TONY Comics Ignore Writers’ Strike, Focus on Blow up Dolls

Before the first ever Time Out New York TONY Approved comedy showcase began, I wondered what kind of subtext the writers’ strike would provide: most fledgling stand-ups, after all, would give their left funnybone to write for the Daily Show or Saturday Night Live (even if they tell you otherwise). But the only real effect of the work stoppage were a few clunky jokes in the already clunky Deal Or No Deal opener (topical!) The majority of the comedians — who ranged from conventional stand-up to parody acts to an Aussie on piano — avoided discussing the strike in favor of hot topics like Phish and To Catch a Predator.

“These are some of the funniest stand-ups, and all the comics I love,” said Jane Borden, TONY‘s comedy editor. “My job is to write about upcoming comedians, but really the best way to showcase their talent is just to give them a microphone.” The comedy ranged from conventional stand-up to conceptual one-act scenes, but no matter how the material was presented, the audience preferred clever and silly stories over to shocking and loud shtick.

In fairness, the short sets (there were seven comics in under two hours) made it hard to develop a rapport with the audience, or build up the energy needed for some of the more enthusiastic material. What seemed like dated jokes (“What’s up with hurricane names?”) wrapped in a high-decibel package (“WHAT’S UP WITH HURRICANE NAMES?”) could have been funnier with a little more room to breathe.

The night’s big star was Tim Minchin, who, while parodying rock’s excess, managed to channel the spirit of a stadium concert in the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater. Though his songs riffed on celeb activists like Bono, Minchin himself — with his flat-ironed hair and bright blue eyes rimmed with liner — resembled Lindsay Lohan with a 5 o’clock shadow. He won the audience over with his first number, a jazzy, sweet love song for his blow up doll. (I caved as soon as he rhymed “adorable” with “back door-able”.) Big in Europe, as they say, Minchin won the best alternative comic at HBOs Aspen Comedy festival this year. He’s playing in New York for the next few days — catch him now through Wednesday at Ars Nova.

The comedy festival also offered a preview of the next season of MTV’s sketch comedy show Human Giant; Borden mentioned that more segments would be tested during some of the UCB’s Monday night shows — no official announcement has been made yet, so check the TONY blog for details.

—Kate Dailey