MONTREAL – The early New Faces show last night at the Cabaret Lounge hosted by comedian Michael Kosta showcased, by and large, a group of skilled up-and-coming comics, highlighted by a trio of strong sets by Jesse Case, Adrienne Iapalucci and Mike Vecchione. So let’s get to it, shall we?
LA-by-way-of-Seattle Fahim Anwar kicked things off, breaking the ice by referencing his hair cut, explaining that he told the hairdresser to give him the “Afghan Jerry Seinfeld”; makes sense. Anwar does resemble the famous comic. From there, Anwar employed a series of bits based in physical humor – lots of character voices, pop-and-lock dance moves, rapping – which ended with a story about him auditioning for American Idol a few years ago. To warm his voice up during auditions, he explained, he sang the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song, which, of course, he did for the audience last night. Far too often, it seemed like Anwar was in a rush to get to his next novelty move. The crowd was pleased, however, and Anwar exited the stage to hearty applause.
The aforementioned Case took the stage next, looking unkempt and topped with a trucker cap. The Nashville comic explained to the audience the he almost didn’t make it to the show, “because my mom was on the pill”—a hilariously dark way to open up an early show set. Case fast-paced his set for sure, but his jokes are well constructed and his theories, original. “Going crazy is just going public” with who you really are, he opined, explaining that we’ve all sat around the house and decided to smell our buttholes, right? It’s just that we have a home to hide in; we’re all crazy. We think hobos are the crazy ones simply because they don’t have a house to conceal their actions.
Toward the end of this set, Case took a well-tread stand-up topic – Don’t ask your girlfriend how many guys she’s slept with; it’ll only lead to disaster – and made it his own, illustrating to his historically busy girlfriend that 34 is quite a high number. In his story he splays out 34 hot dogs on a platter. Gross, funny, and dare I say, smart. (I’d drop a video of Case below here if I could find one online that wasn’t him doing one joke on a Last Comic Standing commercial).
Ms Pat followed Case, telling the crowd that she needed to lose weight—not so much for health reasons but because she’s tired of shopping at plus size stores, who seem stock their racks with nothing but wildlife-patterned clothing. It’s funny because it’s true. The last half of her set centered around her son and daughter, the tone of which was reminiscent of Louis C.K.’s take on fatherhood, but without the underlying heartfelt notes. “I knew my son was retarded a long time ago,” she explained, after her 20-something-year-old son thought that bears (like Winnie the Pooh) made honey. And on her lesbian daughter, she explained that other parents of gay children are welcome to join her organization, bluntly named We’re All Ashamed.
Armed with a series of absurd celebrity impersonations and wholly proving why he’s an accomplished voice and character actor, James Adomian took the stage next. Less of a straight stand-up set and more of a showcase for his depth of impressions Adomian pleased the hell out of the crowd with his takes on Lewis Black reading from a 14-year-old girl’s diary, Danny DeVito at a table read for the movie Hoffa, cartoon villains (who he claims are all gay), Jesse Ventura and more. All impressions were spot on.
I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t seen the aforementioned Vecchione a dozen times in New York City, where he’s from— or that I watched his set last night from an unbiased perspective. He’s a great writer and a skilled performer, who doesn’t need to yell, do voices or be overly physical to make a crowd laugh. As he puts it, he looks like Nick Lachey if he were cast on the Jersey Shore. But he doesn’t fist pump like the male cast because “God is everywhere and you might punch him in the face, and he’s been through a lot already.” He says his dad used to teach him how to box, but then grew up and learned that his dad actually just beat him. Hilarious.
Miami-bred Adrian Mesa, like Anwar and Adomian before him, relied heavily on voices, accents and dynamic movements to grab chuckles from the crowd. Mesa’s arsenal included a lady’s voice, an Italian-American accent and a play on his own Cuban accent (which only shows its head when he gets angry). He lives in the Little Haiti section of Miami and has a white girlfriend, who can sometimes be seen “as a beacon in the night” on the streets of his neighborhood to let white people driving through that it’s still safe.
LA-based Josh Wade opened his set with, “I just got dumped.” No, you didn’t. This has got to be the most overused intro or segue for comedians worldwide. The rest of Wade’s set turned around however, as he kept it light with a slight edge throughout. His 6-year-old niece is going through a phase, he explained, wherein she calls him her boyfriend, even in public places. Creepy, right? It’s not creepier than when he tells her to be quiet, seemingly confirming the relationship and his desire to keep it secret. It’s good twist on an already twisted premise.
New York comedian Adrienne Iapalucci walked onstage next and delivered, by far, the most understated, darkest – and one of the strongest – sets of the night. She’s measured and even laid back in her delivery because her jokes need no accessories. In one bit, her boyfriend asks her if she’d tell on him if he killed someone. She wouldn’t do that; but she would hold it against him for the rest of his life: “Are you going to walk the dog, or do I have to make a call?”
She also makes the astute observation that the store Buy Buy Baby sounds like “a great place to have an Abortion.” (In print, that store would look like this: Bye, Bye, Baby). She ended her set with an extended joke about how she can’t fathom why anyone would want to be a pedophile, since kids are so annoying, needy and uncooperative. Picture this: a male pedophile losing his erection because the kid keeps asking for a juice box. You don’t want to laugh… but, yeah you do.
Karl Hess, from Los Angeles, took the stage next. The first thing you’d notice about Hess is his incredibly rich radio-friendly voice. The next thing you’d notice is his excessive swearing. And then, finally, you’d notice that he has a few solid jokes in his pocket. After telling the audience about his love for drinking, he explains that the next morning he tries to piece together the night before like an old time, television detective. He also sets up a fun visual after referencing the opening sequence in Office Space, wherein one of the three main characters, in an effort to not seem disingenuous, lowers the volume of his blaring rap music when he sees a black guy approaching his car. Since Hess tends to blare the blues while driving in LA, he finds himself turning the volume down when he sees hobos. It’s a smart play on an experience we’re all familiar with.
Denver-based Ben Roy, who I saw few weeks ago at the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, closed the show— and closed it strong. After telling the crowd he’s eight weeks sober he launched into incredibly energetic bits ragging on frat douches that think riding a crotch rocket-style motorcycle isn’t about the gayest thing you can do. And his story of a brutally rough handjob he received from a Las Vegas stripper, which finds him up against the wall and trying to force himself to ejaculate just so he can escape, ended the early New Faces show with a great swell of laughter from the crowd.