2/1/2010 Neil Hamburger @ The End

Gregg Turkington, Mike H, Tom Green, Shawn Halpin
Gregg Turkington, *major entertainer* Mike H, Tom Green, Shawn Halpin on Elliston in Nashville

Last night’s show at The End featured Gregg Turkington’s anti-comedy character, “America’s Funnyman” Neil Hamburger along with *major entertainer* Mike H from *major group* DAIQUIRI, local musician/comic Chris Crofton and a surprise set from Tom Green.

The Nashville Creme blog began their review of the show by noting that they rarely cover funny things: “Reviewing stand-up comedy isn’t normally part of The Spin’s job description.” Yeah, we know. Rethink that.

In honor of the Scene taking the time to chime in on local comedy shows, we’ll let them do the heavy lifting for us:

“..we would’ve been idiots to miss this show.”

Chris Crofton
“Chris Crofton began a streamlined version of an act we’ve come to know and love. With only a half-hour or so to spare, Crofton wasted no time, delving headfirst into gag-inducing sexual descriptions of fecalphiliacs, jokes about rockabilly douches, diatribes against new media, tales of desecrating slave burial grounds while on LSD and even a joke making light of the tragedy in Haiti.”

Here’s some shaky video of Mr. Crofton doing some NSFW stand-up at the 2009 NY Film Festival:

*major entertainer* Mike H
“Clad in a bizarre hodgepodge consisting of a porn star’s sport coat, shorts, a makeshift kilt, an insurance salesman’s tie, fluffy Zorro mask and stuffed octopus hat, Daiquiri [ed note: actually this was a solo performance from *major entertainer* Mike H of the group Daiquiri] looked as if he’d just gone dumpster diving behind Southern Thrift. Using a myriad of effects processors, a Kaos pad, microphones, an overhead projector and some samples, this excitable artiste spent the first portion of his set singing and spastically dancing about the stage to minute-long compositions that we can best describe as sounding like a cross between Dan Deacon and Limp Bizkit.”

Here’s a clip of *major entertainer* Mike H performing on Tom Green’s House Tonight:

At some point, Mike H’s pal Tom Green jumped on stage and helped out with a cover of Wham!’s “Everything She Wants.” After the show Mike complained that some of his gadgets didn’t work at all & he considered his set to be terrible compared to other recent outings. I found his set to be hilarious and entertaining on many levels. His song “Opening Act” could be the greatest thing ever performed by an opening act.

Neil Hamburger

“Donning his trademark cheap tux and exaggerated comb-over, Hamburger came onstage and showered us with side-splitting anti-joke after anti-joke, proving that he’s simply unequaled in the art of insult comedy. Over the course of an hour, everyone from Scientologists to rock stars, dead celebrities and clothing manufacturers became targets of Hamburger’s merciless raillery.”

Here’s one of Neil Hamburger’s appearances on Jimmy Kimmel:

Tom Green in Zanies' green room
Awesome awesome awesome. Hamburger is in Louisville tonight and Knoxville Wed.. I’d highly recommend it, if you have the means. The show ended with a BONUS set from our friend Tom Green doing some highlights from his new stand-up act. “Good times,” as Mr. Green would say. The Scene erroneously reported that Tom was drunk and although that was the case Saturday when he jumped up at The Stage to sing “Summer of ’69”.. and Sunday at Tootsie’s when he spat rhymes from, “Rapper’s Delight”.. he had not been drinking Monday and was sober. We promise.

It was a very fun show. Now if we could just get the Scene out to review a few comedy shows even if they DON’T also involve local musicians..

Review: Steve Hofstetter & Phil Mazo (12th & Porter, Nashville, TN – July 26, 2009)

Review by Nashville-based up-and-coming stand-up comedian and hyphen-enthusiast Riley Fox:

Steve Hoffstetter
Steve Hoffstetter
About a half-hour or so ago from this writing, I returned home after seeing one of the best stand-up comedy shows I think I may have ever seen. (At least in my top five.)

It was Steve Hofstetter with Phil Mazo at 12th & Porter in downtown Nashville, TN.

First, I’ll discuss the venue. 12th & Porter is a little rock club in downtown Nashville. It’s located at the corner of 12th Avenue North, and, well… Porter. (The same venue naming device is used for another popular Nashville music venue, 3rd & Lindsley, which is located at the corner of… 3rd & Lindsley. For a town full of musicians and other creative people, Nashville really half-assed on some of these venue names. There’s even a venue that, at one point–and it may still have this name–was called The Place. That’s it. The Place. “Hey, what are you guys gonna do before you head to The Place?” “Oh, we’re gonna go eat at A Restaurant.”)

12th & Porter has two rooms: the main showroom, and a side lounge. This show that I saw was in the side lounge room. There were a couple of high-top tables in the back; couple of couches along the side wall, which was adorned with beautifully vibrant paintings of such past music stars as Hank Williams, The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc. The rest of the room had chairs set up in rows, theater-style, facing the stage. Whoever made that call was extremely smart to do so. Stand-up shows work best when the seating is arranged as such so that the entire audience is focused on the show throughout its entire duration. Then, of course, there was the stage, which wasn’t too big, but also wasn’t too small. In the immortal words of Goldilocks, “it was just right.”

If I may go off on a bit of a tangent here, I’d like to profess my love for small, intimate venues. I fucking love them, and I love doing shows in them. Smaller venues are always much more fun than large venues, because with a smaller room you get a greater sense of that intimacy with an audience, and you can really engage them on a much more personal level than even in a big comedy club showroom. You get a connection that isn’t common in other rooms. That’s why if someone ever gave me the choice of performing in a concert hall or stadium for 5,000 people, or a rock club or coffeehouse in front of 50–I’d go with the 50 people any day of the week. I could go on and on about this, but the point is that smaller crowds make better shows because as a performer you can connect with them on a more personal and honest level than a stadium full of random faces. And this show that I saw was definitely one of those.

I’d estimate that there were approximately 50-75 people packed into this little lounge room. As I sat my seat, I eavesdropped on several people’s conversations, and much to my surprise: many of them were talking about comedy. It was mainly about famous comedians they’d seen, but anytime you hear an audience before a comedy show talking about comedy on some level, that’s a great sign. It means the audience knows what the fuck is going on, and they are there for the purpose of seeing the comedy show versus the random yahoos who happened to show up by coincidence.

Phil Mazo
Phil Mazo
The show was opened by one of the employees of 12th & Porter, who briefly introduced Phil Mazo. I’d heard of Mazo several times before, as he’s got a pretty sizeable online base, but I’d never seen him or heard any of his material before tonight. For those unfamiliar with Mazo, he has a very clean-cut boyish look (he seriously looks like he could easily be mistaken for a high school sophomore), and he contrasts it with a lot of edgy, dark material. Most of Phil’s act was about relationships; particularly the more sexual aspects of them, of which I’m usually not a big fan. However, his material was very well-written with a few twists that surprised me. He didn’t break away from his material too much, although one of my favorite moments of the night was when he was in the middle of a bit about threesomes when a glass broke on the floor. Mazo’s comment: “Did I bring up some personal shit there?”

After Phil Mazo finished, he introduced the headliner, Steve Hofstetter. I had seen Steve once before, though it was under much less-than-desirable circumstances: he played Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, TN. In the cafeteria. AT NOON. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fantastic show, but Hofstetter was still able to pull it off given the environment he was in. This time, however, he was in a club at night in front of people who were there to see him–or at least the comedy show in general (which is good enough). And he fucking ROCKED. He weaved between his own clever, highly polished, intelligent material and extremely quick-witted interactions with the crowd.

Believe me when I say this: Steve Hofstetter has one of the quickest minds I have ever seen in comedy. It’s amazing how fast he is. He spent at least two or three minutes riffing on the Wal-Mart in Johnson City, TN after a woman in the crowd mentioned that she was from Johnson City:

“Why did you live in Johnson City?”
“I graduated and moved in with a friend.”
“Well, then you need to get better fucking friends.”

Steve did approximately 50 minutes or so onstage, and the laughs never let up due to his rapid-paced style of speaking. The crowd that he performed for fucking LOVED him and Phil. I can honestly say it may have been the hottest group of people in terms of audience response that I have ever seen. They were there to laugh, and laugh they did: from the dirty jokes to the clean jokes, from the smart jokes to the dumb jokes, from the innocent jokes to the downright demonic jokes. This audience kicked ass, and Mazo and Hofstetter deserved it. And I bet it won’t be long before the two of them, who frequently tour together, will be rolling through Nashville again.

“This guy got mad because I was funnier than him. I said, ‘I’m a professional comedian, so obviously that must mean I’m funnier than you.’ He said, ‘Yeah, well, you’re a douche.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You’re right: I am a douche. Because after I fucked your mother, she smelled better.’” – Steve Hofstetter

Until next time,


Riley Fox is an up-and-coming stand-up comedian in Nashville, Tennessee. He enjoys progressive-rock, self-loathing, and overuse-of-hyphens. His overarching self-consciousness and indecisiveness causes great unease in social situations, and is also very introverted and delusional to an extent. However, despite all of these psychological shortcomings, he has still somehow convinced himself to pursue a career entertaining and performing in front of audiences of people. He’s not quite sure how it happened, either. He is currently working on a BA degree in English, and writes in his spare time. He would also like to borrow $20 dollars. Please?

John Oliver’s Twist on American Satire

Anna Matsen attended John Oliver‘s May 25th show at Zanies and sends in this review:

john_oliver-zaniesSomebody put the fear of Nashville in John Oliver — thankfully for comedy fans, he nonetheless braved the city. To test the audience, he opened with a Voldemort vs. Cheney joke in which the former Vice came off the worse. (Call me crazy, but that appraisal coming from Harry Potter’s grown up doppleganger — minus only the lightning scar — carries added authority.) When the crowd roared in response to this and a Catholic Church vs. Galileo joke, Oliver expressed relief and excitement over what was sure to be a fun night.

I don’t know whether his show was literally sold out, but but the crowd was sure packed in and excited. The vast majority of people there were no doubt already big fans of his because he is popularly recognized; therefore, concerns that the audience wouldn’t get his humor were ultimately unwarranted. However, it’s worth noting that Nashville is a more mixed town when it comes to political humor than many realize, particularly when it comes to jokes at America’s expense. Sure, there are folks here (as everywhere) with a distaste for political comedy, but even those who’d get up-in-arms in defense of blind patriotism would have been at a loss how to react to Oliver’s jokes. His satire wasn’t aimed at critiquing U.S. policies, but rather expressed his dumbfounded, ironic love of all that’s ridiculous in American culture … and if there’s anything true about U.S. mass culture, it’s that we’re a “more to love” body of people.

For instance, do you know which of the U.S. states is the “least obese”? Or that our nation has the most flamboyant (if not the most participatory) democracy? Did you know that Americans have the most names in the Guinness Book of World Records? John Oliver can answer all of these questions, and has several illustrative examples proving that Americans will do anything for a token of notoriety. He also talked that night, as he does on his recorded stand up special Terrifying Times, about certain gloriously frivolous products found in our malls — things (according to him) no other country would make or buy, like the oreo pizza and the inflatable grill.

But the set wasn’t dedicated solely to satirizing American culture — Oliver is a pro at candid self-effacement too. He described for us his first feeble time firing a gun and the young (hilarious) trauma which inspired him to pursue comedy rather than athletics. After chastising his own insufficient masculinity to properly “Wooooo!,” he actually tried competing yell-for-yell with the happily rowdy audience — an unwise, but greatly amusing move.

Toward the end of this gig Oliver received a gift from an audience member: the quite hefty Encyclopedia of Rock. He stayed on stage an extra ten minutes just flipping through the pages for entertaining bits, like the maracas on the “things you need to start a band” page. Inspired by this, I am right now issuing a challenge to every other city that John Oliver visits: I dare you to outdo Nashville, particularly with a thoughtful and creative gift of some sort, given toward the end of his act. Since he pokes fun at America for not just inventing but selling items like the inflatable grill, best of all would be a product of like-minded American ingenuity. (Perhaps the portable microwave I once saw advertised in a magazine … I presume for people who have so little free time that, to eat at all, they simply must nuke on-the-go.) We want him to keep laughing at/with us, after all, so that this witty Brit stays a permanent import.

Finally, on The Daily Show he’s always struck me as the most bubbly correspondent — someone who’s thrilled to tears every time he reports. Happily, both his stand up show and his podcast with Andy Zaltzman (The Bugle) embrace the same invigorating enthusiasm. John Oliver is a smart, irrepressibly fun comic who works well with a crowd, even when self-conscious because unknown somebodies hyped him full of worry over Nashvillains. And there’s always the bonus of the lovely accent. (If he recorded a CD of himself reciting binary code, I’d buy it … but I’d much prefer his comedy.) If he comes to your town, go to his show, laugh a lot, and bring a gift. I dare ya.

Anna Matsen — a word nerd, political junkie, amateur philosopher, sushi-lover, and Nashvillian — attends as many comedy gigs as she can afford. As a grad student of English at Belmont Unversity and an English tutor at The Learning Lab, she works daily to improve her writing skills, hoping to one day write something worth a book jacket. Visit Anna on Facebook.

Mary Mack: Amble on the Absurd Side

Anna Matsen attended Mary Mack‘s May 18th album-release show at Zanies and sends in this review:

2009.05.18 mary mackMy title isn’t fair. Mary Mack‘s humor isn’t purely absurd, but I’m at a loss how precisely to describe it. The most remarkable description I can give of her performance is that it’s both rambling and compact. Her thoughts flow like a meandering steam — one which, magically, loops back to earlier points with ease — yet the jokes are quick, craftily worded, expertly timed, and (ironically, given my stream analogy) bone dry. To put it another way, many excellent one-liners could be plucked from her material (“I don’t have a wide range of emotion. I get panic attacks, but I’m just not that excited about ’em.”), but strung together these jokes become each other’s seamless context.

Perhaps listing the subjects of her comedy would help. She talks about the eccentricities of her life and family, yet isn’t an “observational” comic (at least, not of the “Say, have you ever noticed …?!” variety). Many of her stories relate to small town northern Wisconsin, yet Nashville laughed as hard at these as it did the rest of her jokes. Once or twice she flirted with political humor, but the affair was fleeting, sweet, and refreshingly undramatic. She opened with a recorder-accordion duet, featured a charming Father’s Day song on mandolin (which will be stuck in your head for a week after hearing it), and finale’d with a special tune on her imaginary musical saw.

The show I saw, her album release show at Zanies (Pinch Finger Girl is well-worth the ten bucks — I’ve already listened to it twice through and will be loaning it out to friends), was my first time experiencing her humor. It took a little time for the crowd to fully warm up, but overall the atmosphere was awe and giggles in honor of the captivatingly eccentric lady with the breathy, pinched voice. Even the waiters seemed more relaxed than usual, reacting to the comic with joyful snickers as they ran between tables. She had one especially clever audience interaction: Miss Mack sang a quick ditty about her hope that the enthusiastically drunk lady near the stage wasn’t a speech therapist. The woman was too busy laughing, along with the rest of the crowd, to speak up for the next ten minutes. (I very much wish I could remember the exact line.)

I do have a conspiracy theory about Mary Mack, and I hope those who’ve seen her act will back me up on this: she’s the long-lost lovechild of Maria Bamford and Steven Wright, secretly raised by down home erratics in the middle of nowhere (i.e. northern Wisconsin) in order to trigger the coping mechanism that generates professional-grade comedic skills.. It’s the only logical explanation.

Mary Mack’s website is MaryMackComedy.com.

Anna Matsen — a word nerd, political junkie, amateur philosopher, sushi-lover, and Nashvillian — attends as many comedy gigs as she can afford. As a grad student of English at Belmont Unversity and an English tutor at The Learning Lab, she works daily to improve her writing skills, hoping to one day write something worth a book jacket. Visit Anna on Facebook.

Jeffrey Ross and the Fun of Laughing at Ourselves

Anna Matsen — a word nerd, political junkie, amateur philosopher, sushi-lover, and Nashvillian — attends as many comedy gigs as she can afford. As a grad student of English at Belmont Unversity and an English tutor at The Learning Lab, she works daily to improve her writing skills, hoping to one day write something worth a book jacket. Anna attended Jeffrey Ross‘ second show on April 25th at Zanies and sends in this review:

I was recently able to attend a Zanies gig involving Chad Riden, Lahna Turner, and Jeffrey Ross. Chad opened with a mix of his usual material (such as his accused “badass” driving skills and a drunken “Free Bird” evangelist impersonation) and improvised audience interaction about birthdays and the recent Nashville marathon. All in all, a good set.

Jeffrey Ross @ ZaniesThe second opener, as mentioned above, was Lahna Turner, a comic I was seeing for the first time. Her humor was a mix of singing and spoken word, surprise and shock, and the crowd ate it up. She joked about sex, sexual racial stereotypes, and her obese husband (whom she neglected to mention is fellow-comedian Ralphie May). Her current pregnancy provided plenty of material, and was dealt with in such punctuated explicitness that men and women alike were doubled-over in laughter. She worked unusually well with the audience when they didn’t respond as vocally as she had hoped. From where I sat it was obvious the crowd loved her act, but occasionally she threw in a gibe about how she’d give us a moment to recognize her brilliant humor. There are comics I’ve seen give a similar reaction, seemingly out of self-consciousness or insecurity, and it dampens the humor that actually exists in the crowd; but her obvious (and well-justified) confidence in her comedy won her louder and louder peals of laughter every time. Two of her fun musical numbers were the “Long Schlong” song and “Kegel” (a memorable five-second, silent sing-along. … ;`D)

Jeffery Ross, that night’s headliner, is best known as a “roast master”; after seeing his act live, I must conclude that he is probably the friendliest roaster around — which is why his act works. Oh, he dishes out the witty taunts, but in a way that invites people to laugh at themselves, because his ridicule isn’t the least mean-spirited. His all-in-friendly-fun demeanor is likely why, over the course of the show, he shared the stage with eight other people — all of whom took their gibes in stride. It strikes me as a healthy compulsion when people voluntarily place themselves in the butt of a joke. It’s a sign that we can, on occasion, give up a few hangups (mainly, the hangup of taking ourselves too seriously).

The first to be invited up was a woman in a shiny, silver, so-so-short dress. She was teased/complimented for having a bouncy-when-she-laughed chest. He then suggested an audience roast. Two girls and three guys walked on stage eager to be teased. Probably the best zinger of the “roast” was his dubbing of a white boy in a white t-shirt with a chain necklace a few extra pounds “K-overfed.” An odd-faced fellow sitting alone at the corner of the stage was ridiculed at the beginning of the show and later brought up to play piano for several of Ross’s “poems.” (Is it just me, or is there always some awkward loner near the stage at Zanies shows? Maybe it’s even the same guy and I haven’t paid careful enough attention. … But I digress.) Although an obviously genuine audience member and not a plant, his comic timing playing the piano while Jeffrey Ross recited “love poetry” worked perfectly. The last person to share the stage was the first half of Evan and Jaron. To be honest, I was never a fan of their hit “Crazy For This Girl” (too much sap in that pop ballad for my taste), but it was still fun seeing Evan on stage. He plays piano well, sings well (duh), and good-naturedly took his share of teasing like everyone else.

Finally, Ross didn’t restrict himself to the audience when it came to poking fun; he also threw in a bit of self-effacing humor (particularly about being a New Jersey native). And his poem in honor of his cat was simply fun. It was a great night laughing both at and with a talented stand up act.

Visit Anna Matsen on Facebook.