Fort Worth — Many comedians like to say that they perform stand-up because they can’t do anything else. Baron Vaughn thinks he’d make a kick-ass grocery store manager. Luckily for us, he has come to realize creating funny bits to share is what he truly kicks ass at.
Saturday night Vaughn completed a week-long residency at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth with a hilarious set that showcased his many talents.
He went to school with one of the Amphibian producers and did some gigs there in 2015. He liked the theater and asked to come back for a week’s worth of shows to hone new material. Vaughn was drawn to the space because it is less cookie-cutter than many current comedy clubs. And his set is more like a one-man theater stage show than a typical stand-up gig with two-drink minimum.
Vaughn is beyond witty. His comedy is on point and of the moment. His riffs on current events seem to come almost as they happen.
He mentioned how sometimes comedians try to find the funny in tragedy too quickly, which has spawned the ubiquitous “too soon?” that many comics lean on after a failed attempt at a joke in such a situation. But Vaughn brought that trope to life by adding how joking about mass murders and shootings of unarmed citizens and attacks on police can never be too soon if these atrocities are constantly happening.
He cross-references decades-old pop culture themes within larger bits about Yelp reviews, the comments section of Consumer Reports mattress reviews and space exploration, to brilliant effect. One joke about possible intelligent life on other planets ends with a punchline that no editor will run in print, and then he riffs about how the audience won’t be able to relay that joke to friends and family because of said punchline and its racial epithet. As if the joke itself wasn’t funny enough, the meta joke-within-the-joke is even funnier.
It’s plain to see why Vaughn stars alongside some of best actors in the world in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and has been tapped to be a part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot. He more than holds his own in scenes with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen. And he is able to evoke many different characters with the slightest change in his voice.
During his bit about Gold Star Yelpers and their potential extortion of small businesses, he cops an affectation that he later admits kind of sounded like some small-time Jersey thumb-breaker crossed with Denzel Washington—which it did.
But that’s what the residency at Amphibian Stage was for—working out the kinks on some new material, including some really funny stuff about getting old and needing a seat all the time, and a future with homeless robots.
Vaughn will continue collaborating with the Fort Worth venue; he brought four comedians to Amphibian this year, and has plans to bring four or five more in 2017, comics he feels are flying under the radar.
Luckily for us, he is using his talents to entertain rather than run a Publix.
» Our February story about Amphibian's comedy series, which Vaughn curated