As already established, Santa got us two tickets for Lewis Black. Last night was date night.
We went to a local ‘roadhouse’ for a quick dinner. What we didn’t realize is, it’s Alumni Weekend at Quinnipiac University, the rapidly expanding school in our little town.
The restaurant was jammed. The music (Sirius Channel 21) was very loud. I’m really not that old – it was that loud! Dinner took much too long to arrive.
Luckily, Oakdale¹ is only a few minutes away. Though the theater seats a few thousand, the vast majority come via the Wilbur Cross Parkway (CT Route 15). We come the back way, through neighborhoods in Hamden, Cheshire and Wallingford, and breeze in without traffic.
Helaine Santa ordered our tickets the moment they went on sale. We were in the 4th row, on the aisle. We sat behind some people who were seemingly show biz connected and in front of a couple who actually bought their seats on a whim, ten minutes before show time.
I was surprised to see an opening act, and not Lewis Black, pop on stage at 8:15. I’d never heard of John Bowman.
He is short, thin, middle aged and had one button too many buttoned on his sport coat. He took quick, small sips of his bottle of water, rapidly replacing and re-screwing the top.
He said he was a friend of Lewis’ and had spent the last three years traveling with him by bus². And then he enumerated how stressfully difficult and emotionally trying, that was.
Within the first few seconds, a heckler from the back yelled something out. John took him on with a riff showing the the idiocy of trying to be funny when you’ve paid to see a professional comedian.
The audience was won over. From there on, Bowman could do no wrong.
It is tougher for an opening act to succeed. Everyone paid to see the headliner. The opening act is in the way.
As with Lewis Black who would follow, John Bowman is an observational comic. They weren’t jokes as much as they were observations – and they were very funny.
Bowman ended by bringing his dog on stage – a sure way to win over Helaine. Does Rita Rudner get a royalty?
After a fifteen minute intermission Lewis Black came on. His hair is lighter colored than it seems on TV. His paunch is more pronounced than would be implied as he sits at the desk on The Daily Show. He was more mellow, generally.
Maybe that’s a misstatement. TV is a close-up medium. When you’re bigger on screen than real life, everything else is exaggerated as well. That certainly includes emotional intensity.
The fact that Lewis seemed so laid back just added to the effect when he did ramp up his intensity. And he did!
He would bend his elbows and thrust his fingers as his eyes seemingly popped from his head. I’m not sure if he turned beet red, but that wouldn’t have been out of character.
Lewis Black goes through life looking at everything and wondering why. Why it’s done? Why we take it? Why individuals are looked upon as idiots from those who manage or rule?
He claims he used to do a full hour on weather, but now there are a lot of politics. It’s not just Bush bashing.
Again, as with John Bowman, these weren’t jokes but observations. And they were hysterical.
I can’t remember laughing so much at two comedians – individually and collectively.
Lewis Black is in his late fifties. He’s always made money, but now he’s achieved incredible success. I wonder if there was ever a time he pondered giving up what is often a young man’s game?
I hope his success is satisfying – even though he’d never let on that it is.
¹ – Though officially known as the Chevrolet Theater, everyone I know still refers to it as The Oakdale. After all, it had that name for over 50 years.
Just as New Yorkers still call “Avenue of the Americas” by its old name, “6th Avenue,” this is not done to be disrespectful. These historical names just help establish our bona fides as locals.
² – Sure enough, when we left, there was a tour bus outside the stage door. It seems odd that two guys on tour would travel this way, but they do.