3rd Time’s a Charm at Oddball Festival

18 Oct

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For the third year in a row, we headed to the Circuit of the America’s race track for a stacked night of stand-up comedy. Caitlin and I bonded over our love of music festivals, but I’ve found myself getting even more excited about comedy festivals lately* and this one is a special one-day treat. You get two legit arena headliners in Aziz and Schumer, three theater-level comedians in Jeselnik, Thune and TJ Miller, a couple up and coming comedians you may not know, but are more hit than miss and it’s hosted by the Roastmaster General himself, Jeffrey Ross. All that packed into 3.5 hours makes Oddball a must every year for us, so we were happy to return for the third year of the touring fest.

*I don’t think I’ll ever make this claim, but I have definitely felt expanded by the comedians that Zack has opened me up to. There’s enough love in my heart to go around to various artistic endeavors.

Our comedy-loving friends, Madison and Katie, came by to pre-game the show with sandwiches and fries from Sputnik washed down with pumpkin beer*, as we talked and half-watched the second half of the A&M-Bama game. Once it was clear A&M wasn’t coming back and we’d drunk all the pumpkin beer, we hopped in the car, much to Scooby’s chagrin, and headed to the race track.

*And Coke for the ladies, since I am still recovering from a cold and Katie has a bebe growing in her body.AshleyBarnhillWe got settled far up the hill on the lawn as Jeffrey Ross finished a little audience roasting and singing a song before introducing the first comedian of the night, Ashley Barnhill. She had a solid enough set, telling a lot of awkward dating jokes that went over pretty well, but are best suited for a crowd of 150 rather than 14,000. All four of us had seen her previously* and liked her a bit more in the smaller venue, but she gave us some laughs and got the night going**.

*I did? I don’t recall seeing her or saying that I did, but I guess I believe it. 

**Again, I don’t recall seeing her in a smaller venue and I really didn’t like her at all. I guess it was the other three of us. The jokes were all focused on “I’m a privileged white girl living in L.A.,” and if she was playing at that as a character, it didn’t come across. Plus I’m pretty sure she went to my rival high school, so.

78B99F4B-07B0-F0AD-800CDE4CEEF35FF0Next up was Jak Knight, who was new to all of us, but we became instant fans. One great bit about what a parent can do to get so little respect by their kids that they call them by their first name*. The touch of calling the dad “Alan” really made it. I don’t want to spoil the bit, but check out the young 21 year-old Jak if you get a chance.**

*This one wasn’t my favorite joke, as it was centered around not drinking until you’re 21 and I almost didn’t and I doubt my kids will think I’m any more uncool than any other kids’ parents.

**I appreciated much more his various bits about sharing stories with friends and timely stuff about gun laws.

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I have so many thoughts on Bridget Everett. Primarily, though, I think that a large woman owning her sexuality completely and being 100% in control of how the audience views her is a novel kind of act. There wasn’t ever fully a sense that someone was laughing at her for her size — yes, there is that initial thing of, ‘Oh, this large women is going to be lifted up like an airplane by this guy?!’ but that is so quickly pushed out by the fact that she’s just owning her singing and her movements and everything else that it just feels very exciting. Her act is incredibly physical, even for select audience members*, and I wonder if she has a sense of who is going to play along with her and who wants to run away and hide, or if she just goes for it with whoever. I wondered aloud last night, after the set, if she ever does get inappropriately touched while putting herself out there — that would be my biggest concern as the performer — but at least for our set, everyone was respectful and played along and just had a hilariously good time** at this sudden rock ‘n’ roll cabaret.

*Especially the guy she brought on stage so she could sit on his face and the old guy in the crowd whose head she put under her blouse. 

**She’s a lot of fun. I don’t know that I’d go see her at a standalone show, but was glad to see her in person. 

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Nick Thune took the stage next to tell one long story that hit a little close to home. The hilarious story was almost a note for note re-telling of our own experience with Scooby eating a pot brownie a few months ago. From the part where the author himself doesn’t like edibles, through it being a wedding gift that was stored and forgotten about to coming home to a very high dog and a stressful, music-free drive to the emergency vet, Nick was killing us softly with his song. Killing us softly with laughs, too. It was nice to know we’ve all been there and we’re at the point where we can laugh heartily at it, now that both his dog and Scooby are fine. Mostly I feel cheated out of our joke. We were here first, Thune!

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After Thune was done we had an intermission, during which DJ trauma played us his usual mix of “Turn Down for What,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Hey Ya” and “We Will Rock You” to wake up the crowd. I’m getting a little tired of that same collection of songs, but they are respectable enough go-tos*. Host Jeffrey Ross came back on to roast a dozen or so crowd members and did a damn good job, as always. He brought up a couple of guys who looked to be at least 40 years old who said they were roommates and mockingly complimented them on being over-achievers. He got in a potentially sticky situation when one woman he brought up said she was a cancer survivor, but handled it deftly as he said, “Hey, if she can survive cancer, there’s hope for whatever disease this guy’s got,” pointing at the next audience member up to be mocked. It’s pretty tough to mock random people on the spot and make it be funny without being too mean and Ross delivers pretty much every time**.

*The only one I danced and sang to was “Hey Ya” because that song will always be perfect.

**Ross is fine. I’ve come around on him somewhat. I don’t always love roast humor because I think it’s more creative to make jokes about things that aren’t mean girl-style, but since he allows audience members to pick themselves out to be roasted, and GENERALLY avoids the obvious (although he did tell one woman she looked more pregnant than a woman who actually was pregnant, which was not great) I’ve warmed to him.

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The lovable, existential stoner TJ Miller took the stage next to give his usual oddball shtick. His bits are cleverly crafted, with strong wordplay, pretty deep ideas in that stoner friend you actually listen to kind of way and he’s always good for a strong 20 minutes. While mocking Evian water spray as he fully admitted to loving using it, he was incessantly spraying himself down. I had forgotten TJ was on the bill and was pleasantly surprised. TJ tends to start out too random for me in his sets. His “shtick” seems like it’s going for that confrontational bizarro talking-to-yourself thing that Andy Kauffman used to do, but then he takes it in a different direction which I quite like. He comments on social injustices in a way that makes you think but also makes you laugh, which is why I appreciate him, and why he was a really good warm-up for Schumer & Aziz (and should have gone on right before them rather than the shitstorm we’re about to talk about now…)

anthony-jeselnik1As long as you can separate the man from the jokes, Anthony Jeselnik is quite enjoyable. If you can’t get past jokes about babies being left in hot cars, Anthony wishing his mother was in a flight that crashed into the twin towers and jokes about the one thing Anthony says we aren’t allowed to make jokes about now (transvestites) then you’ll have a tough time with Jeselnik. I enjoyed his new set. His new hour is now on Netflix, and having watched it this morning, he basically did a 20 minute version of it for us. I recommend it. UGH. I do not recommend Jeselnik at all. We all already have dickish white homophobic guys in our lives (they’re everywhere! AHH!) so why sit through 30 minutes of one who happens to have a microphone in his hand? In fact, his ego is so fragile that when some kid who had abandoned his post in the front row finally returned during Jeselnik’s set, Jeselnik had him forcibly removed by security. As “a bit,” except that they really removed him. What the actual fuck, Jeselnik? He makes obvious “jokes” about things that make white straight cis-male dickheads uncomfortable (see: transgender jokes, above) rather than trying to come up with something new and interesting. I’m not the joke police, but when you’re kicking a marginalized group while they’re already down you’re pretty much a worthless skeeze in my book, even if it is “an act.”

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“First order of business, let’s get that kid back out here,” Amy Schumer said as she took the stage. This was a perfect first act*, because it signaled that she was about to undo all of the damage Jeselnik had done** during his set. Amy was just fantastic, laying out problems with our views on sex (“Why aren’t there any sex acts where the woman gets to enjoy herself? Name one!” she challenged the audience, to which one guy yelled out a name for where a girl gives the guy a BJ while he’s pooping***…his wife smacked him and we all, including Amy, cheered at this. But hello, underlining the point!) and body image and rape culture. As a woman starting to develop a love for comedy, I feel so lucky that we have artists like Schumer out there speaking to at least a portion of the female experience. Now get us some ladies of color on the Oddball tour and we’ll be in good shape!

Amy was excellent, as always, but this wasn’t her absolute best performance. She admitted that the enormous Texas bugs drawn to the stage lights were freaking her out and she spent a couple minutes screaming and running away from them. Despite the bugs, she was able to do her normal thoughtful, self-aware great act and it made me excited to watch her HBO special with Caitlin soon.  

*Amy always knows the best thing to do. She’s incredibly aware of her surroundings and how to be her best self. 

** I feel like Jeselnik would use this footnote to make a joke about how much damage he did to her lady bits. Because they used to date. And he’s an asshole.

***Apparently this is called the “Blumpkin.”  

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If you told me I was going to love Aziz Ansari’s set more than Amy Schumer’s before we attended Oddball last night, I would have laughed in your face*. If you had said, “No but seriously, Aziz will have a more feminist, social justice-type set than Amy’s, and you’ll laugh even harder at his jokes!” I would have pushed you away from me a la Elaine Benes**. And yet, you would have been right all along! Aziz had a stupendous set, calling out the whiteness of the Austin audience, the appeal of masturbation (aka the serious filth that comes with sex that we never ever talk about), the face that female orgasms are not a part of sex education in any form or fashion — and he did it all while making us die laughing. Truly, the juxtaposition of a Jeselnik with an Ansari is so striking, because you’ve got Jeselnik in one corner playing to people’s close-minded fears, versus Ansari just exposing our fears and ignorance in a friendly and hilarious but challenging way — and guess who got the most laughs?

*I knew Aziz had the capacity to destroy, but didn’t think there was a chance Caitlin and Katie would walk away saying he was best in show. 

**I’m proud to say I’ve gotten Caitlin hooked on Seinfeld lately. We watch almost ten episodes a week. 

Aziz fucking KILLED. After a year of doing material he researched with a sociologist about how odd it is to date in the world of Tinder and texting, he went back to his old self, but with a more mature, guy who’s been in a serious relationship for a couple years, outlook. He was dirty, but respectful and his rate of jokes and delivery and everything was just stupendous. One of the best stand-up sets I can remember seeing. I can’t wait for next year at Oddball. 

All I can really say about the Oddball festival is, bravo for headlining with one of the most insightful and enjoyable comedians of our time.

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