Dallas — Comics at stand-up clubs sometimes have it tough. Especially on weekends the crowd is there to party. Many a time I could barely hear the act on stage for all the talking around me. Why people pay money just to chatter is beyond me. But then again, folks are seated facing each other at tables; the focus is on one another and not the stage. Because of that, club comics (especially ones without a strong following) tend to shape their humor for drunk people on dates, with lots of cursing and jokes about sex and drugs. Which can be funny, but it also gets old quick, particularly to Boomer-aged folks.
Then comes to town a small herd of comedy writers for Conan O'Brien. The late-night host on TBS is taping at the Majestic Theater during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship. A breath of comedic fresh air is wafting over the prairie. These fun folks have been enlivening several eclectic clubs in Dallas:
- March 28 to 30 at Backdoor Comedy Club in North Dallas.
- March 31 at Wits End in Deep Ellum.
- April 1 at Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum.
Brian Kiley is a tall, dapper, bald artesian well of comedy. After 19 years with Conan, he’s got it completely down. Of course, he won us over with his opening line inferring his Los Angeles home: “It’s nice to be around normal people.” One well-crafted bit after another with punchlines that slid in effortlessly. The tight set of clever, self-effacing humor explored raising teenagers in California, but also included general jokeage like this one: “I visited my high school the other day and saw my old gym locker. Can’t believe I used to fit into that thing.” Love bits that require the audience to figure it out — the mark of a pro. Even the pa-dum jokes were good: “Doctors asked my 82-year-old father for a sperm sample. So he brought in my brother.”
The blonde and breezy Laurie Kilmartin is so casual and engaging — an immensely likeable gal. Yet her humor consistently presses the line and dives into dark places. But dang it, she’s up also up there making fun of her unruly Spanx: “I’ve only a few more minutes of air left.” She aces the single-mother material, not surprising since she’s a co-author of the popular Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us. When her son asked how someone contracted lung cancer, she replied: “He played Minecraft.” As with single moms, part of life is dating. Her material on making sure the date was worth the babysitting money was blunt and very funny.
Josh Comers has voices in his head: “They speak Spanish. Hey! If you’re going to live here, learn the language.” A writer on several Comedy Central roasts, he had a fair amount of lightly acerbic digs and slams, and like the other Conan writers he’s dealing with raising kids. But the better stuff was outside that territory: “Football is like my religion in that I’m completely indifferent to it.”
The locals were mostly in top form to impress the guests. Ryan Perrio continues to build his set with Tetris precision, always building, each bit fitting neatly into the next. Most interesting was Bob Strange. A rascal in his late 60s or so, he turned in a very funny set, much of it on marijuana. Chris Brown is one to watch. He can do so much with pauses and facial expressions. And he’s not afraid of political material: “It’s like porn to Fox News when Obama messes up.”
Backdoor Comedy Club is such a fun place to catch stand-up. Tables are set up so you face the stage and the chairs are comfortable—such a rarity for clubs. Nice new backdrop on the stage. Located off the lobby of the Doubletree Inn at N. Central Expy. and E. Northwest Hwy., it’s not in an entertainment district. People go there for the comedy and the crowd skews a little older. Being run by a comedian, Linda Stogner, makes all the difference. Shows usually sell out; wish they had room for 30 more seats.