The festival, in its 5th year, is programmed at two locations, The Bell House and Union Hall in Brooklyn. Opening night at The Bell House included the work of John Mulaney, Todd Barry, Sarah Silverman and Jim Gaffigan. Friday, I checked out the smaller venue at Union Hall for some up-and-coming performers including the great Phoebe Robinson and Damien Lemon (both who have appeared at Ben Walker's Find the Funny). I attended Saturday's Talent Show: Speech and Debate show hosted by Kevin Townley (Goodbar) and Elna Baker where the comedians and performers did traditional forensic competition style events (duo scene interpretation, debate, extemporaneous speaking). Sunday's Closing Night was a grab bag of unannounced performers, but they included some of my favorites including David O'Doherty, John Oliver, and Kitson. Also on hand were Demetri Martin,** Jon Benjamin, Jena Friedman, and Bobby Tisdale,
The Speech and Debate show was wacky pandemonium from start to finish (see photos here). Brendon Small and Stuckey & Murray had to choose from several political topics and then craft a song around one. We ended up with songs about the creation of the swastika and Kate Middleton's royal breasts. Eugene Mirman, Hari Kondabolu, and Kamau Bell had to make powerpoint presentations based on real presentations found on the internet. Topics included Anal Canal, Animal Husbandry and Emotional Eating. Kitson (wearing a tie) and Mirman debated. They had the choice of three topics including "bros vs hos" and the merits of Tom's of Maine. They went with Tom's of Maine.*** Sarah Vowell and Todd Barry debated the pros and cons of killing Canadian geese in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport. The duo scene interpretations included Meg Griffiths and Tony nominee Arian Moayed doing a comedic take on Marsha Norman's 'night Mother and Kevin Townley and Ashlie Atkinson doing a mash-up of Joseph Campbell and Showgirls. Kitson did some extemporaneous speaking on the topic of Solitude and Todd Barry did extemporaneous speaking on Tom's of Maine (for all the references you'd think they were a sponsor--one who everyone in the room hated). Blue ribbons were given for each winning performer.
Kitson won the debate against Mirman, but lost in extemporaneous speaking to Todd Barry. Arguably, Kitson was at a slight disadvantage since Barry already has a routine about Tom's of Maine, but since Kitson's work is largely about Solitude he had some material to suit this. In mock-outrage to losing, he stormed off the stage but before doing so he knocked over the entire set and Kevin Townley (who does an excellent comic pratfall).
|A Mirman crafted bio of Kitson. Some comedians require a warning label. It's too late for some of us. Save yourselves!|
I had brought some friends to the final show. They had seen It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later. When my friend compared the Kitson stand-up to his story show, she said, "There were a lot more penises" in the stand-up. I'm assuming my friend meant references to penises as the only actual visible penis on stage was presented by another performer (I think it was Gary Wilmes of Chinglish and Gatz. His penis made two separate appearances in sort of an interpretative dance routine. One of these was done to the Mad Men theme song). Kitson kept it all in his trousers, which by the way looked good. He needn't have worried about that.
Anyway, a week of Kitson comedy in September was a delightful surprise. The festival is a lot of fun and offers up some of the best comedians in town (and the best comedians stopping by on holiday). Highly recommend you check it out next year. You never know who you might see or what comedians you might discover. Or what unexpected Off-Broadway and Broadway star's penis might show up.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Kitson brings As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th, 2012, This Show Has No Title to St. Ann's Warehouse this season. It's a push in a new direction for him and I'm curious how those who have not seen a lot of his work before might react to it as well as how his fans might take to the new material.
*So to speak. Brooklyn is huge. I live at one end. This was at the other. But still a one train journey for me and I did not need my passport. Woohoo. I'm not sure who I should thank for getting Daniel Kitson to come to town for a week after his busy month in Edinburgh--Eugene Mirman, Ben Folds who was performing in NYC the same week, or John Oliver. Anyway I thank you all for making this happen.
**I could see Kitson peering out from the curtain watching Demetri Martin's set. It's hard to be stealthy with shiny glasses on. I guess he had been doing this throughout much of the show. Some comics came out to watch the other performers on stage so it was fun to watch them react to their pals and compatriots.
***For the International readers of this blog (hello, bonjour, hola, dzien dobry, merhaba, salam aleikum etc...), it's a natural toiletries brand that makes sort of famously hippie products which a lot of people feel don't work as well as regular chemical products.