SXSW Comedy Review: SXSW Comedy Showcase

"Completely Official Showcase of Comedy" fun for the weirdos

Megan Gailey at an earlier appearance
Megan Gailey at an earlier appearance

It’s been a minute since I laughed as hard as I did - soberly and with focus - at the performances in SXSW Comedy’s Completely Official Showcase of Comedy. Hosted by L.A.'s Megan Gailey, the show featured two of comedy's most respected Todds (Barry and Glass), Kaufman-esque opener Joe Pera, and Nate Bargatze.

Despite being immediately assailed by drunkards and hooligans, Gailey – a new face to me – forced the audience into a laughing stupor with a combination of heckler-heckling and wisecracks about taking various drugs. Serving up brio and condescension in equal measure, she was resilient enough to lead the audience to a place of necessary quiet for Pera, whose act began with inaudible muttering. The star of Adult Swim’s upcoming Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep, Pera is a tall, blonde, barrel-chested young man with a pronounced hunch and a shaky voice. Despite his good looks, he plays nervous with the same genius that Nathan Fielder uses to play nebbish.

Pera’s performance of a man slapping bugs off his chest and face on a date brought a cacophonous response from the 200-some attendees. The absurdist energy pushed into both Gailey’s emceeing and into Todd Barry, whose 15 minutes were typically and faultlessly funny. Barry is often accused of speaking in a monotone, but no: His crowd work at Esther’s proved that his voice drips with sarcasm and a masterful sense of ridicule that inspired bits about goal-oriented fools, “apartment organizers,” and the loud-mouthed crowd itself.

Todd Glass, who followed, noticed the audience misbehaving too, but failed to land with even half the fun of Barry, Pera, or Gailey. This was upsetting because Glass was the billed headliner and is one of the most energetic stand-ups in the nation today. He seemed scattered, losing trains of thought for so long that at one point he noted: “This isn’t going over that well, is it? Some of them are, but I want all of them [to] ….” Ultimately, the Nashville-born comic Bargatze picked up some of the slack left by Glass’ so-so showing. Bargatze is a nascent success story with a new album coming out, and he spent the entirety of his set riffing on sections from it about his young daughter. He also discussed Trump, an unfortunately hackneyed subject at the moment, but his “I’m so dumb” shtick worked, and he prevailed over the exhausted, rickety audience.

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SXSW 2016, SXSW Comedy, Megan Gailey, Todd Glass, Todd Barry, Joe Pera, Nate Bargatze, Esther's Follies

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