I’m not in San Francisco for the Sketchfest, but Dead-Frog tendrils reach pretty far. In this case, to writer Ian Lendler, a friend who knows funny. Here’s what he saw:
An auspicious start to the evening: The opening act for Red Wine Boys was Triplette, a 3-woman sketch group. The actresses themselves were extremely talented; the material was middling. But comedy is about the element of surprise, and there’s nothing like live theater to introduce that.
While running off stage, one of the actresses managed to smack face-first into an iron railing holding up a curtain. She then performed the rest of the act while bleeding profusely and holding a cold compress to her head. It became such a funny gag that Your Frog Abroad Correspondent (YFAC) became convinced that the whole thing had been faked. YFAC then revised his opinion after the show when the actress was escorted off to, what was assumed to be the hospital, with a large bandage on her head. The fact that it was real did nothing dispel the fact that a bit of the ol’ ultra-violence goes a long way to breaking up the monotony of basic sketch-comedy. There’s possibly a lesson in that for any sketch groups out there.
But on with the show: It was almost like a night back in Luna Lounge, NYC, with the Red Wine Boys Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin acting as hosts for a series of quick stand-ups by Mirman and Showalter. Barry and Benjamin (of Coach McGuirk fame) are two of the funniest human beings in America this side of pre-breakdown Dave Chappelle. And together, they’re even funnier. But it’s worth asking “Why?”
They don’t do punch-lines. They don’t have a shtick or props, although they did occasionally gyrate erotically with their glasses of red wine to thumping techno music. This show was as shticky as they get in that they were imitating fine-wine lovers, but that hardly mattered. They could just as easily have been the Pet Rock Boys or ‘65 Ford Mustang Boys. This show was just Barry and Benjamin riffing off each other. They are pure stage presence.
They took questions from the crowd. YFAC dared to ask what was wrong with white wine. He was informed by the Red Wine Boys that he was not, in fact, a man. And where were his balls? And would he be leaving his balls on the seat when he left the theater? And how could one leave one’s balls behind as that seems a physical impossibility?
They then handed out samples of their own line of wines (sample styles: “Cum-thumping Cabernet” and “Less Funding For AIDS Shiraz”). After this, they introduced the acts, each of whom kept their bits short.
Eugene Mirman showed the audience the false-bottomed can of shaving cream he’d snuck onto his flight to San Fran. Its contents were a picture of George Bush and a pack of condoms. He then read from an e-mail exchange he had with a band that invited him to one of their shows through Myspace. An exact quote from his e-mail response to the band: “I’d love to come to your show…I often like to send my dick on vacation…blah blah blah…your mouth.”
For his act, Michael Showalter pulled a page from the Cringe shows that have made their way around America. He read a faux-Kerouac poem he had written while in high school in suburban New Jersey. Sample passages: “I smoked a reefer with two unemployed actors across the hall of my apartment building. They don’t know shit about fuck.” “In my room is a 6-string guitar…it only has 3 strings.”
Everyone then joined together on stage to sing “It’s Raining Wine” while sipping copious amounts of said beverage. Todd Barry in particular seemed to enjoy this product in large amounts throughout the night. A great night of comedy.
Ian’s also particularly qualified to judge anything even tangentially related to alcohol as he’s the author of Alcoholica Esoterica, a collection of lore and info about booze. It’s informative enough that you’ll feel smarter talking about inhibition-lowering beverages, but not so much that you turn into Cliff Clavin. Check it out.