Funny Or Die’s Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Tour

Posted In:   From Issue 793   By: Robert 'Bo' White

10th July, 2014     0

Funny or Die is hitting the road like a NASCAR driver downshifting gears, screeching the tires, and flying to the finish line. Its aim is high and it sometimes hits the mark. Essentially Funny or Die is a website that features thousands of comics and videos. The tour version is an ambitious mix of offbeat humor and rock & roll attitude with a group of Comedy Central alumni who know their way around a stage.

They are savvy and professional and they step up to their marks, riff on their well-rehearsed bits and get off stage right on time.  Flight of the Conchords is a hilarious New Zealand musical/comedy duo that gained a huge following during their two-year run on HBO. Dave Chappelle is the headliner and star of the show. He is famously known for walking away from the Chappelle Show in 2005 and forfeiting millions of dollars from a lucrative contract offered by the Comedy Central.

All he had to do was sign on the dotted line and riches and acclaim would all be his. Instead, he turned his back on the producers, accountants and marketers and journeyed to Africa to find meaning and purpose to a life no longer his own, defined by the limits of showbiz and the control of the suits. It was a stunning rejection the cultural quagmire that exists in America. This dude has integrity or balls or he’s totally insane…or all of the above. I respect the murkiness - it’s all so bloody human.

This was Chappelle’s first big tour in nearly ten years and it started like an old beater car that is dented, ugly and unloved. By the fourth show in Hartford Connecticut, Chappelle seemed to lose his way. Angered by hecklers and loud booing, Chappelle took the low road and threw out a big F-U, ignored the crowd and chained smoked cigarettes like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.

Chappelle’s “here’s to you kid” was more like F-U and the horse you road in on. Still, I have respect for someone who refuses to take it on the chin from a rowdy crowd. By the time he made it to DTE, Chappelle was circumspect about the controversy, calling it his reverse Kramer (more on that later). 

An attendee of the Hartford show was sympathetic to Chappelle’s meltdown; “It’s so funny to yell Chappelle quotes at him while he’s doing standup.”

Amen. The concert review is as follows…

Jeff Ross

As the host of the show Jeff Ross kept things moving. He was naturally funny and good-natured, even when he was picking on un-expecting concertgoers as they walked down the aisle picking out their seats only to come face-to-face with Ross’ old school approach to uncomfortable reality humor. 

He had a lot a flow but not much storage. Ross pointed out a man with a bandaged hand, “too much jerking off, eh buddy? Ross is self-effacing as well. He points out his new corn rolls; “I’m playing Bo Derek after she dies.” He starts riffing on Detroit stereotypes: “Hey, there’s a black dude with a jersey on, wow never seen that before. Labor Day in Detroit, that’s an oxymoron ain’t it - what do you do, get out of the unemployment line?”

Ross is from New Jersey and says he can take it as well as dish it out. For instance, he‘s a big fan of Governor Chris Christie, “I like to see him waddle down to the office.” He even riffs Captain Sully Sulllenberger during an emergency landing, “there’s an open runway in New Jersey, Captain Sully declined, no thanks we’d rather land in the water.” He talks about throat cancer and its link to cunnilingus. It’s called the Michael Douglas…yeah, you had to be there. 

Kristen Schaal

This is a comic who gained fame with her one-woman shows in New York and her roles in 30 Rock and Flight of the Conchords. She opened up without introduction, made up as a man and talking tough and gruff. She talks about the Vagina Dialogues developed by Susan Rubin. It’s a web based series supported by Funny or Die and goes straight to the “taint”. It’s cool/hot erotic humor with a nudge and a wink. She closes the show an explanation of that stretch of skin between two holes – the mystical “taint”…then suddenly a song slowly builds. It’s the theme for Flash Dance – What a Feeling’. She strips to her leotards and sneakers and begins to dance, recreating the whole thing, dancing, skipping and gyrating….even does the water scene and just as you thinks it’s over, the dude from the Flight of the Conchords appears in tights. They dance energetically like Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri doing the Cheerleader skit on Saturday Night Live. Perfect!

Al Madrigal

This cool comic is a well-known correspondent to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Intellectually inclined Madrigal can see through the ocean of subliminal messages that intrude upon television shows, commercials and news broadcasts. He recalls a commercial for Golden Corral Restaurants that involves two couples that are going out together to dine at a local restaurant - one couple is black; the other couple is white. The white woman mentions a $20 appetizer and the black couple jumps out of the automobile and hikes over to the Golden Corral.”

Madrigal is Hispanic but says, “I’m trying to be a better Mexican.’  He riffs about second hand knock offs for children’s super heroes – Barrio Chapetto is a caped Spiderman. “Pinatas might have Sponge Bob Square Pants design but three year old barrio kids just want the candy and they circle about it with a rape/kill look. The first batter up swings and out pops a jolly rancher, the rest of the kids jump in and get 80% of the shit. They bounce around like coked up Republicans…it’s an alternate universe; the kids get vicious and look for someone to take out.”

Hannibal Burress

Burress is a natural storyteller who is not afraid of biting off a stream of one-liners. Here are a few samples: “I just bought a mansion in Detroit - $12,000. Metro airport sucks, no wonder Eminem is angry. In New Orleans they have three departments; Homicide, Drugs and Parade. You can screw up traffic in a day’s notice for $300. You get three cops and a parade route. I was having sex on weed and I started thinking, why is she letting me do this to her, what was her childhood like, what’s up with her father…hmm.”

A concertgoer comes walking down the aisle wearing a Detroit football jersey and Burress asks him where he lives in Detroit – Livonia. “LIVONIA – It’s as white as NORWAY. This segues into a hilarious rap parody, “jibber, jabber, jibber- sonovabitch, rap-rap-rap, rapper, chicken dick, jibber jabber, rapper.” He introduces the Hannibal Burress Dancers. The ballet dancers appear and slink and slide and pirouette. The music stops and Burress does an accapella rap that is just as incoherent as before. Incredible!!

Demetri Martin

Here’s a master of one-liners: “You have great mascots in the Detroit – tigers, lions. I’d rather see the animals fighting - Magic versus Jazz, hmm a little too gay for me. Why is it when you’re having sex with someone it’s ok to say yes, yes, yes but not yep, yep, yep or affirmative, I’ve seen proud sponsors of things but not reluctant sponsors. Eating a prune is like putting a cop on your stomach – stops the party. I knew I had a mouse in my apartment - who else would crap on my spoons and eat the corners off my burritos. When someone is tough you say he has big balls but it’s counterintuitive …little balls are harder to get at. I use to skip but that was an invitation to get beat up. Everybody looks at a woman with a nice ass - we should put the missing children’s photos on those cheeks. When I have a baby I’ll put anti-aging cream on him right away.”

Martin ends with a Dylanesque impression complete with a harp and acoustic guitar. He peppered the musical interludes and one liners:  “I like it when ex-girlfriends becomes XL girlfriends. I can move things with my mind if I can use my hands. I’m a man of my word and that word is unreliable. I walked down the street and saw an ugly pregnant woman, I said – good for you!

Flight of the Conchords

Jermaine Clement and Brett McKenzie are New Zealand-based wunderkind, partners in crime. They refer to themselves as New Zealand’s 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo-acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo. They are simply brilliant in a Monty Pythonesque absurdist way, with biting irony and over the top parody. They are masters at poking fun of stereotypes including their own quirky moments. Music provides the landscape for The Conchords urban inspired satire. They sing a song about working out and looking good.  They talk about the grind of touring – “but you gotta watch what you eat can’t get a muffin every day.” They sing about a cry baby rapper: “I like Meryl Streep - it’s complicated….Hey mother effer ….Other rappers diss me….Say I am a sissy…Ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party.”

At one point Jermaine lost his temper at a boisterous fan that was talking loudly throughout one of the Conchords bits, “You over there talking - it would be a treat for us if you would listen to our lyrics instead of your own jokes.”

They do a father/son song where dad talks to his son about his mother’s death. The son responds, “But mom’s alive and she took up with another guy, you drop me off there on Friday nights.” Behind the humor is some deeply felt issues around divorce, loss and grieving. In the City – City Pressure harnesses a dark humor that provides incisive commentary of the urban sprawl. The synth flourishes provided the scaffold for the excitement as well as the rough edges of city life.  Business Time proved to be the highlight of the set:  “I got a girl / We made love for years / We gonna make love tonight / But we always make love on Wednesday night / About seven every Wednesday night / Whether she wants to or not / Where  brushing teeth is foreplay / Take off the flip flops / And take off those granny panties / I’m naked except for my sox / you know when he’s down to his sox it’s business time /  Makin’ Love / Makin’ love for 2 minutes / That’s all you need / You say you want more  / I’m not surprised ‘cos I’m asleep / Business time is over, baby.”

Dave Chappelle

Chappelle walked onto the stage to a resounding ovation. He lit up a cigarette and intoned, “You pulled me out of financial ruin.” He talked about his meltdown in Hartford, Connecticut and used his best Morgan Freeman voice: “Dave Chappelle had the worst day in his life.” Chappelle talked about the “reverse Kramer” when Michael Richards (who played Kramer on the hit TV show Seinfeld) used the “N” word during a stage show. “I thought watch out honky but the comedian in me says, take care old pal. Kramer had it way worse. At least I didn’t have to talk to Jesse Jackson.”

Chappelle riffed on Paula Dean’s N-word goof and his own racial biases including a brown friend from Bangladesh and his Asian wife.  Chappelle revealed that the FBI investigated him for the distribution of a sex tape video. They asked Chappelle about the length of the video, 8 minutes. Sir, he said, sorry…this happens sometimes.  Chappelle asserts that rap is the best genre in music that in the right hands it’s a powerful tool; in the wrongs hands, still mildly entertaining.

He threw out a few one-liners: “I married an Asian woman, my kids look Puerto Rican; controversy makes my machine work. I’m gonna do the Detroit tourist thing – burn down a few houses. Black people can’t carry Cadillac forever.  My wife and I had a fight after the sex tape episode. I was doing my act and my wife and son were there and I still talked about the sex tape. Later she came up to me and said, “FU David. I said FU and asked for a ride home. My son said, “People were really laughing at those things daddy was saying but mom what does pussy mean? She said, “pussy is what keeps a family together.” Chappelle mused about the idea that it’s sometimes ok to give up. He sees it from a different lens, “never give up, keep up the fight…a week later the Pope resigned – vindication! Chappelle’s message was real, informed by the street and his own very public troubles. Comedy and truth can walk hand in hand. We need more of this…


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