Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.”
Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.
So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!
As a visually impaired, African-American expatriate, Darryl Lenox’s unique life experiences are the kind of built-in fodder for stand-up premises that many comedians would, under slightly different circumstances, typically envy. Fortunately his comedy extends beyond merely his unorthodox situation, and his personal history colors his viewpoints on a wide range of subjects.
“Blind Ambition“ was recorded at the Vogue Theatre in Lenox’s adopted hometown of Vancouver, Canada, and vast stretches of material reference our neighbors to the North. He opens with “What I Learned In Canada,” subsequently touching on hockey, borders, healthcare and politeness throughout his set. Though he may hit on the clichéd subjects most Americans associate with Canada, Lenox possesses a frank honesty that allows the audience to get to know him beyond a cursory level, that honesty illustrating how life has allowed him to develop distinct observations on otherwise mundane topics.
Lenox isn’t afraid to open up early on about the ocular problems with which he’s struggled. (The album’s title, “Blind Ambition” is a nod at these.) He isn’t maudlin, nor does he exhibit the kind of cold nonchalance that many stand-ups do when discussing personal problems. With a vulnerability that is rare and refreshing, Lenox expresses how worried he was about the possibility of going blind. He doesn’t dote or linger on this moment; rather it lays a foundation for a series of bits that ultimately offer a greater comic payoff. When Lenox jokes about bargaining with God so he can be famous on local Canadian television or choosing a Canadian eye surgeon because a New York doctor might not care “if there was one extra blind black dude on the subway,” the specifics resonate to a greater degree because the audience senses how real and frightening this situation was.
Perhaps because of these powerful moments, it’s somewhat of a let-down when Lenox later ventures into “Men Do This, Women Do That” territory. For someone who has just demonstrated such a distinct, authentic point of view, when he starts musing about eating the last Klondike Bar and arguing about oral sex it’s almost like an altogether different comedian’s set. If anybody could breathe life into the tired trope it should be Lenox, but unfortunately this portion resonates about as much as quips about airline food. Given the specificity of the rest of his content, the tonal shift might be a focused effort to perform jokes of a more universal nature, but they comparatively lack the same sophistication established early on.
Perpetuation of gender stereotypes aside, “Blind Ambition”s positives far outweigh the negatives. Not everything lands, but Lenox’s material is overwhelmingly clever, strong and original. He reveals to the audience who he is, warts and all, and for the majority of the album his offbeat insights and unique world-view are truly entertaining. Lenox might not have had the easiest life, but instead of wallowing in the tough times he proves that a little perspective can make it possible to find humor in both the high and low points.
By Dyan Flores
Here are some upcoming events featuring comics who, like Lenox, hail from Canada:
Monday, December 3 I Jason Rouse-Hellarious Tour 2012 – Mississauga-Streetsville, Ontario Jason Rouse is a renegade touring stand-up comedian taking the mainstream comedy world and turning it upside down. Over the last decade this comedy outsiders has been sharpening his teeth in clubs and festivals all over the world. Rouse has made it his mission to forge a new road and write a new chapter in stand up comedy. Middle-of-the-road, mainstream comedy will be left for dead. Instead this Jester from Hell will be unleashed onto international stages with all of the power of a derailed comedy freight train.
Tuesday, December 11 to Sunday, December 16 I Parker & Seville and Vest of Friends Present: Marc, Reid, Dave, Matt, Morgan, Tim and Evan Build a Snowman – Tornoto, Ontario Vest of Friends and Parker & Seville are two of the funniest sketch comedy groups operating in Toronto, and they have decided to combine their hilarity in a series of shows called Marc, Reid, Dave, Matt, Morgan, Tim and Evan Build a Snowman at Unit 102, an artist-run theatre studio in the heart of Parkdale. The show will feature sketches from each troupe linked together into a narrative, along with an opening and closing scene featuring both troupes. Opening the show will be a set from one of Toronto’s most acclaimed stand-up comedians.
Friday, January 18 I Bonnie McFarlane at The Comedy Shoppe @ Just Jake’s – Montclair, New Jersey Bonnie did her first open mic in Vancouver, Canada. The manager of the club told her she should enter a contest, The Search for Canada’s Funniest New Comic. She did and she won. She moved to New York where she landed a manager, an agent and taped her first half hour special which still airs on Comedy Central. Bonnie got a deal with CBS to star in her own sitcom. That sitcom never happened, but after her deal was over she landed a starring role in another sitcom on UPN called “Social Studies.” After six episodes, the show was cancelled but another show was just around the corner. Christopher Guest wrote Bonnie a regular role in his pilot for HBO called “D.O.A.” The show was D.O.A. HBO never picked it up. Bonnie continued doing stand up in Los Angeles and appeared on “The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn,” “Friday Night,” “Premium Blend,” hosted “Later” on NBC and was a regular on “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” Most recently Bonnie taped her first HBO hour special, which is currently airing. Bonnie continues to pursue stand up, writing and acting and has created several multi media stage shows like “The Fake, Fake Show” starring Zach Galifinakis and a short film starring Patton Oswald called “Sushi Whore.”