Published Feb 13, 2015The second annual Northwest Comedy Fest kicked off with a bang way out in New Westminster. Jeremy Essig was perfect to warm up the modest crowd gathered upstairs at the welcoming Lafflines Comedy Club, a space accurately described as a Greek wedding hall. He provided the thoughtfully cynical perspective of a single dude in his mid-30s obsessed with pop culture, complementing the self-deprecating late 40s married guy potty humour of headliner Brian Posehn.
Essig was quick on his feet despite working on only three hours of sleep, seamlessly incorporating the local "crazy cowboy" area of Langley from an audience suggestion into his material, inviting people to hang out there with him and silently judge people the next day. Granted, his bit on Kanye West's recent Beck speech hijacking fell flat, but the attempt demonstrated his contemporary cultural awareness. He also delivered stories of trying acid for the first time, his transition from smoking to e-cigarettes, what he called a "douchestick," and Gary Sinise sex dreams with a casual ease, his hands hanging off the mic stand slightly askew.
While Posehn often plays grumbling, quietly menacing characters on shows like New Girl and Mr. Show, he brought a more nervous energy to the stage this evening. He paced from one side of the stage to the other, somewhat rushing his delivery from set-up to punch line to transition, his material dialled in so tightly as to ride the waves of laughter before they had a chance to dwindle.
He's a big presence on that stage — he turned into Yosemite Sam, shooting his guns into the ceiling whenever he worked a pun into his set, because words are fun, but he tended to avoid lingering eye contact with the crowd. This made the moments he connected that much more impactful, like when he mimed an angel jerking off in a cage while staring deep into the eyes of various women in the front row, and screamed "don't look away" when they justifiably did so.
His material may not be the most topical, still using many of the premises he explored at the 2013 Halifax Pop Explosion, but his storytelling was fluid and natural, reworking the material to sound off-the-cuff. He noted that he quit smoking pot two years ago, but that two years was up. As such, he hoped the crowd was holding some of that famous BC shit, copping to the fact he writes jokes specifically to get strangers to smoke him up after his sets.
Why Essig worked so well as an opener was addressed in Posehn's story about that time a young hipster comedian opened for him, whose idea of self-hatred consisted of moustache and unicycle problems. Certainly, after you hear Posehn's bit about his perpetually wet tits or watching The Avengers naked, you know what self-hatred really is. He nails the insecurities at the tail-end of middle age with undeniable honesty.
While his story about getting teabagged by a five year-old was far out there, his most impactful and insightful material was also the most relatable. For example, he values Guy Fieri for his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, through which he found out about Vancouver's legendary breakfast joint, the Red Wagon, but went into great detail about his curb-stomping fantasy of the bleached-out Sammy Hagar dink. Yet, he admitted that if he met Fieri at a party, he'd just say he liked his show. That's how most of us are, especially critics. Our violent fantasies and projected insecurities rarely manifest in real life, where the tendency is to take the path of least resistance, but the exploration of those fantasies have their own value. It's how we retain our sanity in a shit-filled world. As such, despite his hilarious exaggerations, Posehn ends up coming off quite reasonable.