Fort Worth — Emily Heller finished a residency at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth Saturday night with some really funny bits about being exactly what the audience envisioned: a sad, boring liberal vegetarian snowflake who’s in therapy in Los Angeles.
In the third annual Phib Comedy Series, Heller spoke of crying while making pancakes the day after the election when all of LA called out sick because they’re “all too fragile.” That day, she had the first of many thoughts she thought she’d never have when she decided to start eating her boogers again. She quit when she was 12 because she wanted to be a part of adult society. But, now, what’s the point? She no longer cares about adult society.
Heller also didn’t want the audience to leave thinking she hates men; she wanted those in attendance to leave knowing she hates men. She admittedly shushes people for fun and wants to convey an image of “don’t talk to me.” Yet, she comes across as perfectly affable onstage. Her hour-long set was witty and tight.
A bit about joining a gym, receiving a free session with a personal trainer and listing her fitness goals just kept going, getting funnier and funnier with each line.
Heller has a boyfriend, “which is fine.” But she spoke of her disdain when friends mention she’s “hit a homerun” because she found a man through a dating site. She equates online dating to getting food poisoning every day. And now she has finally found a dish she likes that doesn’t make her sick, so she keeps ordering it.
She reads one actual real-live message from a potential suitor that goes off the rails to hilarious effect.
Heller also took the old “runaway train” and “off the rails” apothegms to the proverbial next level with a meandering joke about the current administration.
It started with her explaining the need for jokes in times of high anxiety, such as when she used to crack wise on the subway whenever the train suddenly comes to a halt between stops. But she knew eventually those trips would resume, and she would get uptown as expected.
In another scenario, Heller asks the audience to presuppose the POTUS is the conductor. Once the stalled train resumes, it speeds past all uptown stops and begins travelling at hundreds of miles an hour toward Sea World in New Jersey. As the passengers of her ilk scream in horror, other passengers spin their heads around in the style of The Exorcist and proclaim their love of the new conductor because he says exactly what’s on his mind.
It’s a hysterical bit. It just keeps going with Heller as the true conductor. She effortlessly makes quick tangents throughout the joke that are relevant and funny in and of themselves and even funnier within the longer bit. The passengers of this haunted, runaway subway toilet end up hanging precariously upside down on the loop the loop part of a roller coaster with orca blood all over the place. It’s not a trip for the faint of heart and could be seen as an allegory for Heller’s and much of the Left’s view of what’s going on in Washington.
Paulos Feerow opened the night trying to get some traction with a couple racially tinged jokes that didn’t land with all of the audience. Still, the few that followed him down the rabbit hole, enjoyed where he was heading. Feerow used the space to explore new material that garnered the instant feedback only stand-up can provide, but in a setting more akin to a play.
And that’s part of the appeal of this series that Amphibian Stage Productions plan to perpetuate. It’s the brainchild of Baron Vaughn (Netflix’s Grace and Frankie), who will begin his own residency in Cowtown this week.
The Phib Comedy Series seeks to highlight comics who bring an intelligence and social awareness to their craft that may go unnoticed at an open mike or get lost in the crowd of an eight-person lineup at a two-drink minimum hole in the wall.
“The typical process for comedians to develop new material is quite brutal,” according to Kathleen Culebro, artistic director of Amphibian Stage Productions. “They write in isolation and then try the jokes in front of audiences who are frequently more interested in drinking than what the performers have to say. We provide comedians the same environment we offer playwrights: a safe, nurturing environment to take risks and try new ideas. By the end of their residencies, they have polished sets that are ready for national television and comedy clubs around the country.”