The word “apocalypse” implies an ending. Some people think it involves hellfire, a meteor, Cthulhu or some other type of cataclysm. Shows at the Barn are over the quarter. Some of us may never see another Barn show as UCR students. To herald this change, the Barn and KUCR had its own apocalypse on Wednesday night: a Comedy Apocalypse.
The show began to a light crowd of about 50 attendees, with many of the Barn’s patrons sitting at the dining tables or placing last-minute food orders. However, the chairs lined up in front of the stage were quickly filled as emcee Juan “Action” Flores was wheeled out in a high-back leather chair. Dressed in Christ-like regalia, he rose to the microphone as the opening bars of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” filled the room.
His introductory skit, designed to warm up the audience for the four comedians lined up for the evening, featured him giving a rambling diatribe about the importance of motivational speakers motivating motivational speakers, and featured the return of the “douchebag frat boy” character featured prominently in the last comedy apocalypse. After a back-and-forth and an impromptu lesson in empowered speech, the frat boy character left the stage, promising to withdraw from his fellow fraternity brothers’ sabbatical from gay sex.
The first comedian on the docket was Paul Morrissey, known for his extensive touring and appearances on HBO and at the Hollywood Improv. The youngest of the four, he derived most of his observations from the banal, from the disappointing quality of Subway meats to the astounding variety of breads. Much of his humor was easily relatable, and he made a point of interacting with the audience before several bits. His comedy, while not particularly unique to those familiar with standup, was empathetic and hilarious, as the absurdity of his routine was grounded in common knowledge.
In lieu of skits, Juan filled the space between acts by reciting a few posts made on the Facebook page “UCR Hookups,” which featured anonymous fantasies and ludicrous anecdotes, ranging from an angry ex calling someone out for giving them chlamydia to a recounting of a bout of athletic, passionate sex with UCR’s own Scotty the Bear in the top floor of the Rivera Library.
The next performer was comedienne Jackie Kashian, the only female performer of the night. In a field that is typically dominated by men she held her own and was easily one of the strongest performers of the evening. Her act consisted of long, breathless recountings of stories that had all the tangibility and coherence of an acid trip. She interjected small one-liners in her diatribes, somehow relating adult Facebook friends to physical punishment and online dating in one, unbroken sentence. While at times hard to follow, the sheer absurdity and force of her performance reduced the audience to a hysterical stupor. A misplaced Midwesterner, she ended her set with a bit about the California trend of creating jobs to fix nonexistent problems, with promises to release a mask to cure canine sleep apnea.
Henry Phillips took the stage afterward and began showing off his professional experience. A veteran comedian and star of the underground hit “Punching the Clown,” he discussed male loneliness and life with social awkwardness, with much of his humor deriving from juxtaposition. He mixed music and comedy, and struggled to play a song about wishing he could play the guitar before launching into an amazing medley of the guitar intro to Heart’s “Crazy on You” and Yes’ “Roundabout,” before playing a faux-morose tune about how much of a bitch his ex-girlfriend was. He capped things off with a jaunty tune about forgiving ourselves for our mistakes, with references to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, the medical malpractice case against Michael Jackson’s former doctor and the sinking of the Exxon Valdez.
“The Young Turks” are some of the most popular Internet political commentators, and veteran comedian and Young Turk co-host Jimmy Dore was the final act of the evening. On tour since the late ‘80s and with multiple comedy specials under his belt, Dore gave the modest crowd at the Barn an excellent performance that wouldn’t be out of place in a sold-out theatre. Much of his humor was based on the absurdity of politics and American society, and though he came from an earlier generation, enough of his material was relatable enough to resonate with the audience. He wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of the evening, tackling rape, homosexuality and gender in his performance. While some may argue that humor of this type is never acceptable, it’s the effort of comedians like Dore that can help cope with some of the bleaker aspects of the human condition. Laughter has a way of bringing people together across social and cultural strata, and finding the humor in somber situations is what good standup is all about. Besides, the jokes weren’t at any one group’s expense, as we’re all jerks in Dore’s eyes.
With midterms in full swing and the general malaise of spring quarter hitting everyone hard, only about half of the seats were filled. While it is a shame that much of the student body missed what was clearly one of the best events of the year, the small crowd created a warm, intimate atmosphere that generated a certain electricity in the air.