Sunday, December 11, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of "Comics Unplugged!" at The Waterloo Bridge Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Assorted Comics in a show entitled "Comics Unplugged!" at The Waterloo Bridge Theatre was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume I, Issue 3 (January, 1998) of Applause! Applause!

"Comics Unplugged!" - Assorted Comics
The Waterloo Bridge Theatre (203 West 38th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 12/17/97 at 8 p.m.

"Comics Unplugged!" promises "an evening of comedy in a smoke-free, alcohol-free atmosphere" and it succeeds in delivering big-time. For only $10, which included free soda, I was able to sample the work of 11 comics. It was a delightful evening which has tremendous potential to catch on and become a popular setting for comics to work. I only wish they had allowed the audience two ten-minute breaks, during which we could meet and speak with the comics that just completed their sets, as well as to have the opportunity to stretch our legs and get another cup of free soda.

Sue Horowitz was emcee for the evening. Her only funny line was that in her career as a teacher, she once asked a student who Magellan was. The student replied "Magellan had a giant clipper and circumcised the globe." The first comic up was Sheldon Wickowitz, who has great material and an understated presence on stage. He is wickedly funny and has perfect timing and delivery. Wickowitz says that when he was younger, he belonged to a Jewish gang in Brooklyn called "Sol's Angels". He says "late at night, we'd sneak into stores and mark down prices." He also commented that you know you have a serious cockroach problem "when you try to open your kitchen cabinets and its being pulled closed from the other side."

I cannot stress enough the importance of good material as the foundation for the success of a comic. It is also true that timing and delivery are essential to future success. Too many comics who are otherwise good-looking with a good stage presence have no clue how bad their material is. Perhaps they don't pay enough attention to audience reaction. Perhaps they don't have an instinct for what is funny. It is my observation that when a comic is smoking with the right material, almost all of the material is good. Yet when a comic is striking out, I usually can't find more than one or two lines that have the potential to hit a home run.

Julia G., who should re-think her stage name, was very pleasant and with the right material could be a success. Her funniest line was "my apartment is so small, I can't bring a black man home." David Tirado, who silenced the audience during his bits, also has potential. His one funny line was that if you were "sitting center court at a Ping-Pong match, you'd have to be on crack to follow the ball." Renee Pezzotta has a good strong stage presence and is obviously a very talented women. I expect that she will go far. She had a number of funny bits in her set. She stated that "sexual harassment in the army gives a whole new meaning to "Yes, Drill Sergeant!"." She also stated "I found my first gray hair -- it wasn't on my head -- maybe it was a cobweb." Renee Pezzotta will one day perfect her act and go far on the comedy circuit.

Alan Cove, an older comic, was crude and overbearing. More than new material, he needs a new personality. Joe Cochran was even worse. Cochran brought notes with him onto the stage which he referred to from time to time. If you cannot memorize your set, you don't belong on stage. I would have thrown him out of an amateur night competition. His one funny line was that his "family has been hassling him about preparing for his retirement," so he "took last summer off and worked on his golf game." The comments I wrote during his set were "poor material," "embarrassing performance," "who booked this guy," and "just horrible." Enough said!

Ralph Nieves-Bryant offered some of the brighter moments of the evening. He said he recently heard Ray Charles singing "America, The Beautiful". He wondered aloud "How does Ray Charles know how beautiful America is?" He also stated that now that his gay brother is dressing better than he does, he now knows why gays are in the closet. He said "They're trying to find out what to wear." His black sports announcer bit was brilliant, but he didn't develop its full potential. Caz is also a rising star. He did great impersonations of Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy. Caz supposedly means "comedy - from a to z." Here is another man with a great future!

Besides Sheldon Wickowitz, Buddy Bolton was the other major star of the evening. He confessed that he is "a bed wetter and a sleep walker." He "wets other people's beds." He also has a brilliant bit during which he does impressions of white, black and Spanish women fighting. Bolton needs the proper guidance for his career to soar. The energy, looks and stage presence are already there.

Gunslinger Thomas was the headliner for the evening. Half of Gunslinger's material is so brilliant and insightful that he should be immediately eligible for national recognition, an HBO special and big-money contractual deals. Unfortunately, the other half of his material is so political, offensive and serious as to guarantee that this level of success will never come. Either Gunslinger doesn't have a feel for where "the line" is or he doesn't care. Either way, the road to his success is being blocked by his stubborn desire for self-satisfaction. Some of his good bits involved a discussion about "white people disappearing off the planet," Tiger Woods, the East Indian baby killed by the nanny and his lines about Memphis, Tennessee where "intelligence is considered a birth defect." On the other hand, some of his worst moments came when he spoke of the "United Kingdom fucking up Africa," the lack of any legitimate analogy between the gay and black civil rights movements, and when he came out against space exploration saying we already know everything there is to know, namely that "it's cold and it's dark." I am not suggesting that Gunslinger should lose his edge or his perspective on the issues. I am only saying that if we have to hear his more controversial political opinions, he should at least feed them to us laced with insight and humor, not hit us between the eyes with a sledge hammer.

Next month, "Comics Unplugged!" is changing its name to "Comics Unclubbed!" which is a very witty name given that the comics at the Waterloo Bridge Theatre appear on a stage and not in a club. The number is the same, so call for reservations. I will see you there!

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