Review: Oddball Comedy Festival

The very blue tour finale was beautifully, shamefully funny

Louis C.K.
Louis C.K. (Photo by Gary Miller)

For those lucky or zealous enough to have attended both Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival shows at the Austin360 Amphitheatre over the last 13 months, the difference between 2013’s inaugural show (the first in the festival’s history) and Sunday’s finale of the 2014 tour must have felt rather profound.

While it’s fair to say that this year’s lineup – which for Austin’s purposes consisted of Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Marc Maron, Whitney Cummings, Hannibal Buress, and Reggie Watts – out star-powered 2013’s ensemble of Dave Chappelle, Flight of the Conchords, Demetri Martin, and Kristen Schaal, it was the ostensibly impeccable behavior of Sunday evening’s capacity crowd that provided the most welcome juxtaposition. (For the record: Buress was also featured at last year’s show.)

Helping to establish the appropriate mood for hanging on the every word of inappropriate people, A360 was better outfitted to stage a night of comedy this time around. And whether it was Funny or Die (the tour’s sponsor) or the venue’s call to fill its lower bowl (customarily a standing area, as it was last year) with seats, this restructuring definitely helped instill a better atmosphere for comedy. Albeit to a lesser degree than what he infamously encountered in Hartford, Conn., last year, 2013 headliner Chappelle was hard-pressed for space to build on jokes due to catcalls and assorted drunken outbursts from some of our more boorish and expendable townspeople in the audience. This year, on the other hand, the crowd of 14,000-plus comported itself with an air bordering on adoring studiousness – as though all those $8 Bud Lights that the venue hawks had been doped with Ritalin by the brewmasters at Anheuser-Busch.

Comedian and stoner idol Doug Benson (also famed for his popular podcast Doug Loves Movies and the 2007 stoner-doc Super High Me) noted as much during his early 15-minute set; elucidating the weirdness of performing before the “largest, quietest crowd ever,” then proceeding to describe the rapt mass audience as “supportive, gentle, but not without standards.” Benson, looking dope behind a pair of black shades for half his set, had been in town for Fantastic Fest and was a last-minute addition. On a night that was fortuitously free of the rain Austin had seen much of the week, emcee Brody Stevens provided the requisite crowd-work foreplay to pave the way for the show’s opening battery of comics: Benson, Watts, Buress, and Cummings.

After a roughly 20-minute intermission, WTF podcast host Maron hit the stage to answer the burning question that presumably nagged in the minds of many: “How will he do?” Maybe some of us worry about Maron because he’s made a living out of worrying aloud about himself. Would the man who’s enjoyed a burst of long-awaited recognition these last five years for thriving in the intimate confines of his garage and smaller venues across the country translate to the big stage? Turns out it was foolish for anyone to fret over the performance of a man who’s been doing comedy half his life. Foolish even more so to think that somehow Maron, of all people, would attempt to be something he’s not for the sake of pandering to the masses. In fact, the veteran comedian – whose IFC original series Maron was just picked up for a third season – honored himself in this setting and went on to spout the most Marc Maron statement ever; in the middle of his approximately 20-minute set, he remarked in his characteristic stream-of-consciousness cadence, “There are very few absolute truths in this world – from what I understand, even gravity is hinky.” It really doesn’t get much more Marc Maron than that. So I guess we don’t have to worry about him anymore – at least not until the monologue of his next podcast.

And then there was Silverman – the show-stealer. The dangerously cute, sneakily crude comedy vixen with the irrepressibly boyish ways, who broke the ice by sniffing her armpit and reporting, “Delicious … I wish you could’ve smelled that.” In what was perhaps the single most impactful line of the entire night, Silverman spoke of her predilection for talking crazy, not during, but after sex: She supposedly remarked to a recent partner during pillow talk: “What do you think would happen if I went to the hospital and got a rape exam (right now)?” There were points in Silverman’s extended set where she went into the crowd to mingle with and torment some wide-eyed patrons. At one point, she wound up in the laps of an extremely nervous husband and wife, practically cooing in the husband’s ear before asking those around her, by a show of hands, who believed in God. She seized on one poor bastard, an obviously discomfited man named Judd, and asked him point-blank: “Would you let God cum in your mouth?” Judd sheepishly said, “No,” to which Silverman pointed out how, to a believer, everything that happens in the world is the product of God’s will; therefore, why would Judd resist God’s will – in this case to cum in his mouth – on the one hand, while simultaneously being “okay” with the historical and ongoing scourges of “AIDS, rape, murder,” and so on. Why “draw the line at cum?” she asked.

And speaking of cum – a word which must have rung out into the night around a hundred times from beginning to end – Louis C.K. closed the show by first summing up his six-week-long Oddball experience. He joked of having bedded both Cummings and Silverman during the tour’s 20-date run, dishing on how “Whitney, every time she cums, she has diarrhea.” He also gave us the inside scoop on a particularly awkward, unsolicited, (and, of course, fabricated) encounter with Buress in an undisclosed hotel room in the dead of night, where an aghast C.K. awoke to find Buress blowing him: “Hannibal,” he said, “I’m not like that,” to which Buress replied, “Only one of us has to be.” C.K. joked at the outset about how it would have been easy for him to tank his set. On the contrary, though, he gave a very inspired performance – one that helped offset reports from other cities (Denver, for one) that he seemed to mail it in at a few Oddball shows. On this night, an especially effective bit from the 47-year-old stand-up Buddha highlighted the transposed bliss he now feels in his advancing age between peeing and cumming – essentially how the former now feels like the latter did when he was a young man. He accentuated his strained orgasm face – which was broadcast on two giant screens flanking the stage – in front of the imagined urinal with a cacophony of prurient groans, moans, and all. It was beautifully, shamefully funny. That was Oddball in a nutshell. Now that’s it’s over, we can only look forward to what next year’s Oddball tour will bring. For now, let’s just all note and appreciate, for better or worse, that “cum” is a comedian’s best friend. And in the exalted words of Marc Maron as he parted ways with the A360 crowd, “Cum is what bonds us all. Good night!”

For a gallery of images from the Oddball stop in Austin, go here.

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Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival, Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Marc Maron, Hannibal Buress, Whitney Cummings, Reggie Watts, Doug Benson

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