Rather than do a Top 10 list, I decided to compile some surprises in the 2013 comedy scene, local and beyond:
Best discovery for 2013 was the rolling riot that is comedian Twitter feeds. A perfect venue for professional quipsters. Few topical events go unquipped and often the quips just keep on coming. Occasionally new material is tried out. And, of course, gigs are plugged. Woe be to trolls who heckle a comedian on Twitter: they are comically trounced and their humiliation retweeted.
Tweet feeds can be a great insight to comedian psyches. Maybe too much. I know far more than I want to about Lizz Winstead’s politics, but her non-topical zingers are worth it. Dana Gould makes you go “huh” and even worry a bit about the guy. Jim Gaffigan is a mix of topical observations and rescue flares from home life with five children. The master is Colin Quinn, whose rolling subconscious blurbage has an intense and interactive follower base. Sharp and wicked, but hard to follow if you’re not in his stream all the time, so visit his page to watch the hysterical cyber drama unfold.
My favorites, though, are two Dallas based comics: Aaron Aryanpur and Paul Varghese. I suffered through the Christmas season with family man Aryanpur. I felt his pain and then I laughed. But occasionally he’ll hit a deep note that’ll take your breath away. Varghese may be the perfect quipster. His touring tweets are hysterical. Heck, so are his tweets from the grocery store. A great blend of single guy party lifestyle and sweetly warped bits about his extended Indian family.
Give it 5 years tops and some South Indian couple will name their kid "Selfie".— paulvarghese (@paulvarghese) December 26, 2013
My baby boy turns 9yo today. The pessimist in me says that means he's halfway to moving out. The optimist in me says the exact same thing.— Aaron Aryanpur (@aaroncomedian) December 27, 2013
Deep Ellum Comedy Crawl Success
Though I was off on a reviewing gig that night, raves for this fall’s Comedy Crawl shot round the social networking sphere. Spearheaded by Paul Varghese, and joined by Aaron Aryanpur and Jason James, the gang of comics roamed Deep Ellum, doing short pop-up sets at four nightclubs, with fans often following along. A great idea sponsored by the Dallas Observer.
The standout show for 2013 was Jerry Seinfeld at the Winspear Opera House. Sure, he’s the master, but I did not realize how masterful until watching his full show. His material’s not much different from others, yet he makes it look so easy, keeping it intimate even in a 2,200-seat hall. Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee starts Jan. 2.
Paul Reiser is a damn fine comic. Who knew? Sure he started in stand up before Diner, but figured the chops were lost in the Mad About You era and all those too-cute Babyhood/etc. books. He turned in a great set in March at Hyena’s of all places.
So nice to swelter outdoors in August with Flight of the Conchords at the Comedy and Oddball Fest. Sure want to see more of them. Sigh.
The highpoint of fall was Dana Carvey in the Saturday Night Reunion Tour. Totally stole the show from the other two headliners and owned the Q&A session afterward. Carvey crafted an artful blend of classic material and new bits. Hoping to see a solo tour and special in 2014.
Most comedy clubs are dark and skanky with an aroma of stale beer and patrons packed in like sardines. Until you visit the Arlington Improv. The bright lobby and big bar area are great, and the listening room is terrific—uncrowded and multi-leveled with superb sight lines and acoustics. The even larger Houston Improv also got an upgrade. So the Addison Improv is next, right? Right?
Funniest Comic in Truly Texas
Comedy contests are weird anyway, with humor being so subjective. And a comic can ace one night and bomb the next with the same set, depending on the audience mood. But they’ve got benefits, too, like giving a big boost to young unknown comics. That’s the case with Raul Sanchez of San Antonio who won the 2013 Funniest Comic in Texas, sponsored by the Addison Improv. His disarming stage persona, finely tuned timing and unique word inflections set him ahead of even seasoned comics.
In spite of its title, the contest used to be ridiculously North Texas focused. Karen Cunningham, local talent coordinator for Addison Improv, broadened it by soliciting competitor suggestions from comedy club owners in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Preliminaries were staged over three nights, with two dozen comics given 10 minutes, longer than most comedy contest sets, to strut their stuff. Kudos!
Here's a video of Sanchez:
The 2013 Year in Review series: