My best friend Alice and I took a daytrip up to NYC to see Maria Bamford and Jackie Kashian at the NYC comedy club/restaurant/bar Comix, and found ourselves seat at the edge of the tiny stage. Joe De Vito turned out to be the MC for the show, and did a good intro set, involving us in his crowd-work (I think we looked insufficiently clothes-conscious to be Manhattanites), and generally setting a sufficiently congruent tone for Kashian and Bamford...in a bit about touring in Texas, De Vito seemed genuinely surprised that there were still such people as dressed like and sometimes even work as cowboys, turning to us to note that would be like visiting Philly and seeing Benjamin Franklin walking around...we didn't interrupt him to note how many men are making their living being Ben Franklin walking around the historic sectors of Philadelphia, most guiding tours. This, by the way, was Not the "G- and R-rated" hypnotist comedian Joe DeVito (to judge by his webpage, thank goodness)...who knew, if one went Comdeyland, that there'd still be so many Joe De Vitos out and about?
Jackie Kashian, fairly recently back from Iraq, did a fine, plainspoken set (she stroked the audience with notes that her more literary jokes made a much better impression there than anywhere else she'd tried them)...much of it audible on her album It Is Never Going To Be Bread, admixed with various Iraq-related and other jokes and anecdotes. She let us know at the outset, let it be taken as a given, she's fat (not really so very fat); many people make jokes about it, it's not all that funny. After the show, I picked up a copy of Bread from her (courtesy of Alice, since although I bankrolled the evening except for a few incidentals, most notably otherwise driving to the Hamilton NJ Transit station to get to NYC, I had no cash on me--or bread, if you will, of the non-electronic kind). As we did this, we had a pleasnt chat with Kashian as we stood in the line to allow Bamford and her to greet fans and sign and sell some discs. I'd let her know that I'd listened to her The Dork Forest podcast series; she mentioned that she was about to get some more-professional grade recording and podcasting equipment, even if it might mean a loss of lo-fi charm. She also noted that she began her standup career two decades ago in a sort of variation on I Can Do Better Than That--she'd had some too many and heckled Sam Kinison, of all aggro standups to heckle, and had been dismissively instructed by the nightclub manager that Open Mike (for amateurs or anyone who wanted to take a few minutes on stage) was on another night...and three weeks later she was back to try her first Open Mike set.
Maria Bamford's energetic set followed, where I'd say about 30% of the material was new to me and 70% of the material was familiar, though often tweaked or reshuffled in new ways, from her various sorts of recordings (including the Comedians of Comedy tour series and one-shot videos, the Plan B and The Maria Bamford Show videos as well as her 2001 Comedy Central Presents on a dvd with four other women comedians; her later CC half-hour has not been releeased on home video yet, I believe, and her three albums, The Burning Bridges Tour, How to Win and Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome). Where Kashian is an incisive and creative but fairly traditional standup, telling jokes and making observations from a persona that is her own, Bamford (as noted on this blog previously) is constantly shifting from that kind of approach into multi-character sketches she brings off with her skill in vocal character-creation, and then back again for some crowdwork (a fellow sitting next to Alice was persuaded to get up on stage and sing an unauthorized variation on the Coldstone Creamery song he was required to sing for customers while scooping at that chain years ago). Bamford's physical as well as mental energy seemed up, as she'd dance and run in place in such a way that I was put in mind of the younger Roger Daltrey, though some of the set seemed to inspire some sense-memories that were a little heavy for her (though perhaps it was simply allergies or the stage lights that were causing a bit of eye-watering...we were ridiculously close to all the performers). Didn't get as much time to chat with Bamford, as old acquaintances would pop up and interrupt, and we weren't at the end of the line of 8pm audience well-wishers even as the 10 o'clock show grew imminent, but she was kind enough to sign the Netflix Comedians of Comedy tour-documentary disc (the one thing I'd had the wit to locate on my way out that morning); unfortunately, she was sold out of Unwanted Thoughts copies she was offering at the club and so thanked us for coming and sitting in the front row--no problem at all, given we didn't expect Kashian or Bamford to feel the need to insult us or splatter us with fruit juices--and we thanked her for her fine work, and encouraged both her and Kashian to come back to Philadelphia...which might or might not occur, we gathered. During Bamford's crowd work, we hadn't volunteered that Alice is a psychiatrist and I handle the national tv schedule/listings for one of Bamford's series, Wordgirl, and failed to do so while in the hall with her, but nonetheless she was very gracious. (So, I went ahead and bought Alice the Bamford albums and such, and myself the previous Kashian album, after getting home early in the morning.)
Comix staff were helpful, even if it was a little odd that Alice's desert was presented during Kashian's set, albeit discreetly; the food was, as one compaint reads somewhere online, kind of touristy and certainly not cheap, though not bad. Unless, like Alice, you have the prix fixe dinner, there's a two-drink minimum, so go ahead and add ten dollars, at least, to any ticket, plus gratuity. Easy enough to find your way to Comix, two subway stops away from Penn Station. Not exactly distracting, but certainly hard to miss for me, was the young woman sitting across the stage from us, wearing a matching white microminiskirt and crop-top, directly in the eyeline for me as I watched the performers; she was mostly leg, and dressed accordingly. So, that's a Comix crowd, if you factor in also the smartly dressed and very nice folks sitting just behind us from the stage perspective, who also live in the Philadelphia suburbs and were in town since they were visiting the North Jersey parents of one of them. Somwhat crowded conditions, but a decent club and a very satisfying night of performance.
Please see also: these previous posts on Bamford's work, including the Lenny Bruce comparison, the quick review of How to Win, and the formal argument for why Bamford and Maria Bello are not the same person...
UPDATE: No fewer than five vendors have discovered that they don't have a copy of Jackie Kashian's Circus People, after all, since I've started ordering it on Sunday morning. Along with an odd glitch on Kashian's Dork Forest page, which I brought to her attention only for her not to find it glitching at all, the quality of my adventures in gathering more Kashian input has mirrored the quality of other aspects of the day today. I must must not live right. (I might just buy the MP3, but I like to have a relatively durable hardcopy around, too.)