entire month of October for a bet called “Sober Octobert.” Kreischer admitted that he was actually told not to take this challenge on by “his people” because they were afraid it might negatively affect his ticket sales. His team apparently felt that people wouldn’t be interested in seeing him perform sober.. Well, that shows how much they know. His shows were sold out and his act was impeccable. He also did something I have never seen before. It was called a “waitstaff raffle.” He put $100 in a bucket then asked the audience to contribute whatever they wanted, if they wanted and come up to the stage and put their money in the bucket to raffle off to the waitstaff. He estimated there was about $1200 in the bucket so he pulled two names for two lucky winners to split the big jackpot. Then he put $100 more dollars in and pulled 5 more names and gave the $20 each. He is more than “The Machine” he’s a really good person as well. We had a great time. Thanks for the funny!
Bert with the two winners of the waitstaff raffle!