Andy Kindler / Chris James / Dino Archie Comedy MIX, Vancouver BC, February 13
Published Feb 15, 2015Holy crap, this show was awkward! Despite the pre-show pleas of the announcer and reiteration by hardworking host Kevin Banner, the crowd was chatty from the start, and only seemed to get worse as the night went on. Yet, having a hostile crowd isn't the worst thing for comedy. It can actually be an asset. They say the best sets of Bill Hicks were performed in front of unfavourable audiences because they made him work harder (or, at least, be more hostile in response). With mixed results, this is what happened at the late show on February 13.
Performing the day before the release of his Kevvy Mental-produced debut album, Choosy Lover, Dino Archie received the most respect from this room. Granted, he was probably the most dynamic presence to appear on stage, utilizing an animated style reminiscent of a young Chris Rock to deliver sharp musings on caveman hustle, misplaying the race card and how to cute your way out of a fight, so he was hard to ignore.
Following Archie, local Chris James had an unkempt, wild-eyed look like Aaron Paul meets the Unabomber, and brought with him a nervous energy suiting that description, slightly mellowed by his admitted pot use. He did his whole set with the mic crammed against the hair on his chinny chin chin, even drinking water with the mic in place, a foible that fed into the nonchalant insecurities of his moderate political humour, tips on avoiding taxes (mainly, don't make money), and living with/on your parents in your late 20s. The big moment in James's set came when he was in the middle of doing an impression of his sweetly grandmother, when some knob yelled out at him, a move that knob would quickly regret after much shaming and a talk from the bouncer. James dealt with it perfectly, though, making fun of the heckler's "Where's Waldo" toque and noting how his girlfriend was probably going to leave him now, then rewriting the punch line to his grandma joke to rip on him again, but James admitted that, while most comics love ripping on hecklers, it makes him feel bad immediately. Nice guy, that James, and sharp, for a pothead.
Now, you would think that display of ignorance would be all the audience would need to learn its lesson by the time Andy Kindler hit the stage, but it didn't. It got damned uncomfortable. The back of the roomed hummed with chatter through much of the headliner's set. Before it was over, at least eight couples had walked out (including the fake-tanned, laser-haired, perfume-saturated Marine Drive couple sitting next to me who complained to each other from the moment Kindler hit the stage until they thankfully evacuated).
The chatter seemed to grind Kindler into hyper self-awareness. He wasn't the best-spoken individual, with a bit of a frantic, if skittish, delivery, but he's earned the reputation for being a comic's comic for good reason. His material was incredible, a master of wordplay who deconstructed myriad tropes from the history of comedy in surreal fashion and attained a level of active self-awareness that couldn't be found by most people with a mirror.
Kindler famously called out the likes of Chelsea Handler and Jay Leno for their hack regurgitations, but he's informed by an academic awareness of comedy history and rapier-like wit, and he's an even harsher critic of himself than anyone else. He took us all the way back to Mort Saul and Mamie Eisenhower, then even further in a famous painters section with Monet and Rembrandt, but crapped on his routine for having such old references. His set was air-tight.
Obviously, many people did not get him. His kind of astounding intelligence can be intimidating to those lacking, while those in their mid-20s or younger might not catch half the shit he's talking about. As such, if you want to make your dumb friends feel aggravated by their own ignorance or your smart friends feel like they're not alone in the universe, take them to see Andy Kindler. If not, there's always Dane Cook.