It's been a while since I went out to see improvisational comedy. I feel like I kind of burn out on it — after all, it can only be as good as the audience, the performers, and the circumstances. In addition, I tend to hang out with some pretty funny people so it's not uncommon for some extremely hilarious things to come out of it (for instance, I have brought up several times the idea of a Faustian superpower wish that goes awry when the power is revealed to be pooping delicious chocolate — and the comedy of failing to convince anyone that it is indeed true).
Anyway, I headed over to The Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC) (142 Atlantic Ave.) to see the public debut of Polite Company Improv Sketch and Comedy. They were indeed funny both in their improv and in their sketches. I really appreciated that they catered to me being in their audience rather than targeting evangelical Puritans and forbidding swearing of any kind. (Seriously: the show doesn't need to stop if someone says "fuck" once.) Of note was their final sketch which was shockingly offensive, but ultimately quite funny.
Afterward I walked over to The Bamba Bistro (282 Alexander St.) for the after-party and got a chance to chat with the crew. (By the way, Bamba Bistro is a pretty upscale-looking place that draws people who like to be seen in upscale-looking places and, on this night, rowdy improvisers and their friends and fans. I'll add that friends raved about an astonishing meal here years ago and I assume that would continue to be true.) The two women running the troupe are engaging and focused — hopefully we'll see Polite Company shows for years to come.
I read about the Injured Superhero Show at The Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC) (142 Atlantic Ave.) and decided I to go. I have a green coat with light-up question-marks on it and I figured I could make something up if need be. (I bought the coat at a thrift store a few years back: it's a woman's raincoat that fits me perfectly and it is completely day-glo green. Naturally I couldn't resist. I added the question mark motif for Burning Man a few years ago and have used it at night there for a while. It's also been a Halloween costume, and now a superhero outfit.)
I had no idea how it was going to work, but I suspected something between an audience of passive superheroes to interactive improvisation. All I knew for sure was what the website said: "Injured Superheroes will be cast the night of the show. If you are interested in auditioning, please come in costume to [the MuCCC Theater] at 7 PM. Those injured superheroes auditioning will be admitted for free." I probably should have planned ahead more, but I arrived pretty much right at 7. I guess most people got a little instruction … maybe just for the actual theater actors. Anyhow, the way it worked was the "Baron of Bureaucracy" was interviewing injured superheroes to determine whether they should receive disability benefits, or if a new job was available. I decided I'd be the "Socratic Defender" and became disabled by being so sure of myself that I was unable to ask questions to find truth in the world.
I went up second (after Catwoman, now retired from crime, was distressed after devouring most of the village of NIMH.) I had hoped the Baron would devise a way to trick me into asking a question. In the end I accidentally did, so concluding my need for services. As the show progressed, the Baron started trying to solve people's problems.
In all, the show was a lot of fun — sort of a group-improv kind of thing that most people handled just fine. I talked with the crew afterward and I was one of a few (if not the only person) who came in "off the street." Five of us decided to go out afterward, in costume. We originally tried to find some "bar full of straights" to inflict ourselves upon, but couldn't think of something that would be attended by an unsuspecting crowd, and actually open on a Monday night. In the end we went to Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) Although I'm sure people noticed, few seemed to care. I think we got more looks because it was Arts and Crafts night and they may have briefly thought we had made our costumes that night. Nonetheless, it was nice to get out and meet new people once again. Hopefully a new superhero-themed show is not far off and we'll get to do it again.
OK, so here's the deal. I had this idea to make another satirical thing for Valentine's Day. This time it's the about "having a heart on for Valentine's Day" and other convoluted permutations to get the auditory pun to work. I'll start off the bat and let everyone know you can buy things at Cafepress already. And, although I did think of this without seeing it elsewhere, a quick search on Google reveals that there's quite a few others with the same idea.
But the perfect meme storm had to do with the relatively new site Xtranormal. It's probably the fastest way to get from a script to animation as it does it with 3D rendering and computer-generated voices. In all, it actually works pretty good, but among its many quirks is that the computer voices intone virtually no emotion and there's really no way to annotate it so they do. What I've seen is this deadpan delivery used to humorous effect such as the Are you going to Burning Man video. I was thinking, "what better way to play off an auditory pun than with a perfect deadpan delivery?"
My friend Christina pointed me to a site — a blog, actually — that has been the bane of my existence. It's Stuff White People Like (as well as a like-titled book by Christian Lander) and, to my self-reflective, obsessively analytical brain, it's a nightmare.
Well, first, I was reading along and thinking, "gosh, that's funny" — each item, one after another, actually did reflect things that I liked or that I recognized that most people I know [and most of them are white, I might add] liked. It's amusingly written as a guide to non-white people on how to assimilate into white culture — a sort of field-guide or cultural travelogue. Christina mentioned it because it's as if white culture were invisible — assumed by default — so there aren't really anthropological studies of it … at least that either of us could recall.
But then about page two, and 35 or so entries in, I started to panic. Was there anything unique about myself at all? I mean, here it was: a definitive list of all things I was, with only a 10% miss-rate. At least "White people like to claim understanding of what it's like to be a minority by reading 'Stuff White People Like'" was not (yet) on the list — despite tangentially-related topics like "#20 Being an expert on YOUR culture" and "#62 Knowing What's Best for Poor People".
Ali and I walked over to The Mez (389 Gregory St., formerly House of Hamez and Daily Perks) to check out Burlesque for Bail, the benefit show to raise money for bail for Unconventional Action protesters of the upcoming political conventions. The show was pretty fun although it was basically some musical acts and Burlesque-styled striptease.
At one point, one of the guys involved in the show asked for people's opinions of things around town and around the nation. Although the new police cameras brought loud jeering, I heard a lot of quiet support for them. In a later discussion with Ali and her friend, I tried arguing it logically, but I was frustrated: without any factual information, I was unable to do anything but an emotional appeal.
Although I said I choose freedom over safety, I think it's more that I choose freedom over inaccurate accounts of safety. I guess the working theory is that the cameras prevent criminal activity. The first flaw in that statement is that no police action prevents crime: police can only catch criminals after a crime has been committed.
But if I give credence at all to the crime-prevention theory, it's that criminals do not want to get caught so they will not commit crime where they will get caught. As such, the cameras cause crime to move away from the cameras. In other words, if it were possible to locate crimes before and after the cameras, my theory is that the crime rate would stay relatively steady but that fewer crimes would be committed in range of the cameras.
So in the end, I argue that it doesn't reduce crime at all.
On the other side of the coin, the cameras can be used to break up protests. For instance, if an anti-war protest were held (or even a Critical Mass Bike Ride or any group of different-enough looking people for that matter), the cameras can be used to record the identities of the attendees and round them up later. Although protesting is not a crime, protesters I've met in this jingoistic, militarized country tend to be quite paranoid. As such, they behave like the criminals and would want to move protests away from the cameras. Unfortunately, protests are necessarily in those areas, as the cameras were placed where people tend to congregate — a protest is worthless if nobody is there to see it.
Thus, in my mind, the cameras prevent no crime and disrupt freedom and are therefore a bad thing.
Everyone who supports the camera believes that they do prevent crime and that they are overall a benefit — and why should they not?, for I can offer no hard evidence. So I think that what I should do is to test their theory. I'll go hang out in front of the cameras with, say, a laptop computer. If the cameras do prevent crime, then I'll go home after a couple hours. If they don't, then there's a chance I'd be robbed.
I suspect that wouldn't be sufficient — for if I were robbed, I might witness a demand for more cameras — after all, if one camera failed to prevent a crime, then perhaps two will work better, and I really don't want to see that. So I'll just fight the robber and hopefully get killed in the process. Then, either I'll be a martyr to the cause of freedom, or things will get worse but I won't have to deal with it.
I'll probably do it after Burning Man though because I kind of want to go to that first.
Anyhow, back to Saturday night …
Ali and I headed to The Tap and Mallet (381 Gregory St.) for a beer. She got her head set that we'd get Mark's plates at the end of the evening, and that would require some serious drinking. We had some wine at Solera Wine Bar (647 South Ave.) then headed across to Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) where we ran into some friends. We spent the bulk of the evening and four of us went to Mark's Texas Hots (487 Monroe Ave.) I discovered what may be the most awesome plate ever: rather than burgers or hots, I got two over-easy eggs. Damn that was a great plate. I think that it might be improved with the addition of brown gravy (or "gravies" as the kids say) … and just possibly — and I say this only as an experiment to try, not to blaspheme — without the meat sauce, onions, and mustard.
Ali and I had a nice dinner at California Rollin' at Village Gate Square (274 N. Goodman St.) then headed to [location redacted] to see Village Idiots Present (VIP)'s improvisational comedy. It turned out to be their first show so it was a little rough around the edges, but overall it was very funny. The players in the troupe have very varied styles, strengths, and weaknesses and I'm sure this will set them up to have a strong showing in Rochester.
The only thing I didn't really like was that the support staff tended to act too formal — it was like going to Geva except that the structure wasn't backed up with any foundation. For instance, we were instructed to sit toward the front when it really didn't matter as there weren't really any stragglers. And as for the improv, there were a couple times when some ego-based and fear-based "no's" tripped up the performers' stride.
But if you're going to take risks, you're going to sometimes fall big and other times win big. In this case, it's worth it.
I just got a call from someone claiming they were from Comix Café (3450 Winton Pl.) saying I won tickets to an upcoming show in a contest. I've heard stories about the place — like that they ban comics who perform at other local venues or that they have an excessive table minimum. I asked how I got into the contest, since I don't remember signing up for anything in at least a few years. The person on the phone said I was "on a list". She tried to hard-sell me "free" tickets to an upcoming performance. I asked, "is there a drink minimum or anything like that?" and she said there was: six dollars per person!
I headed to The California Brew Haus (402 West Ridge Rd.) for Nipplepalooza III. I got there just when the show started although I guess I missed Rob Balder. I did get to see him emcee the show, though and he was good in that context at least. When I arrived, Ookla The Mok had just taken to the stage. I think they're pretty funny but they have this groove-rock, full-fledged song mentality that really doesn't sit well with a one-joke song. Next was Worm Quartet who follow the traditional form of novelty songs: only go as long as is necessary. And fast. And sometimes absurdly short — but always really quite funny. Next was Carla Ulbrich, a funny, witty acoustic soloist … chatty and friendly too. Closing the night was Sudden Death who did novelty hip-hop of a caliber similar to Worm Quartet but with videos to go along with it.
I headed to Boulder Coffee Co. (100 Alexander St.) a bit after the show started. I got there just at the tail end of the opening comic and I didn't get to hear his set. Shawn Murphy was next. He was pretty funny — he did "thoughtful" comedy which was kind of the theme for the night. Kate Anderson was the same way although so dry that I she was only "pretty funny". Closing out was Joshua Grosvent whom I've seen before — at Milestones when it was Milestones. He didn't attempt any songs this time but had an enjoyable and funny set … even if it got uncomfortably personal at times. Well, "uncomfortably personal" throughout. But funny.