The Village Underground was awash in a sea of comedians and industry last night for the 60th birthday roast of the guy everyone loves to roast on a constant basis all year long, Rich Vos. Bonnie McFarlane and Kate Conner should be very proud of the event they created and I’m so glad that they filmed it, like with five cameras, because the world needs to see it and it needs to be memorialized.
It was literally one of the most fun comedy events I’ve ever attended. Everyone brought their A-game.
The excitement was already building when I got there at an hour early. The line was already long down the street and club manager Liz Furiati was outside keeping order and also helping to guide people to their seats. It was a strict list and everyone on that list was taken to an assigned seat. Anyone not on that list had to stand if they were lucky enough to get in.
When I got there, Dante Nero and Von Decarlo were hanging outside and we all went in together. We walked in with Keith Robinson who refused to take the card. He’s like, “ I don’t need any m-f’in card, I’ve been working here for years and I don’t need a card to tell me where to go.” Everyone was laughing so hard I never noticed whether he took the card or not. He had a great seat where many of the comics singled him out from the stage making fun of his physical condition.
I was there with my crew to shoot interviews at the after-party which started as soon as the roast was over. I had a great seat where I was able to shoot stills without bothering anyone, and there were soooooo many comics. I was standing and talking about traveling to Israel and all kinds of cool things with co-owner George Buchalter when they started filing in. Then the main owner Noam Dworman came in and I was able to congratulate him on the birth of his new baby.
And then the comics began filing in. Just to name a few, Gary Gulman, Tom Shillue, Ardie Fuqua, Jessica Kirson, Dave Smith, Lauren Kubera, Pete Lee, Marina Franklin, Nate Bargatze, Tom Cotter and his lovely wife Kerri Louise, Chemda and Keith Malley from “Keith and the Girl”, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson from “Guys We Fucked”, Jamie Roberts with his girlfriend Nicky Sunshine, Anthony Cumia, Sam Roberts, John Feder better known as Club Soda Kenny, Ron Bennington and Gail Bennington, plus tons more.
All the tables had temporary tattoos of Rich Vos’ face as novelty giveaways. I didn’t see anyone putting them on.
Before the show started they were showing a loop of photos of Vos bare chested as if he was modeling in a magazine with a tennis racket. They showed Vos in all his tattooed glory and he struck poses reminiscent of many hot female models.
By about 8:15, the audience started to chant/clap “Vos, Vos, Vos” as they were anxious to get underway. The dais came out and from left to right it was Bobby Kelly, Joe DeRosa, Jim Florentine, and Luis J. Gomez. Then the podium with Bonnie McFarlane, and then Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Judy Gold, and Big Jay Oakerson. The show started with a friend of Bonnie’s singing an original, kind of sentimental song about Vos and his marriage to Bonnie, which was fodder for some of the comics to make fun of.
Then Bonnie took the stage and started killing right away. She is truly one of the funniest and quickest people working today. She did a few minutes up front before bringing out the birthday boy to a standing ovation, saying something like “ It’s too bad he reached an age he can’t pronounce.” His manner of speech, if that’s what you want to call it, was the topic of many of the jokes, as when Jim Florentine who went up 7th out of 10 and totally crushed and said when Vos comes to his house he makes him say “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore” so he could water his lawn.” Again since I wasn’t taping, I’m paraphrasing many of the jokes.
Bonnie brought Jim Norton up first because she said he was “the most AIDS’y”. Each of the comics shpritzed everybody on the dais. Bonnie introduced him by saying she hates his show so much she’d rather listen to her daughter drowning. Norton came back with, “If you wanna see your daughter drown, have your husband stand over her when he speaks!” The comebacks were fast and furious! Jimmy said it was great that Vos was celebrating “60 years of no accomplishments.”
As a testament to that and as a complete surprise to Bonnie, somewhere during the show, they put up a photo of the guy she was dating before Vos, a 6’2”, handsome Canadian actor, TV and film star named Nathan Fillion who starred as Richard Castle in the ABC series “Castle” and had approximately 173 major credits to his name, against a screen with Rich Vos’ credits naming a few out of town comedy clubs. Bonnie was shocked and swore to me that she had no idea that was going to be part of the show. They also had a very cute video of comics talking about the first time they met Vos and usually what a dick he was to them.
Tom Papa said that when he was a young comic, Vos offered to give him some advice and he was all excited thinking he’d get some nuggets from a pro, and Vos told him to make sure he eats before he goes on because the food where they were performing was very good. Colin Quinn said when he first met Vos, with the way he was wearing his hair, he looked like Hector Camacho’s sister, and Keith Robinson remembered very clearly hearing Vos offstage as he was performing as a young comic, saying loudly enough for him to hear, “This guy sucks!”
Every single comic was amazing. Usually at roasts you have to worry that the comics before you would do some of your lines, but there was no repetition. Jim Florentine told me he did have to do some quick editing in his head and opened with a different line than he had planned.
Bobby Kelly said that Judy Gold was one of the funniest guys working today. Judy said they’re coming out with a new fragrance called “Vos”. It makes you smell like you’re jealous of Louis C.K.
Colin Quinn came out like the true comedy statesman he is. He took the podium and was all business destroying everything in his path. He called Bobby Kelly “the Chinese Clemenza” and when he told Joe DeRosa he had “the charisma of an NPR listener” Bobby almost fell out of his chair. He almost had to leave the stage he was laughing so hard. He also said to Bonnie and Vos, referring to the five camera shoot, “You told us all this was just a friendly roast and now I find out that it’s televised!”
Possibly the biggest kudos go to Big Jay Oakerson, who went on 10th and you had to wonder what was left to say, but Jay found it. For a comic who usually does only crowd work, Jay showed he’s also a master at writing jokes. He referenced all of Colin Quinn’s specials available in one complete package entitled “The Jerry Seinfeld Owes Me One” collection and asked him, “What? Did you see Seinfeld kill a hooker or something?” Wondering why Jerry is always there for Colin. He reminisced about how Bobby Kelly used to look back in the day and asked, “What happened to you? Did you piss off a gypsy in 2005?” It was amazing.
Then Bonnie introduced the man of the hour. She kept yelling to him, “You’re on a roast” as if he was deaf and couldn’t hear. The first thing Vos said when he came to the mic was “I’m at Gotham this weekend.” And of course he mentioned he’d be selling his DVDs. He told Joe DeRosa he was built like “a jellyfish with scoliosis!” He called Bobby Kelly a “buffet molester” and had a spirited back-and-forth with Anthony Cumia.
Then it ended and I did my video interviews with Vos and all of the roasters, plus a lot of the comics who attended, at the great VIP after-party where food and cake was served.
That’s all for now. But more to follow in my column next Monday! I’m OUT!!!