by Brenda Hillegas
Camden’s waterfront was especially busy Sunday night with a soccer match, a baseball game, and Funny or Die’s Oddball Comedy Festival. After scanning the lots- $30, $25, $10, we opted for the free one of course and walked half a mile to Susquehanna Bank Center (half a mile does make the trek sound longer than “six blocks”).
After making a bee-line to the 3 Musketeers tent (great sponsor, by the way) to stock up on candy, I made my way to the front of the Redd’s Apple Ale Festival Stage to catch Liza Treyger and Matteo Lane. Treyger’s comedy album, Glittercheese, was just released in August. You can view clips of Lane on Adam Devine’s House Party and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore here.
The Festival Stage was hosted by Philadelphia’s own Big Jay Oakerson. With Jeffrey Ross taking the night off to celebrate his birthday, Oakerson also took over as host for the main stage. He did a short bit between performers and easily bounced off the topics of each comedian before him. You could also tell he was glad to be back home.
Nikki Glaser– Glaser opened the main stage and she reminds me a lot of Amy Schumer. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great thing actually. They say things that other women would love to say but don’t. During Glaser’s set, she discussed breaking up/making up with her boyfriend, love, and she gave us the pros of teen pregnancy. She seemed a little uncomfortable on stage, but maybe that’s her thing. I haven’t seen her perform much before. That will change early next year, though- Comedy Central gave the green light to Not Safe With Nikki Glaser, a sex-themed talk show that will premier in January.
Jay Pharoah– His impressions on Saturday Night Live are some of the best in a long time. Though his Obama follows Fred Armisen’s, Pharoah’s is pretty close to the real thing. He started his first season by immediately giving us his spot on impressions of Will Smith, and his Kanye is also animated and perfect. Last night, Pharoah tried to show off his Kevin Hart and Eddie Murphy impressions. They weren’t bad, but he is more than just an impersonator. I’d love to see Pharoah on his own because 20-30 minutes per comedian just wasn’t enough. He’s a great story teller and I’m sure there’s much more to his hookers in Amsterdam bit that he did last night. This was his last stop on the Oddball tour, as he’s about to get ready for another season of SNL. The audience was sad to hear about his departure from the tour (but come on, it’s not like many of them are going to the rest of the shows anyway), and he encouraged all of us to catch him live again sometime. He’ll be at the University of Delaware on 9/24.
Michael Che– Last season, Che took over as co-host of SNL’s Weekend Update alongside Colin Jost. He also did a quick stint as a corespondent on The Daily Show in 2014. Though he’s still a little rough around the edges while reading off jokes on Update, he’s very comfortable live on stage. This is where Che can let loose and not have to work around the censors of live television. Last night, Che convinced the audience that white girls should take over the world and throwing a Trader Joe’s into the middle of Syria would fix all of their problems (except for a rent increase of course). I haven’t been very fond of Che, but again, that’s because there’s not too much he can do on NBC. If he has the chance to tour and heads back to Philadelphia, I would absolutely be there.
Anthony Jeselnik– Near the end of Che’s set, fireworks started to go off over either across the river at Penn’s Landing or at the Riversharks’ baseball game. Jeselnik insisted he spent a lot of money making those fireworks happen just for us. It took a lot of will power to not leave during his set and take photos of the Philadelphia skyline/fireworks show. I know who Jeselnik is and I’ve seen his stuff before, but this is the first time I’ve actually focused all of my attention on him. Though I think some of his jokes would have been better for other comedians on the bill that night, he was quick, sharp and no doubt incredibly talented. What I love most about comedians like Jeselnik (and most of the ones on stage last night) is that they don’t give a fuck. It’s their show, they pick the topics and if you’re offended- too damn bad. That’s the way it should be. From dead kids to sex offenders to being a dick to his grandma (I wouldn’t be surprised if his Bible/college/money bit turned out to be true), Jeselnik gave a straightforward, deadpanning performance.
Bridget Everett– This was the last performance for the first half of the show. If you were in Camden last night and decided to skip Everett’s set to get a head start on the beer or bathroom lines, shame on you. She took one look at the audience and grabbed them by the balls. If you didn’t know who Everett was before last night, you did now. She sang, she groped audience members, drank their beer, pulled (and carried) them on stage, sat on some faces and even flashed us (nice boobs!)…Everett is hilarious, bold and happy in her skin (which feels like butter, apparently). She stole the show and gave Camden something they’ll never forget. Watch her stand up special, Gynecological Wonder, now on Comedy Central.
Nick Kroll– With the Kroll Show recently ending and The League just beginning it’s final season, fans of Kroll were very happy to get a few minutes with him on Saturday night. As he walked on stage, he received some of the loudest cheers and claps of the evening. He talked about suicide and homeless people, which of course are touchy topics (as were most things during the evening), but still got big laughs from the crowd because he can make it work. He also apparently shit his pants before coming to Philly and described it in great detail. Kroll recently spoke with Philly.com about his “Pawnsylvania” sketch on The Kroll Show. Los Angeles Kroll fans can catch him at the Upright Citizens Brigade with John Mulaney for a handful of dates between this week and the end of November.
Dave Attell– Attell was just in Philadelphia about a month ago at Helium, but the crowd last night had no trouble welcoming him back. He apparently judges cities based on how great their aquariums are…turns out the jelly fish at Camden’s was just Attell’s old Rite-Aid bag. He’s also been doing a bit about how everything in Portland is vegan, including the strip clubs while on this tour. It’s not new material for Attell, but it’s still funny. Like most comedians, he may use the same jokes on many occasions, but with Attell even if you’ve heard it before on YouTube, he can still present it in a way that sounds fresh.
John Mulaney– You may know Mulaney from his years as a writer on Saturday Night Live (he helped Bill Hader create the Stefon character). You likely do not know him from his short lived Fox series Mulaney. Stand-up, however, is Mulaney’s strong point and he nailed every topic he talked about last night. From fears of commitment to the Catholic church, though these are easy things to joke about, Mulaney kept the topics new and relatable, and the audience laughing. He also encouraged us all to vote for Trump so that we can keep laughter in our lives daily. Mulaney could have taken over the whole show, had the rest of the performers fallen ill or canceled last minute, and would no doubt be able to do it with ease. Try not to miss him next time he’s in Philadelphia.
Amy Schumer– This girl has had quite the summer. Not only was Trainwreck very well received, she has been on the press circuit non stop and dropping in at every day time and late night talk show. She’s only missing one upcoming stop on the Oddball tour (10/9) because she’s hosting SNL on the 10th…but then she’s heading to California to get back to the tour for the 10/11 stop. Her HBO special is also premiering in October. She announced to the crowd that she was hung over and shaking, but still had a stemless glass of wine by her side. Schumer told us all about how she knows which of her panties are clean and which are dirty, and how she met Hilary Clinton recently (who is too busy to drink). I enjoyed her piece about hackers accessing her information- though they took a look at a music video she made with her sister and then viewed her Google history regarding birth control and antibiotics, and went on their way. Schumer puts herself down a lot- discussing her weight, calling herself unattractive. I get, it’s part of her routine and people enjoy it, but we also know it’s not true. She’s hot, she can catch a dick whenever she wants (as she has told her audiences many times before) and she’s very powerful right now.
Aziz Ansari– As Oakerson was announcing the last comedian of the night, many people got up to leave. It was either because everyone was there to see Schumer or because everyone wanted to avoid the crowds and traffic. Ansari’s new stand up special premiered on Netflix in March, and his first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, followed in June. While I’m sure most of the audience has seen plenty of Ansari this year, that’s no reason to skip out on the last act of the night. I’ve always loved this guy- his energy, his charm. He’s great on stage. The way he described the difference between sex and masturbation, and all the shit women go through to either avoid or try to get pregnant was hilarious. Sure it’s all stuff we already know, but he performs so well and is all over the stage. He took on topics like race and the black lives matter movement, and defying his Muslim parents by eating bacon.
The Susquehanna Bank Center had a strict no cell phone policy last night at the main stage. No photos, no texting, no Tweeting. Of course this made it hard to write down notes to post here, but that’s okay. It was important to just be in the moment and pay attention to what each comic was saying. Sometimes the jokes were subtle, some with dark undertones that made the audience laugh and groan at the same time. If you were staring down at your phone, struggling to get reception in that venue, you would have missed so much. The darkness in the crowd and the lack of flashes of iPhone screens made it seem like we were all at one big comedy club. The price of drinks, however, reminded us that we certainly were not.
The Oddball Comedy tour will be on hiatus until October, but there are plenty of dates left (sadly in Florida, Texas and over on the West Coast). If you’re out that way, though, this is the perfect opportunity to check out some up and coming talent or get to know the names you’ve been hearing all over lately. There’s a rotating cast of characters and plenty of dick jokes.