When performing comedy in front of a live audience, it’s strongly recommended that the stage be lit. If specifically performing stand-up, it’s also recommended that indie rock music not be playing during the performance. Given how obvious those two observations are, going against both of them would be, in most cases, just plain daft. Leave it up to one Rory Scovel to prove all that wrong. After pulling off one of the boldest and most hilarious comedic performances in quite some time with Jon Dore on Conan a few weeks ago, Scovel raised himself an even harder challenge and pulled it off with ease.
This past Saturday at the Nerdist Theater in Hollywood, CA, (which is the back room of a comic book store) Scovel simply went up and asked for the lights to be turned all the way off. Then he asked the live band to his side to play some music “you would hear in space,” which Scovel commented on, “You guys obviously haven’t been to space. That’s not music you would hear in space.” He continued doing actual material while riffing on the fact he missed the rehearsal with the band and kept wanting to change the music to something like “X&Y” by Coldplay, trying to keep up the illusion that the audience was somehow in outer space with Scovel’s disembodied voice narrating the whole thing.
The entire time, the audience and Scovel were shrouded in complete darkness. Yet Rory’s keen sense of audience’s expectation and energy more than made up for the severe handicaps he put on himself. Though comedy has been done in the dark before, it’s never been done so casually and with the intro riff to a Mars Volta song being played live the whole time. On top of all that, Rory did his entire set in a Werner Herzog voice without even coming close to breaking character.
There are reasons that live performance — stand-up comedy especially — has rules for it to work. The audience, in most instances, needs to see the performer as part of focusing their attention on what they’re saying and not have music step on their punch lines. Though, as with most art forms, there are singular artists that push the form and boundaries and still make it work. Rory Scovel is one such artist.
Check out Scovel below in a more traditional set of stand-up comedy circumstances.