Contributed by Jennifer Heaney
This was my first City Weekly Night at Wiseguys, and I was excited to see headliner Blake Bard, one of the nominees for an Artys Award this year. I knew there would be guest comics before Bard came up; I just didn’t realize there would be so many -- seven in fact, including the emcee. ---
First up was emcee Rodney Norman, who also happens to be the kitchen manager for the club. His act was what I had seen from him before – mostly jokes about Utah drivers – and didn’t do a whole lot as far as energizing the crowd. Guest comic Troy Taylor was taking a break from his improve troupe gig to try stand-up. His entire act was based on sounds effects he made and a lot of “mime-y” body movements. It was different, and silly, and most of the audience seemed to really like it, even if his nervous energy was a bit too loud.
The next guest comic was a man named Cody Eden, a large, bearded man with very long hair and a shy disposition who came across as friendly and real, and he managed to connect well with the audience. One of his funniest jokes was about having to “get over himself.” The audience loved it, and he did a great job of setting up the next comic, Aaron Burrell. I’ve seen and written about Aaron Burrell before, and I was excited when I found out he was going to be performing. About half of his act was stuff I hadn’t heard before, but the jokes I recognized were his funniest, and I found myself laughing just as much as the first time.
Christopher Stephenson's act seems far too raw and vulgar for a Wiseguys audience. All the energy in the crowd was quickly killed by Stephenson’s jokes. Though his same act as opener for Doug Stanhope was a huge hit last year, it was in a bar, not a regular comedy club, and some of the people in the audience last night looked very uncomfortable during his set. Levi Rounds' style is very much like Stephenson’s, but his timing is a little more refined, and he was able to bring in more of the audience, though his comments on religion caused a few audience members to walk out. Again, this may not be the right venue for a comic like Rounds, but he’s got lots of talent at telling his own style of jokes, and deserves his Artys nomination.
The next guest comic was Keith Lewis from Seattle. His style was very different from everyone else’s. The African-American Lewis has the demeanor and delivery of a comedian you’d normally see on BET, the polar opposite of the style comics from Utah generally have. He was refreshing, and very funny. After Lewis, Norman came back up and did a very disappointing 15 minute set. He lost the entire audience, and the side conversations started getting louder and louder.
Finally, he ended his set at 9:30 (an hour and a half after the show started, mind you) and Blake Bard came up. Everyone was very excited to see his act, and he started very strong, berating Norman, and really got the audience completely engrossed. His cat-snake jokes killed, as usual, and he was really rolling. And then, he just …stopped. Fifteen minutes into his set, he said, “That’s it for me. Goodnight.” Everyone was shocked, including Norman, who had to rush to the stage to finish his emcee duties for the night. The audience reluctantly filed out. Our bill wasn’t even paid yet. We sat and wondered what happened while we waited in the now almost-empty room while we settled our tab.
When I passed by Bard on my way out, I asked what was up with the 15-minute set. He explained that he was upset that the show had gone so long, and that’s why he went short. I understood. It’s not easy to stay interested in that many comics for that long on a Tuesday. Hopefully Bard will get another chance to perform before the Artys are awarded.