[ATTENDED: December 14, 2014] John Oliver
I have loved John Oliver for a long time. I have been delighted to see him go from the British guy on the Daily Show (when he replaced Jon Stewart, he was really fantastic) to the British guy on Community and now the British guy with his own HBO show (which I have never seen since I don’t get HBO). When I saw that he was doing standup in New Brunswick I had to go. Our friends Eleanor and Liz went with us and we had a lovely night in good ol’ New Brunswick (strangely enough there was literally no one in the parking garage where we parked yet every restaurant was packed).
Sarah and I were worried that the stand up would reference his show, but it didn’t. It was topical and funny and weird and funny and political and funny and very very funny.
The show opened with an Indian woman stand up. Nothing is more thankless than being an opening act for a comedian. For starters, we didn’t know there would be an opening act. Then we didn’t find out until we saw in tiny letters on the tiny marquee in the foyer that there would be an opening act. And we pushed through the doors so quickly that I never saw her name. And of course they announced it, but I don’t remember what they said her name was. And even worse I can’t seem to find it online anywhere (searching for “Indian female comedian” did not help believe it or not). And we never got a program (if it was indeed listed in there).
[UPDATE: April 9, 2015] So I wrote to The State Theater and learned that our mystery comedian’s name is Aparna Nancherla. You can see a clip of her on Conan where she tells the dog poop joke (and yes it is still funny). But stay for the end to see the insane size difference between the two.
But she was very funny. Her jokes were observational with some delightful nearly whispered punchlines that undermined her set ups. She did an amusing but about drug store receipts. There was a funny bit about going to customs in Australia and having to explain her occupation of “comedian.” But a lot of her jokes were about making it in New York City. There was a rather amusing dog poop joke and a very funny human poop joke. The human poop joke was more about apartment hunting with a hilarious and disgusting premise that she claimed was a requirement for living in a new apartment (it was hilarious whether true or not).
I estimate she did about 15 -20 minutes of material and she was quite funny. She did a great job of warming us up. I only hope I can find out her name.
Then John came out and the place went bananas. He had us laughing very hard from the moment he walked out. As with the best comedians, it is virtually impossible to remember his jokes because you are laughing so much your brain can’t handle it. Over t he course of the night Sarah and I tried to remember some of them and we managed a few. But the scant amount of information in no way indicates our enjoyment (and comedians don’t really have set lists).
Some highlights were
- the LIBRARY! in Boise. He mentioned an article that addressed his making fun of the LIBRARY! and even poked fun at the letter, and it is all true!
- He made a wonderful segue from landing a rocket on a comet (no one applauded when he said that, and he was “astonished” that our standards were so high (your New Brunswick space program must be very impressive). His alternative idea, that a series of space cats could have landed on the comet (which the NASA PR guy said had a surface like cat litter) received a much warmer round of applause.
- His joke about his dog greeting him (and expecting an audience to do likewise) was hilarious.
- As was his entire joke about the pigeon in Newark Airport. (I’m a little bummed to see that he told the same joke on Comedy Central in 2012, but hey at least I hadn’t seen that ahead of time).
- He did a wonderful local joke about the Mary Ellis grave in the parking lot of the Loews cinema (I hadn’t known about it and neither had he and his reaction to it–Googling it and reading the Wikipedia entry in rapt astonishment was very funny).
- He made some jokes about his home country and the things they are known for (which they have mostly stolen). The pig semen bit was particularly funny.
- And a hilarious bit about sending prisoners to Australia (from a gloomy overcast cold country to a warm sunny beach with kangaroos).
- The final section was about teasing America for their greatest inventions–the T-shirt cannon and a home run derby performed on a battleship.
- He closed with the quintessential amazing moment of the guy on a jet ski during Hurricane Sandy (I even knew the punchline of this (he also did this joke on Comedy Central) but the delivery was so funny it was still great).
Oliver made me laugh for over an hour straight. (Although perhaps he might need some new material?). I found out when we got there that he was doing a second show that night. I had to wonder if the second show would be longer, or if he would use the Mary Ellis grave bit in their show.