At the top of his 1 p.m. Just for Laughs Keynote Address entitled “Losers…I mean Loners in Unity,” Colin Quinn marveled, “Do you know how old you have to be to be the serious person at the comedy convention?” As always, his gruff, stuttering, defiantly lovable persona was by turns self-effacing and unapologetically aggressive. A typical comedy career is not one that reaches a series of levels, he noted, pointing to his own varying successes with Remote Patrol, Tough Crowd and now one-man show Unconstitutional. There will always be ups and downs. And in order to avoid some of those downs, his advice included the following:
Bookers – Stop trying to edit comics’ sets.
Networks – Stop following “established” plans that do nothing but fail (and don’t test market to 14-year-olds).
Club owners – Stop hiring crowd-pleasing hacks. Respect the joke-writing process. Deal with hecklers.
Open micers – It takes five years to get any good. People doing it five years? It takes ten.
Established talent – Don’t be an asshole. Say something. And above all, just be funny.
Later at Cinquième Salle, host Aidy Bryant brought out the nine New Faces: Characters performers to showcase three game-show style “chunks,” offering a rapid-fire sampler of sketch-style mayhem. Standouts included the versatile, sharp Samantha Martin (whose bit on Bjork ordering a pizza hit hard was the evening’s crowd favorite), the avuncular and rubber-voiced Mark Raterman, and the high-energy physical comedy of John Milhiser. The 50/50 split of genders and SNL-bait audition format was a refreshingly theatrical change from the litany of straight, mostly-dude stand-up sets offered elsewhere.
Finally, at the New Faces: Unrepped showcase, Matt Braunger hosted 11 up-and-comers currently unattached to managers/agents. Joe Zimmerman drew the unlucky opening slot but kicked things off on a high note with aw-shucks musings on choosing snakes as pets, the existence of Bigfoot, crime-fighting bears and what a biopic of Andrew Jackson might entail (excessive violence, a foul-mouthed parrot, Samuel L. Jackson in the title role, Samuel L. Jackson voicing the parrot). [Full disclosure: I have previously worked with Zimmerman’s Beards of Comedy group in a PR and booking capacity.]
“If I shave off my moustache,” facial-hair fanatic Doug Smith admitted soon after, “I would look like the 12-year-old I currently look like I molest.” His hipster attire belied a measured confidence, and his writing proved to be quirky yet twisted. “I think cocaine’s a problem if you’re doing a line of coke with a straw while your kid’s standing there crying with an undrinkable Capri Sun.” After sarcastically accepting full responsibility for single-handedly removing Homestyle Fries from the entire Arby’s chain, Mike Polk Jr. received a rare, well-deserved applause break for his building narratives positioning himself as an incredulous anti-hero. (Tip: accepting a vintage engagement ring from him would be a mistake.) And notorious “eavesreader” Andrew Orvedahl applied the same literary standards held by Fifty Shades of Grey to other classic works before delving into the personal realm, detailing both his recent divorce and his 4-year-old daughter peeing on him. Earnest and world-weary, he was the perfect example of how the best comedy often comes from a place of genuineness.
Additional reporting by John Wenzel.