Cold Calls

by Tom Swift

Impressions from my first visit to Acme comedy club:

– Nice venue. We had good seats with a small table for drinks and there didn’t appear to be many bad ones. No bad seats, I mean — I can’t vouch for the drinks. Nice crowd on a Wednesday night. Strangely, it was sauna-warm in the bar area and wish-I-packed-a-sweater-and-maybe-mittens-too cold in the seating area.

– They need to tighten time. Between the three comedians and three amateurs (more on the latter three in a minute) we sat there for more than two and a half hours without a break. (After the show the crowd turned as one and formed a line for the bathrooms). You got the sense neither the featured comedian nor the headliner were on the clock. They would have benefited from being on the clock.

– The three comedians who clearly were on the clock were three amateurs given three minutes each as part of some sort of comedy competition they had won, the rules of which were not clear. First of these three was painfully bad. I mean two of every three people pulled from the street had a better shot at getting laughs. He seemed like a fine fellow. Hopefully he makes a lot of money doing something that does not require the telling of jokes. The third contestant was not appreciably better. The second was young, had energy, and you could see, with ten thousand hours of practice, that he could possibly make a serious foray into the profession.

– Linda Aarons, the featured comedian, reminded me a little of Steven Wright (a favorite) in that she is dry and doesn’t modulate her voice much. She also has a gift for one liners. The world needs more female comedians. Aarons’s gender jokes — she quipped about her husband Larry’s domestic abilities and desires (or lack thereof) and later remarked that we have a name for woman who likes to date younger men: a cougar. We have a name for a man who likes to date younger women: “we call him a man” — usually hit the mark. She had a very funny visual gag in which she mocked a failed gymnast who had still raised her arms as if she had in fact nailed the landing. Aarons’s act could have used some tightening but I would pay to see her again.

– John DeBoer, the headliner, especially could have profited from imposed constraints on his time. He really didn’t do an act, per se. He came with prepared bits, clearly, but did a lot of talking with the audience. I gather he makes his living with gigs at private events and I can see where that sort of approach would play in such a setting. Me, I go to a comedy club to see preparedness. Even in a small venue you can’t always hear the replies from the audience and so there were times when jokes were told and you had to check with your date (“what did he say?”). Unintended time delay is not a hallmark of good comedy.

DeBoer clearly feels comfortable on stage — he has good presence, not something I say about all comedians at this level — but I would have preferred a more polished act. He made some funnies about social media, in particular about why he can’t be on Twitter (“I have no filter”) but pulled from that well too many times. He also laughed at his own jokes for too long. He loves to laugh and at one point delivered a poignant and spontaneous line about laughter being more important than money that landed with at least me. Yet a comedian needs to foremost be in control of everyone else’s laughter.

Ticks: When he told a funny story he assured us it was true by crossing his heart, telling us he hoped to die, like a middle schooler. When here I had little trouble believing the story was true to begin with. At one point DeBoer borrowed Aarons’s gymnast raised arms and that was funny. The first time. It wasn’t funny the fourth time and only served to show us that somehow he had pit sweat going, which I don’t know how that was possible because, did I mention how cold it was in the seating area?