The biggest thing I noticed about Birbigs' 80 min set at UCB the other month: how effortless it was. He just seems so natural up there. No big show. He's such an everyman onstage. Especially when you consider how clever and what a craftsman he really is. I also love his kinda half-assed act outs (see Kenny G) that get the point across but are still true to his own personality.
Of course, the fact that he's subtle makes it tougher to work certain crowds, like a venue full of Opie and Anthony fans [via The Comic's Comic]:
Ouch. No wonder he's moving to doing theater shows. I can't recall him ever using the word "motherfucker" before. Even when he tries his money joke ("a rapist wouldn't have a bed like that..."), he rushes through it and gets little reaction from the crowd.
(I've noticed in my own stuff that there's a direct correlation between confidence and timing. When shit's on, timing seems to just take care of itself. When it's rough, I start rushing through jokes thinking that I need to get to the punch as fast as possible. But then I lose inflection and wind up sounding like a robot.)
Re: the O&A crowd, I've heard similar stories about the crowds at Artie Lange shows and saw it firsthand when I caught Joe Rogan at Caroline's. Crowd was a bunch of mooks who watch Fear Factor and Ultimate Fighting. It sucked because I've heard Rogan interviewed and he's very soulful and intelligent. He wasn't that night though. It was more like watching a guy step into the ring.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subtle doesn't always fly
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I thought it was a rookie thing, to rush when you're not confident. But maybe pros go through it too.
I saw Kurt Metzger at Comedy Cellar on Tues, and he had a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a girl in the front row. "Hello orange girl. Stop tanning." She had been supportive of every comic beforehand, laughing really hard, so when he said that her face fell, and the whole crowd booed. He downplayed their reaction, ("What? Is that mean? She's tan.") and smoothly finished his set. He was never shaken by losing the crowd and eventually he won everyone back before he left.
It is hard to win back the crowd at a club show but it seems near impossible to do so in an arena. Crowd work in an arena seems weird.
Only Bill Burr seemed to survive the O&A fans unscathed.
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