Komedy in K-Town
Wednesday night, I was invited to Danforth France and DeMorge Brown’s comedy show in Koreatown, “Komedy in K-Town,” at the unmarked “R Bar” on 8th and Irolo. When I tried to go in, the door was locked, a little window slat opened, and I was rather shocked to find out that the “password” from the event flier was actually required knowledge if the bouncer was going to let me in. Flummoxed, I was all “um, ‘nobody leaves the baby in a corner,’” which wasn’t right but was close enough.
Inside the R Bar, the décor was dark and luxurious, way more inviting than most bars in this garish town. There are several old, ornate drinking establishments tucked away in the forgotten corners near Wilshire and Normandie, and the R Bar was clearly crafted in the style of its older neighbors, an intentionally antiquated oasis in the midst of graffitied laundromats and hookers with misshapen wigs. It had chandeliers, comfy couches, and a great selection of top-shelf whiskey. Though the bartendress had no idea what a Cuba Libre was, I kind of respected her for that.
There was a cavalcade of talent on the schedule that night, which I think made the host, Eric Acosta, a little nervous. He seemed a bit rabbit-in-headlights the whole evening, especially considering how courteous and giggly the room was. But I chalked that up to anxiety over the baby his wife is about to have (or at least that’s what he said—you know how these comedians tell the blackest lies just to get a cheap guffaw).
Holly Mills was on first: a blonde, self-professed geek whose deadpan expression reminds me more than a little of William Hurt’s. Though I recognized most of her jokes from the last times I’ve seen her about town, her timing and delivery made me giggle anyway. I knew I was at the cusp of a great evening’s entertainment.
Marc Maron was on next, the long-haired, bearded comedian who’s toured with Andy Kindler for a year or three and was trying out a lot of new material based on those excursions. I saw Kindler just a few months back, and though hearing a comedian build a set around another comedian’s words seemed in theory like cheating, it wasn’t like Maron was repeating Kindler’s material. And I had to admit that he nailed his Kindler impression. His recreation of Kindler trying to use his iPhone to navigate driving directions through the backwoods of Appalachia captured Kindler’s wordy nerdiness almost better than Andy himself could have done.
Following him to the stage was Matt Dwyer, former host of Cornfoot at the sadly finito Sea Level Records. Dwyer over the last couple years has really grown into the character he’s created for himself, a man of genteel politeness punctuated by snappy, unexpected vulgarity. His gentlemanly delivery helps carry the laughter and energy to the next joke, even when he’s padding his set with untested material.
At one point, a joke about giving an American Indian a smallpox blanket seemed to rile up a guy in the corner, a Stephen Segal type who probably was offended because he sort of dressed like an off-duty Native American. So he was doing one of those “I’m laughing because I’m about to kick your ass” laughs. And things could have really gone sour when some ladies in the back gave him some mild heckling during a joke where he demonstrated his “fuck face.” But it gave us a chance to see Dwyer really shine, as he warmed up his hecklers with a seemingly improvised joke about bringing them home to show his fuck face personally during the act of sex, when his pasty stomach would droop over them as they got a great view of his patchy chest hairs, dotting the white ocean of his torso like the islands of our nation’s youngest state.
Jim Hamilton was next, whose deadpan was even more enjoyable and whose self-deprecation knew no bottom. It was all pretty damn hilarious, but when he got to the musical humor, starting with Tone Loc and working his way through Jay Z, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Timbuk3’s not-so-bright future, I grew less interested in laughing with him and more interested in asking if he wanted to file share with me later. That’s not a criticism—I like comedians who talk about arcane shit that I know, and musical trivia is what I know best.
Following Jim was Hugh Moore, a big black dude with glasses and a great one-liner about the new Indiana Jones movie (“brothers love seeing movies about white guys who carry whips!”). I’m finding it hard not to give away all his jokes, seeing as how he was pretty good with a punch line, but he’s one of those comedians who can tell a rather engrossing story and then give you an O. Henry bitter bite turnaround at the end. There was one extensive joke about the value of farmers in society that I wish he’d made into another one-liner instead of a four-liner, but that’s just me being critical because I can get away with it (he doesn’t know my real identity yet).
Next was a surprise guest: Josh Fadem, host of the Acid Reflux Comedy Hour at the 1600 Club, who actually performed at another club earlier that night but somehow got to the R Bar in time to do a set (proof of the power of my punditry perhaps?). He did a typically hilarious, energetic rant that ended with a long sound effect drone into the microphone (reminiscent of Frank Conniff’s “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” bit from years ago), during which he sketched a picture of someone’s face on some graph paper. It reminded me of the shockingly good Etch-a-Sketch art he had exhibited at galleries a couple years ago.
Finally we came to the man we all sort of showed up to see, the comedic experience known as Mike O’Connell, a man with a voice like Orson Welles meets Wolfman Jack, and who phrases things like that kid in the Butcher Boy. Once a husky fellow, known for getting red in the face and downing pints of beer on stage during his act, he’s slimmed down and started wearing the kind of horn-rimmed glasses and sunny bowl haircut that make a man look like either Chad or Jeremy.
His whole act was a fantastic stream-of-consciousness spiel of words, spittle, and facial ticks. And let’s not forget volume—occasionally I felt like he was doing the Scott Thompson trick of being so explosively loud that it made us giggle more out of terror than from the wit of his jokes, but timing is as important to comedy as writing, and his was spot-on. He kept screwing up his face into a manic gesture not unlike Malcolm McDowell’s at the end of A Clockwork Orange (“I was cured, all right!”), which would have been scarier if his haircut and bare feet didn’t make him look so much like a child who just came from making sand castles at the beach. He concluded by strapping on an acoustic guitar and playing a few comedic ditties, including his famous “Cute Asian Babies” song. It was an oldie but goodie that I enjoyed hearing for the first time in a year or two.
Unfortunately, it was time for the show to wrap up, so I staggered off to my car and to bed, pleased as punch to have seen some good comedy relatively devoid of fart jokes but full of good stories and healthy self-loathing. I miss living in Koreatown, but now I have something to go back for on the first Wednesday of every month.