The Nazer's Edge
Ramin scores the crown of Funniest Person in Austin 2012
By Robert Faires, 5:00PM, Tue. May. 15, 2012
OPEN IMAGE GALLERY
Going up last in a field of 12 comics could not have been fun for Ramin Nazer, but it didn't stop him from being fun when he finally took the stage for the 27th Funniest Person in Austin contest finals – so much fun, in fact, that he finally took top honors in the annual stand-up competition.
Nazer, who placed second in the 2010 contest and third in 2011, owned the crown this year – a noteworthy feat considering this year's stand-up showdown fielded arguably the strongest lineup of savvy, polished jokesmiths yet, and they would all get to take the mic before he did.
Nazer had good reason to worry that the crowd would be laughed out by the time he made it onstage. No comic had a less-than-solid set, and most had stellar ones – the kind where every punch line lands like a blow to the belly, forcing out guffaws. And given the audience's enthusiasm, which grew with each finalist, like some gang of joke junkies seeking bigger and bigger highs, by all rights it should have been too tuckered to titter long before the last contestant. But when Nazer took the stage around 9:40pm on Monday, that wasn't an issue. He grabbed the mic with both hands and launched into his act with an energy and focus that demanded attention. He was a man on a mission: to give the people in that room the wildest joyride of the night. And he did, punching out one absurd but smartly crafted premise after another ("Isn't it strange that the same year you start masturbating is the same year the monsters stop showing up under your bed?") while in between them whiplashing into commentary on what he'd just said. ("That concludes the misogyny portion of my act.") The crowd had seen a number of comics delivering hilarious jokes hilariously and a few deconstructing the mechanics of stand-up and doing so with wit, but they hadn't seen anyone doing both – and getting away with it – until Nazer blew on stage. His meta comments – a part of his act for years – have gotten tighter and tighter, and the drive of his delivery helps get them across like a swift kick to the funny bone before he's on to the next "real" joke. In winning the title, though, Nazer leapfrogged over Chris Cubas, who placed second last year and held onto that spot on Monday. His set was as engaging as ever, a raucous ramble through crackhead-infested convenience stores, punked 13 year old Harry Potter fans, and annoying Cash4Gold ads. Placing third was Carey Denise, who traveled some pretty well-trod topics – being poor, bad sex, dates from hell – but kept kept them fresh with an appealingly skewed perspective that had bite without bitterness.
Nazer's first proclamation as local king of comedy? "Now, everything I say is, by default, funny" – a statement he tested by blowing raspberries into the mic for about a minute. Here's hoping he returns to the material that won him his FPIA title before the year is out – and preferably before the week is out. Congratulations to all the winners.