Comedy Apocalypse Underwhelming in the Wake of 2012

Photo by Vincent Ta
Photo by Vincent Ta

Wednesday night’s Comedy Apocalypse was nothing short of one of the worst date night options that the Barn has recently hosted. It was a shame, because with such a promising lineup featuring comedians from major networks, including Comedy Central, NBC and Nickelodeon, as well as shows such as “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” the evening kicked off with a fairly strong start. This was, of course, before audience members began leaving early, fed up with offensive and irrelevant jokes. The show quickly lost momentum and a vicious cycle began: the audience was unresponsive, the comedians became insecure and the negative energy prevented a revival of engagement and laughter.

Kicking off the night was Dwayne Perkins, a Brooklyn native and regular at New York, Boston and Los Angeles comedy clubs. Perkins started out his set with a few jokes that poked fun at the U.S. having the highest attendance at the World Cup, namely that they were showing up to win a sport that they don’t care about. He continued his set with jokes about the evolution of videogames and the absurdities of the Facebook era. “If you say something, like ‘I like almonds’ on Facebook, people will ‘like’ that.” The audience nodded in agreement, realizing the reality of today’s culture of relating and sharing online. “If you walk up to people in real life and say that,” continued Perkins, “you’ll get arrested.” The crowd was, for the most part, warmly receptive of his material and seemed excited for the show to continue as he exited his set.

After Perkins came Robert Yasumura, who said outright that he is unlike most comedians because his sets are always subject to his emotions that day. Audience members shifted in their seats, unsure what to expect next. Nothing could have prepared them for what was about to come. Yasumura must have been in a strange mood, because his set was delivered in an overly deadpan voice that caused the audience to miss the punchlines one too many times. On top of that, the topics he chose to make fun of seemed to come from a very bitter and unhappy place; he commented on everything from his own depression to how naturally thin he is. Although some comedians can somehow make that darkness work by poking at their own insecurities, Yasumura only inspired from the audience the kind of worry that seemed to make them too tense to enjoy the humor he was attempting to convey.

While he did garner a few laughs, it might have been more out of shock value than anything. Some of his bigger jokes included the unfortunate spreading of his own mother’s ashes, which he referred to as “clutter,” as well as his attraction to white women, which apparently progressed to an attraction to skin cancer patients, because “the whiter the better.”

Next up was Gene Pompa, whose familiar face has shown up on “Conan” and “The Late Late Show” with Craig Kilborn. Pompa picked the crowd back up with his more whimsical sense of humor and misdirection. “A woman propositioned me for sex in a club once and I told her no because I’m married. She said, ‘I know, I’m your wife.’ So I said that I don’t mess with married women.” Pompa was endearing in the way that he would fumble during his own jokes, and then look at the audience in a sincere, slightly embarrassed and goofy way.

Photo by Jie Huang
Photo by Jie Huang

The last stand-up set was delivered by Jimmy Dore, writer/performer for “The Marijuana-Logues” and “The Jimmy Dore Show.” Dore had a much more aggressive and critical style than the previous performers, often charged with his own political and religious views, with targets like the Republican Party and the Catholic faith. There were times when Dore seemed unsatisfied with the audience, at one point even criticizing the front row for chuckling silently or just smiling at his jokes as opposed to full-blown laughter.

However, Dore did manage to score a few laughs with his less hostile and more introspective jokes, the best being about the creation of a spray that makes dogs’ feces unappetizing. “What mad scientist,” asked Dore, “is wondering what tastes worse than shit? And even if he were to find it, how would he know?”

The show significantly slowed down when Dore brought the three other comedians back up on stage to criticize and comment on a series of videos in a routine called “Left, Right and Ridiculous.” Dore would should show a video clip and the audience would laugh a bit at its ridiculousness, and then he would say that it was ridiculous and subsequently get visibly upset whenever the audience did not laugh at his redundant commentary.

Photo by Vincent Ta
Photo by Vincent Ta

Dore mostly showed snippets of news shows and reporters who were incompetent for obvious reasons. In one clip showing an Asian reporter covering the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy with an attitude that was too laidback, Robert Yasumura said, “I miss the days when Asian women were just exotic and sexy and not just…incompetent.” In a tone that didn’t convey sarcasm and was actually quite serious and condescending, this statement was bizarre, especially coming from Yasumura who is Asian himself. Laughter was getting sparser and sparser as the show dragged on.

“You know, these jokes are funnier than you think, guys,” Dore told the unimpressed audience. Even his fellow comedians suffered from his negativity; Dore would often complain that they weren’t saying anything and express his displeasure if he deemed what they were saying as not funny. In defense, Gene Pompa at one point said to Dore, “You’re the meanest heckler I’ve ever had to deal with.” This negative dynamic resulted in a palpable tension throughout the crowd, with guests consistently leaving and uncomfortable silence from those too polite to leave.

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