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Sketchfest with The Midnight Show

(posted by t.j. peters)

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“Hey, whaddya know, it’s The Ten-Thirty Shoooow!!!”  So that’s not normally how Eric Moneypenny’s calling card introduction begins, but for the trip to Sketchfest it would have been more accurate.  The Midnight Show had hour-and-a-half early performances on Friday and Saturday night during last weekend’s edition of the San Francisco Sketchfest, both of which I was fortunate enough to attend.  Unfortunately, since the shows ended at approximately 11:30 PM as opposed to their usual 1:00 AM, I had additional time to do more and remember less in the hours leading up to the next morning.  However, I did manage to come away with a few select memories, which I’ll share with you now in this extended, two-night coverage blog entry.

Friday Night

Part One – Tomotel!!!

Think about the Tomo Hotel like this:  You know your favorite anime?  Well you hate it now.  Don’t like anime?  Well then you just killed yourself.  From the hardwood print carpet to the five foot clearance hanging lamps, every room in this Japantown paradise is like a living version of Katamari Damacy.  To help put this in perspective, please take a moment to review the following mural, which was adjacent to my bed.

Why do those police officers have dogs printed on them?  Are the dogs also police officers?  Wait, are those even police officers?  Could they be train conductors?  Are the dogs also train conductors?  Eh, doesn’t really matter.  They live in a city of façade building fronts and are about to be destroyed by a giant robot, anyway.

Even if I didn’t stay up until 5 a.m. or later every night of the trip, I still wouldn’t have gotten any sleep because of that thing.

Part Two – Rubix Club

I will never solve a Rubix Cube and it upsets me.  I will never solve a Rubix Cube blindfolded and it’s less upsetting to me.  I will never solve a Rubix Cube blindfolded in a crowded, noisy bar and it definitely does not upset me.  I will never solve a Rubix Cube blindfolded in a crowded, noisy bar while drinking beer and I wouldn’t expect that Jesus Christ himself could accomplish such a feat.

Notice the inverse relationship between the difficulty of the Rubix Cube scenario and my feelings towards not being able to accomplish it.  Now take the inverse of that and look what you get – the two fucking guys I saw who were solving Rubix Cubes blindfolded in the crowded, noisy bar while drinking beer!  What?!

I have to hand it to them, though.  As far as “showing your true colors” goes, these guys absolutely pave the way (and then twist it on a pivot mechanism until each side is a solid color).  I think it might serve people well if we all brought our obscure personal interests to the bar.  The knitting needles, ping-pong paddles, and ball gags would help us figure out at a glance who we’re interested in.  Personally, I would avoid the Rubix Cube guys, though.  Despite the fact that there were two completed Cubes on their table, I never saw either of them complete one.  Just like the guy who wears a fake Rolex or a shirt that’s too small to make his muscles look bigger, these two fools only brought the Cubes to scam on some bitches.

Part Three – Honestly, This is Not Funny

In a sketch titled “Philip Seymour Hoffman Calls in Sick for Work”, James Adomian plays the Oscar-winning actor as a pretentious, froggy-throated prima donna, hollering on the phone to his boss (or agent), Gary.  At the height of his brilliantly over-acted excuse- which we find out by the end is all a lie- Hoffman screams, “I’m a truth teller, Gary!” in reference to his craft.  The irony is perfect and it always gets a laugh out of me, as it did to Friday night’s crowd.

I point out this sketch to use as sort of a scientific control.  The subject of the experiment, then, occurred thirty minutes earlier in John Ennis’s monologue.  In what I consider to be one of the most earnest moments I’ve ever witnessed, Ennis delivered a seven minute speech about The Midnight Show that was, in a word, truthful.  I don’t mean truthful in the sense that I believe his words were factual (though I do), but rather that he meant every word he said.  In an annotated version, I’ll paraphrase:

It’s so exciting to work with these guys.  I’ve been really lucky to host their show more than once.  It’s like getting to play tuba with The Beatles. . . I’m fucking serious!  These guys work so hard!  They moved into a house together, so when they wake up in the morning they’re surrounded by each other!  Isn’t that fucking amazing? . . .   And thank you [to the audience] for doing yourself a favor and coming out to see this show because pretty soon, when they’re in the TV shows and movies you love, you’re going to look back and remember coming to The Purple Onion tonight.

Result:  Some awkward laughter and lackluster applause as Ennis jubilantly leapt off stage.

Now I understand that the purpose of a monologue is to warm-up the audience and set the tone for the show, but in this instance I could have really cared less.  Frankly, it pissed me off that the rest of the crowd couldn’t embrace what they were being given.  Ennis riffed honestly.  He was an actor shedding away the character and speaking the truth.  And so, looking back to the control, here’s the question I’ve been asking myself since Friday night.  Why is it funny to watch a character who’s full of shit call himself a truth-teller, but off-putting to a watch someone genuine actually tell the truth?   Honestly, I have no idea.

Saturday Night

Part Four – Straight Line to Union Square

The plan sounded simple enough.  We’d grab a bite to eat, and then meet up with a couple people at Union Square.  We’d heard it’s pretty cool there.  Little did we know, all the 3G coverage in the world couldn’t save us.

Before I take you along on a recreation of our travels, take a moment to study the map below, tracing our route from “A” to “B” and so on.

The journey began with what I now consider to be a warm up, though at the time it felt like a cross-country trek.  We walked seven blocks (which does, in fact, suck when you’re hungover and without your sunglasses) from the Tomo Hotel (“A”) to point “B”.  I should have known that things weren’t going to go well when my buddy Hark translated the directions he received as, “the Doughboy on Quay,” when we were headed to The Crepevine, just past Clay Street.  Somehow we made it there.

After breakfast, we officially started “moving toward” Union Square.  You’ll notice that Union Square can be reached on a straight line from Sutter – the street out hotel was on – and that we blew past it and continued another six blocks to “C”.  It was at this point that we actually decided to consult a map.  Unfortunately, the one we looked at was not topographical.  Had it been, we would have noticed that after continuing to “D” and making a left, the next twelve blocks would be an eighty degree uphill climb.

It didn’t take long for morale to get low.  We started shedding travelers at the same rate as our sweaty clothes.  (If it makes it sexier for you, please feel free to picture any or all of us completely naked.)  The excuses for abandonment started off strong with reasoning such as “I’ve got to fix the DVD before the show,” but eventually devolved to departing statements like, “I’m gonna go pee over here.”  I wish I would have been as smart.  (Note:  Once again, notice that after walking the first six blocks from “D” to “E” we had traveled an approximate total of twenty-seven blocks, yet were only one block away from our hotel.)

This trend continued.  The next five blocks from “E” to “F” were at least downhill, so we all had the pleasure of working out a new set of muscles, especially if you (me) were wearing heels.  Once at “F”, a brief period of dawdling and toying around with the idea of walking the wrong direction passed before we moved south, taking us another six blocks to “G”.

“G” brought us once again to Sutter Street, six blocks from the Tomo Hotel and eight more yet to Union Square.  We had officially traveled about forty-four blocks, roughly three and a half miles, and at no point reached even the halfway point between our hotel and Union Square.  So what was the next step?

“Fuck it, let’s go somewhere else.”  Which we did. . . in a cab.

Part Five – A Picture is Worth About 2,000 Words

The above photo was taken outside The Purple Onion on the night of the Friday show.  If you’re interested in taking a little glimpse at the rest of weekend, check out this photo gallery I put up on Flickr.

Part Six – What’s Behind the Curtain?

I watched The Midnight Show perform on two consecutive nights with different hosts and altered set lists on a small, unfamiliar stage.  On night one a large contingent of the crowd was old enough to remember the first time they saw Woody Allen at The Purple Onion.  Night two came with a heckler and a pony-tailed douchebag (not me) who thought his off-the-cuff zingers deserved to be part of the show.  Regardless of these obstacles, The Midnight Show fucking brought it both nights.  Their energy from beginning to end was relentless and it translated not only to the laughs from the audience, but to the ones coming from “backstage.”

I refer to the backstage in quotes because, really, there wasn’t one.  Seeing as The Purple Onion is a room built for stand-up, the only place the dozen-or-so member cast could gather was a little alcove that led to the bathrooms.  At best, four or five of them could fit back there (six or seven if anyone was on the can), so most of time the cast was spilling out into the back of the main room.

Now I’ve seen TMS plenty of times at this point and I’ve always been able to feel their energy, but this time was different.  When the lights went down and the opening began with the blaring punk rock of The Bronx, the audience would have been better served turning their seats around.  Like a college football team getting ready to charge out of the tunnel, The Midnight Show jumped, thrashed, and stared each other in the eyes with a confidence that only comes from being truly talented.  The only thing missing was a sign for them to tap that read “Perform Like a Champion Today.”  And the beauty of it was, the energy didn’t die after the introduction.  As members went to and from the stage, it was as if they were passing a torch that carried that energy, and this went on throughout the entirety of their show.  By the end, the audience was holding the torch.

The Midnight Show comes ready to work, but they also understand that it takes more than simply showing up to make some noise; they bring heart.  It’s this dynamic that sets them apart from other comedy groups.  What they’ve created is both professional and sacred.  They do it for themselves, they do it for each other, and they do it with a purpose.  Because of this, as they grow in strength and popularity, it will only be a matter of time before they are widely known, and people will say about their talent in a plain, almost obvious tone, “Hey, whaddya know, it’s The Midnight Show.”

My name is t.j and I road blogged this.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

Book your tickets for The Midnight Show’s monthly performances at UCB-LA by clicking here.

And check out the rest of San Francisco Sketchfest’s schedule by clicking here.


January 28, 2010 Posted by | Blogs by T.J. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments