The final Invite Them Up shows

I caught the tail end of two of the final Invite Them Up shows at Rififi (Tuesday and Wednesday). It was packed on Tuesday and superpacked on Wednesday (you couldn't even move within the bar area, which had a TV showing the stage).

It's tough to be sad and funny at the same time so some of the comics weren't as ha ha funny as usual. Out of the people I saw perform, I thought Mike Birbiglia was the funniest (he's got a new-to-me bit on bloggers that certainly struck a chord).

I thought Demetri Martin did the best job of balancing sentimentality with laughs. He strummed his guitar while discussing various memories of the show. At one point, he commented on how Rififi has the worst screen in the city, walked up to the pieces of paper that are taped over a rip in the screen, pulled one off, and dropped it in the time capsule. Big laughs.

Funniest thing I saw on Tuesday night was during Andy Kindler's performance. Zach Galifianakis came out of the back room and Andy started yelling at him. Zach then jokingly took out his cellphone and proceeded to take a photo of Andy on it. Something about seeing Zach taking a cellphone pic, like some obsessed fan, really cracked me up.

Big picture time: Invite Them Up is one of the reasons why I began doing comedy. I moved to NYC from Chicago years ago and hadn't really seen much live comedy up until them. I lived in the East Village and I started to go to ITU and then, later on, Andrés du Bouchet's Giant Tuesday and Aziz' UCB Crash Test shows all the time. I couldn't justify sitting at home watching TV when I knew I could see amazing performers just a few blocks away for cheap or free.

I remember seeing Patton Oswalt blow the roof off the place at ITU one night and being inspired by it. The energy and whole anything-can-happen vibe of those shows felt more rock 'n roll than the rock shows I'd see in NYC. It just felt like something was happening there.

And, for me, an especially big hat tip (I mean a big tip of the hat, not a tip of a big hat like a sombrero or something — anyway...) goes to Eugene Mirman. It was great to be able to watch a comic that good play and experiment every week. Even if a bit misfired, it was still cool to watch him take the risk. It was a lesson in the value of taking chances. And the way he used videos, emails, magazines, or whatever to make people laugh definitely expanded my ideas of what comedy can be.

Now that I'm inside "the scene," I'm a lot more jaded and cynical about comics and shows. Even writing this seems kind of sappy. But there's just some things that shouldn't be taken for granted. Invite Them Up was one of those things. Bobby and Eugene, good luck and thanks!