A Friday Night Outing

Spring has arrived on the calendar. Here in Michigan, what arrived was a heavy snowstorm dropping about four inches of new snow on things.

Ed Brayton came to Lansing this evening for a performance by a friend of his, Don Reese. I got invited to tag along. We met for dinner at “Smokey Bones” at the Eastwood Town Center. I was unfashionably late, having left in time to get there — if the roads were clear and dry, which they weren’t. It took the better part of an hour to make the trip I usually do in about fifteen minutes.

Don is a stand-up comic who has appeared on A&E, MTV, and worked with Adam Sandler. Don is about my height and weighs, I don’t know, somewhere in the upper 200 pound range. Don’s response to male pattern baldness was a razor. Ed and Don engaged in a batch of shoptalk plus discussion of various things about the entertainment industry, but mostly things to do with the stand-up comedy business and people they knew. I couldn’t aid that much at all, so I primarily applied myself to a beef brisket sandwich.

Eventually we parted ways with Don, who needed to go change wardrobe for his appearance. Ed and I went out to our cars and performed the ritual of brushing off snow and scraping off ice so common to early spring here in Michigan. Then we were off to Connxtions Comedy Club in Lansing. There were three acts, and Don may kick me next time I see him, for though Don made it part of his act to bring up the tendency for audiences not to remember the names of the people who just made them laugh, I am not at all sure that I have remembered the names of the first two comedians up on stage. As near as I remember, they were Andy Badinga and Marvin Todd. I’m sure Ed can correct me, and I’ll update this once I do get that correction.

Ed and I somehow got the front center table. Usually I prefer being more inconspicuous, especially where live comedy is concerned, but this didn’t have any untoward consequences this evening. Andy’s set was pleasant, if a bit rough on the delivery. Marvin Todd had an edgier routine, often playing off the mismatch between his skin color and the preponderant white-bread appearance of the audience, but handled with an experienced delivery. Todd also went between some self-deprecation and some bits where, thank goodness, another part of the audience came in for attention. A group had wandered in late and were fairly noisy in rearranging tables and chairs to suit them. For the rest of Todd’s routine, he would intersperse some vocal sound effects mimicking the moving chair noise, eliciting a “Sorry!” from one of the girls in the group.

Don Reese’s routine was thoroughly professional and while it was clear that Andy and Marvin have talent, Don certainly brings talent and polish to an act that is nonstop laugh fest. Don’s brand of humor ranges from some medium raunchy stuff common to a lot of comedy to allusions that challenge the cultural literacy of the audience. For instance (on the allusions, not the raunchy stuff), there were the references to trying to keep from offending an audience of senior citizens and having to skip his material on the Hindenburg and the Teapot Dome Scandal. Quite a bit of Don’s humor concerns his imposing physical appearance that Connxtions describes thus: “Looking like the illegitimate son of Uncle Fester and G. Gordon Liddy…”. Since he’s shaved off the mustache, I think the G. Gordon Liddy thing can be retired. But a part of Don’s routine that I particularly enjoy is his exploration of a common science fiction B-movie dialogue cliche’, having a scientist exclaim at some point, “Why, that’s fantastic!” This he folds into making the phrase relevant to more common experience, while defending the exclusivity of it. “Raspberry vinaigrette is salad dressing. It can be delicious, but it isn’t fantastic. Fantastic is having a Viking materialize in your living room because of a botched time-travel experiment.”

But I think a short summary of Don’s performance with, “Why, that’s fantastic!” isn’t really a stretch.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.