Known for his role as Gene on Bob's Burgers, Ygeny Mirminsky on Delocated or any of his other roles, comedian Eugene Mirman brought his unique style of stand-up to Mahall's last night. Over the years, the New York City-based, Russian-born comedian has created a number of influential comedy showcases. His New York standup variety show series Invite Them Up and Pretty Good Friends received critical acclaim and are well respected by the comedy scene. His strange take on stand-up is much more than merely telling stories. By incorporating his hilarious answers to questionnaires, letters to companies and other mediums, he's made audiences laugh to no end. Last night was no different.
Mirman took the stage to huge applause from the sold-out crowd. Opening with some riffing about his brief visit to Cleveland and jesting about his underwhelming experience with the Rock Hall, he stated, "I feel like that is a place rock 'n' roll should sue." It wasn't just Cleveland he picked on. The Brooklynite shared his absurd expertise on the following subjects: shouting things in public at his girlfriend that make her sound crazy; a perfect 60/40 New England/Gay accent; and joining ChristianMingle.com as username "Princess Thunderballs." Every joke landed and the crowd howled with laughter. He treated the audience to a special Comedy Central pilot he made, which unfortunately won't see production. The premise was Oprah has her own network, what if Eugene did too? The "Eugene Network" would air such shows as How Much Money Can You Eat?, My 25 ft. Daughter and a talk show entitled Late Night with Eugene. During the talk show, the audience was delighted to see a clip from John Hodgman's (fake) movie. In the scene, he beats a knife-wielding maniac to death. With a brick. It was amazing.
Derrick Brown opened for Mirman. If you're a comedy connoisseur and haven't heard of Brown, there's probably a reason for that; he's a poet. The Austin-based poet seamlessly weaved humor with heartbreak and dashed dreams with oddball eroticism. His opening poem, "Cotton in the Air" sweats with strange erotic fantasies meshed up humorous honesty. In lines like "I want to make love to you while you're wearing figure skates until the hardwood floors are toothpicks" he takes the road less traveled to provide elaborate imagery of wild sex acts. After some other humorous poems he went heavy with his poem about dreams deferred and deterred, "Sour Mash." With the grace of an experienced performer, Brown changed his set list mid-show, to better suit the atmosphere.
"It depends on the thermometer of the audience," Brown said after the show. "Everything you say is like echolocation where you're trying to figure out where they're at. And you really try and sense that, like, 'man, I should do a short one now because I just did a heavy one.' Or, 'I should do a heavy one because I'm about to do a funny one.' And I thought, it's going well and I'd rather end short and sweet here because I didn't want to get too sleep before Eugene came up. There was a crazy energy and they were with me so I didn't want to do a crazy long heavy poem."
It hasn't been overly common to have poets open for comedians but, more and more, entertainers are experimenting with format. Here in Cleveland, regularly occurring shows like Super Show, which is moving to Mahall's next month, and others have taken to a variety show format over straight stand-up performances.
"There's a resurgence happening where people are saying 'I want to do an auction, a poet, and then a band,'" Brown said after the show. "Or, 'I want to do an interview, and then a giveaway, then a poet, and a comedian.' And these types of variety shows are more popular and I think that will cause a new resurgence in poetry, is recognizing the audience's desire for it."
Opener Adam Richard, who hosts Super Show, gave his own one-man variety show take on comedy as well. Kicking the night off with his "4th Place Quaker State and Lube Karaoke Contest" winning rendition of "She Drives Me Crazy," he got the audience into the spirit of awkward comedy. He went on to play "Guess Who?" with the audience - though, in his version, there's much more calling up of the past and social stereotypes, all of which were absolutely hilarious.
It creates a special and unique experience for the audience when every performer is on top of their game, providing wonderful entertainment. Last night was one of those instances.