Saturday, July 16, 2005

R Bar Insanity

Okay, I can finally talk about Thursday night at R Bar. I’m going to give my impression, and then some other people’s. I try so hard to be fair, but I don’t think giving my impression is trying to be insulting, and I am the kind of person who doesn’t go out of my way to say anything mean, and yet this experience was so unlike most of my comedy-going experiences that it kindof rattled me. I really try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and yes, I’m free to leave, but the atmosphere just became very uncomfortable and icky for me and I’m sure for other people too, to the point that I wasn’t really sure where the comedy ended and the drunkenness began or when it was okay to leave, and while this guy may very well be funny other times and places, he flat out wasn’t to me on Thursday.

Everything is subjective and others may have found him a laugh riot, but that was one of the very few instances in my going to shows that I truly felt a little afraid, would have been afraid to talk to him after the show, and just felt extremely uncomfortable and like the set had veered into a really misogynistic area where someone was working out their issues with the world and women onstage. And yes, other people “work out their issues” - see one show, and that’s obvious, but this was different, and maybe I can’t do a great job of explaining it, but it just was - he was drunk, screaming and had lost all connection to the crowd. Also, oddly, someone (his friend?) was filming the set. I’ve also deliberately left his name out of this, ask someone else who was there if you want to know that.

Anyway, I navigated my way through what Claudia later called the Park and Rape in Williamsburg to R Bar, which is at the corner of Graham and Meeker, and found a very friendly, familiar crowd inside - Susie Felber, Claudia Cogan, host Brian Finklestein, Victor Vornado, Ritch Duncan and later Jane Borden, Time Out New York Comedy Editor. A few people I’d never seen before performed, and I got to see Claudia do her “I want to be a stripper” bit (“not burlesque, that’s I’m taking off my shirt and writing a thesis”). Much more hilarity ensued, and then at the end this guy got up and was clearly WASTED. I mean, just drunk off his ass. He picked up this mannequin that had been lying around and was pretending to talk dirty to it, and I’ll give him that it was first. But his set kindof just descended into him yelling at the mannequin, the audience, the microphone, talking about weighing his cock, etc., and not only wasn’t it funny, he hogged the mic for like 20 minutes (approximately) and I honestly was a little frightened, just staring at Claudia and Susie like “WTF?” until I really did just have to get out of there.

I don’t know this guy, but it’s to the point that he frightened me enough that I almost hesitate to post my impressions here, and while, as you’ll see below, Ritch and Brian urge me not to judge him on that one performance, the thing with comedy is that, as a performer, you kindof only get that first chance. Maybe people will go see you again, you’re on a bill with others, but I can tell you that I will go out of my way NOT to see him again. Maybe it’s because I’m not a comedian, because everyone else seems to not think it was as big of a deal, but as it was my first visit to R Bar, I don’t really know what to expect. I will likely go back, and am glad Claudia urged me to go, I laughed a lot, it was free and funny and full of camaraderie - one of the comics who went on after Victor told a story about him scaring little kids at a movie theater where he’d played a villain in the film, and kept up that image when they saw him. People riffed off each other’s sets, and it was a lot of fun, but

Susie Felber: he didn't scare me. at first i thought he was brilliant and funny and, of course, drunk. but he was a self-concious drunk, the kind i can relate to. later, he didn't scare me, but he seemed to lose the desire to woo the audience. anywho, sorry if you were scared. i'm not playing too cool for school, i just thought i could relate to his brand of nutty.

Ritch Duncan: while he can be WAY out there- I think he's one of the funniest, most creative, and truly alternative comedians working today.

He was certainly out of his head drunk, and while what we saw was scary (I wasn't up front, so it may have been scarier for you guys) I'd call it an aberration, not the rule. This guy is a performer who exists, improvises and works very close to a dangerous line on a regular basis.

While I can't argue that he didn't go too far last night, I will say that when he manages to straddle that line, which he does more often than not, it's an amazing thing.

But I hope you don't judge him too harshly, or think he's more of a freakshow than anybody who does this is.

OK, maybe a little bit more.

Brian Finklestein: Yeah I don't really what know what to say about Thursday. It was a weird night that started with very few people in the bar and became a real fun show with good comedians.

And then there was ____ ______, who was definitely drunk and even scary. In retrospect I should have ended his set as soon as it started and I saw what was happening, but honestly as a performer who has had those dark nights before I thought I'd let him work it out. Then as people started leaving telling me they where scared I realized it was too much.

That being said, I agree with everything Duncan said. I think ______ is one of the most original and funny comics I have seen in a long time. I seriously hope that nobody that was there on Thursday judges him to harshly for what happened because although it was definitely inappropriate, it is not the norm for him. He is actually a very nice guy who loves comedy and is very good at making people laugh.


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