Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found Andrew Dice Clay and became a stand-up junkie for life. Eighteen months ago, she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday. Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. This is her column. In this edition, Sara heads to New York City for Skankfest.
Read Notes From a Comedy Junkie Vol 1 here, check out Volume 2 here, and read more about her travels with Volume 3 (Chicago), Volume 4 (St. Louis), Volume 5 (Moontower), Volume 6 (Los Angeles) and Volume 7: Colossal Clusterfest and The Comedy Store.
When I first started listening to Big Jay Oakerson, Dave Smith, and Luis J. Gomez on the Legion of Skanks podcast, I remember hearing Luis say that he wanted to get their fans together for a pizza party. This was during a time when it was just The Skanks, The Creek, and their fans. It was a time when episodes were streamed live on YouTube and everyone who watched knew that these guys were completely out of their minds and destined for greatness. I remember thinking that a pizza party was a great idea and that it would undoubtedly be the wildest pizza party anyone had ever been to… I’m glad that Luis’ dreams didn’t end there because here I am, just a few years later, writing about another one of his big ideas; a three day celebration of all things LOS… which happened to feature some of the biggest names in the comedy game. Skankfest was an insane weekend of great comedy, fun hangs and rock & roll.
I was excited to be back in New York and couldn’t wait to kick off the festivities. My friend and fellow comedy fan flew in from Denver for the weekend and we decided to meet at The Stand for a couple of drinks and an early show before heading off to Skankfest. I got there first and as I approached the door I saw the one and only, Ron Bennington having a cigar outside. Ron is one of my favorite people and I love talking with him about all things comedy whenever I have the chance. He is a very smart man, who knows the business well and is always completely cool. I guess that’s why he’s the best at what he does. I let him know how much I was looking forward to his “Unmasked” at Skankfest with Ari Shaffir and tried not to be too schmaltzy. Tammy Pescatelli arrived shortly there after and she could not have been any nicer. I love this place! I moved inside and took a seat at the bar. Just then, comedian Derek Gaines came in and sat next to me. I’ve met him a couple of times and as a matter of fact, the last time I saw him was about six months ago at The Cellar the night I met Amber Rose (that’s a story for another time). He’s always been cool to me, so I said “hello” and reminded him of that night. He remembered me! I told him I was in town for Skankfest and he said that he was booked to be in my favorite bit from the Moontower Festival, “Debate Off! I was very happy to hear they were bringing “Debate Off” to this festival. Once my friend arrived, I wished Derek good luck in his debate and headed downstairs for some comedy. After the show we hung outside for a bit. I saw Mike Vecchione and told him how funny he was up there and offered a late congratulations for kicking ass on “The Tonight Show.” He mentioned that he used to be a teacher in a special education classroom before he got into comedy and I am always impressed by people who listen to their hearts, make the leap of a career change and follow their dreams; and Mike never ceases to impress me.
This was one heck of a pregame! We got to see a show we loved, hang with old friends and make some new friends too… including two, huge comedy fans from Tennessee. The Stand is always a party but this night was for “Libertas,” so I ordered an Uber, invited our new friends from Tennessee along, and… It was go time!
Hanging with Mike Vecchione at The Stand
Chloe, the two new friends we made from Tennessee and me on our way to “Libertas”
We arrived at The Creek and The Cave and DeathSquad’s “Secret Show” was in the upstairs theater. The house was absolutely packed but there were no worries because my favorite thing about The Creek is that it has a ton of places to hang out and be social. We headed downstairs to the bar, then made our way outside to social butterfly it up. Once outside, I was able to say hello to Earl Skakel, who I had met during my time at The Comedy Store, Christine Evans and Rebecca Trent and all three Skanks. It didn’t take long before the special was ready to begin. I headed into the viewing space downstairs (the garage) and scored front row seats for the premier of Dave Smith’s hour special, “Libertas.”
Just like Dave, “Libertas” was smart, funny, political, and rooted in logic. Dave Smith takes everything you ever though you knew about politics, then flips it upside down and turns it inside out. His intelligent delivery and mastery of logic reminded me of the likes of Joe Rogan and Ari Shaffir who consistently deliver smart comedy that opens your mind and makes you think. For the record, you do not have to agree with Dave’s views or philosophy in order to enjoy his special. As a matter of fact, it’s almost funnier if you don’t agree with him. I’m serious! You see, Dave is a master of the set up. First, he makes a claim and basically anticipates that you aren’t going to agree with him. Then, he breaks down his opinion and finds a way to weave pure logic and humor throughout his premise. By the time he’s through all you can do is shake your head in disbelief at how he has managed to prove his point while making you laugh, again and again! I loved it!
I know Dave from “Legion of Skanks” but he also has a whole other fan base from his other podcast, “Part of the Problem” as well as his many appearances on “Red Eye” with Tom Shillue. The Legion of Skanks on Fox News, you ask?!?! These two worlds do not seem like they should coexist and yet Dave Smith wears them both very well! Mr. Smith was hanging out on the Patio, so I asked if I could talk to him about, his hour special, “Libertas.” Here is a brief snapshot of our conversation.
Thinking about the dichotomy that is Dave Smith had me wondering how important it was to him to keep with a political theme for his first special? Dave said that there was no question about it. When it came time to record his special, it was going to be political at its core because of two main reasons. First, because he is “completely obsessed with politics and comedy” so when he writes, the two are usually conjoined. Second, because he believes that “the political humor being done right now sucks.” He feels that this is largely due to more and more comedians jumping on the political bandwagon and then solely relying on hack or trying to make people feel ashamed for having a different set of beliefs from them and”that’s not comedy.” He then went on to describe the incident that took place last fall when Amy Schumer brought a Trump supporter on stage in the middle of a comedy show. Dave described it as “Amy Schumer, completely abandoning comedy.” He said that, “she essentially shamed the guy for his political beliefs which divided the room and caused hundreds of people to walk out. Fuck that. Where’s the humor in that?” Dave felt passionately that if a comedian is going to do political humor, their number one end game should always be making people laugh. He said that it is the political satirist’s job to reach their audience, especially the members whose views may differ from their own. “You’ve got to get them to a place where they are not only laughing, they are also unable to deny that fact that you ‘got em.” Kind of like a roast. No one’s feelings should ever actually get hurt, even if what you are saying is true and difficult for them to admit. It takes a very smart, skillful joke writer with a very sharp wit to produce that type of delicate material and according to Dave Smith, political satire needs more of them!
I was always taught to avoid talking about religion and politics in social situations because people tend to take both subject matters very seriously. Dave is not saying that comedians should avoid talking about politics. He is saying that if you are going to talk about politics on a comedy platform, make sure you are being funny! Congratulations Dave, “Libertas” was hilarious. It made me laugh, it made me think, then rethink my opinions and most importantly, at no point did anyone “boo” or walk out in protest. You proved that it is possible to be cutting edge, political and hilarious all at the same time. I’d say you nailed it. Bravo!!!
“The SDR Show” was my first official show of the festival. They played a game of “Name That Tune With Consequences” that was completely hilarious. Big Jay Oakerson and Ralph Sutton faced off against each other while Dave Smith acted as host reading clues off of cards to see how many beats each of the guys thought it would take for them to, “Name that tune!!!!” Only, this game had a twist… There were consequences and poor Jay could not seem to win a round to save his life!!! Oh yeah, the guys brought in two lovely side kicks to help them out with this one. The first was the beautiful Alana Luv and the second was a young guy named Francisco. The winner would get to perform each task with Alana while the loser got stuck with Francisco. Some of the consequences I saw were sucking a finger, licking a toe, touching tongues, giving a lap dance, and licking a nipple. Big Jay lost every single round and was forced to carry out all of the above named tasks with Francisco, while Ralph reaped the benefits of his massive bank of musical knowledge with lovely Alana by his side. That was until the final bonus round. This round was Jay’s last chance for a comeback. The consequence they were playing to avoid with Francisco was major! It was “kiss the tip” and that means exactly what you think it does… In the end Jay finally took home a victory with Alana Luv and as for Ralph, well let’s just say that he probably still feels the way Ace Ventura did when he solved the “Finkle is Einhorn” mystery. When Francisco removed his pants to reveal his Speedo, I legit thought he was being funny and had stuffed a huge tube sock into his pants… It wasn’t a sock!!! Ralph’s winning streak ran out on him one round too soon, but he took his consequence in stride and was a good sport about it. I can’t wait to listen to what they come up with next! Thanks for the funny guys!
Jay, Ralph, Francisco, Alana, and Dave as Ralph prepares to accept his consequence
I’ve been to hundreds of shows in my life and never have I ever seen a single comedian start a fire on stage before. Not one! Well, that was about to change because at Skankfest I saw two. The first fire was at the live recording of Robert Kelly’s “YKWD Podcast” with Lauren Kubera, Luis J. Gomez, Dan Soder and special guest, Rich Vos. Bobby was in rare form after drinking one of the can’s of intensely brewed coffee that Luis J. Gomez had given him and apparently he had just about all he could take from Rich Vos’ hat because Bobby ended up setting it on fire! Well, first he told Vos how much he hated it, then he asked how much money it would take for him to let Bobby burn it. Rich said, “$100” so Robert Kelly took out his wallet and put his money where his mouth is. He was a little short so the audience helped him out and contributed the rest. Once the money was collected, Kelly and Vos made the exchange and that poor fedora didn’t stand a chance! Burn baby burn!!! What an experience! They ended up giving the charred remains to the gentleman sitting next to me. Good times!
YKWD was hilarious and Robert Kelly was out of control! I loved it!
The next blaze was started by Luis J. Gomez at the “Kill Tony” podcast. Tony Hinchcliffe, Brian Redban and Jeremiah Watkins came to Skankfest for their “Kill Tony” New York debut. This episode was different from any episode I had heard before it. I don’t know if it’s just because they were in New York and the talent there is second to none, or because we were at a comedy festival with 135 comedians in it and all 135 of the veteran comedians put their names in the bucket, but whatever it was, 60 second set, after 60 second set, every person who’s name got pulled from the bucket, killed! That was until they got to the comedian they so lovingly dubbed “The Riddler on the Roof.” He was wearing a shirt that had green felt question marks glued all over it and Tony Hinchcliffe was very happy to add a little bit of crazy to the mix. The Riddler did his set and within moments of the judges giving their feedback, one of them brought up his shirt. That’s when someone from the crowd screamed, “burn it!!!!” So they did! Luis got a bucket and used the remaining names of comedians inside it as kindling to get the fire started while everyone around him laughed and enjoyed the madness. Skankfest was a party and crazy moments like this were happening everywhere! You had to be there to believe it!
Luis lights the first flame using the comedians’ names out of the bucket
Josh Adam Meyers and “The Goddamn Comedy Jam” may have found themselves a home on the east coast. The fans at Skankfest loved them and this show was thee perfect way to bring the festivities to a close. This was not my first time seeing the show, and it’s always a good time, but this was next level crazy. New York and Skank fans definitely showed them how it’s done. Big Jay came up on stage and set up the song he was going to be performing. It was “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizcut. Jay performed this song with “The Comedy Jam” when I saw them perform at Clusterfest in San Francisco and I remember him saying, “This song would destroy at Skankfest.” Um, he was right!!!!Jay gets up there and was totally on some rock star shit because within moments a mosh pit broke out and the crowd went wild. I was in the front row, so lucky for me there were some real ass gentlemen behind me, because no one hit me and I actually saw a couple of guys blocking the pit from me. What an amazing scene! Thank you for that!!!! But, then it happened… Jay stopped and called for a “Wall of Death.” The entire pit listened and split the room in two… kind of like they were getting ready to do some “Soul Train” line dances only there was no train anywhere in sight so I got the heck out of dodge and ran to the back of the room to be a fly on the wall. At Jay’s command both sides of the wall rushed each other and the mosh pit was INSANE!!! Jay was an absolute rock star, crowd surfing and all. Everyone was having a legitimate blast, the performers included, and that is what made Skankfest a next level comedy festival. The party atmosphere was real and everyone was happy to be there. No one phoned it in. Everyone who took the stage left their heart and soul up there and we all appreciated the vibe. You may be wondering if Jay was the closing act of the festival? He wasn’t. Joe DeRosa brought us home. His song completely killed and summed up my entire Skankfest experience in one line, “I’ve Had The Time of My Life.” I saw the funniest shows, met the coolest people and hung out in the greatest city on Earth for the weekend. It’s going to be hard to top this experience but I fully intend to try!!!
Big Jay Oakerson crowd surfing during his rendition of “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit
Skankfest was much more than a comedy festival. It was a celebration of great hangs, kick ass comedy and rock & roll. It brought people together and kept us thoroughly entertained for an entire weekend. From pizza parties, all the way to Skankfest, Luis J. Gomez never stops inventing ways to keep the comedy cutting edge and the party going strong. He, along with Christine Evans and Rebecca Trent of The Creek and The Cave, were the driving forces responsible for producing the festival to end all festivals, Skankfest; The baddest comedy festival there is! If you missed it this year Luis and his crew are working to make Skankfest an eight city tour in 2018!!! Stay tuned and get out there and support live comedy!
Dave Smith, Big Jay Oakerson and Luis J. Gomez are “Legion of Skanks”