I’ve been keeping a mental checklist of things I want to see during a stand-up comedy set someday. At the Tommy Davidson show at Wiseguys in West Valley on Oct. 15, I was able to check off two of them.
Hearing comics go off on inconsiderate audience members is funny on an album, but I’ve always imagined it being so much better in person. Not more than 10 minutes into Davidson's set, a cell phone started ringing. Everyone in the crowd let out an immediate “Ohhhhh” and the woman’s date tried to pretend he wasn’t with her. Davidson didn’t even skip a beat and went right into teasing her, getting about five minutes of good material out of the situation. It made me wonder if comedians have certain comebacks ready for a situation that they can adjust on the fly or if the better ones have just been honing their chops for so long that it’s almost second nature.
Davidson is a born performer, and he skipped the usual small talk intro and went right into it. He didn’t have any real “bits” for the majority of his set, instead interacting with the crowd and just trying to entertain. A lot of his humor is in his facial expressions and his body language, and those things, when seen in person, remind you why he was one of the favorites on In Living Color.
His set didn’t really begin to take shape until he had been on stage for about 45 minutes, and right after I crossed the second thing off my imaginary list. Two people showed up late (who shows up an hour and a half after the shows supposed start time?) and knew they were in trouble the second they sat down. It was a couple, and the woman immediately put her head down and the man just sat back, closed his eyes and took the jokes he had to know were coming.
The majority of Davidson’s time onstage was filled with quick jokes here and there, and a lot of crowd interaction. Aside from the cell-phone woman and the late-comers, no one in the front two rows were safe. There was one guy in the very front that got the brunt of the jokes, but luckily he was a good sport and Davidson made the most of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cut off his ponytail the next day because of all the ribbing, though.
Most of the featured comedians I’ve seen the past couple of months have stuck to a pretty tight set and were done after about 45 minutes. Davidson seemed like he had no real plans of leaving, and was on stage for nearly two hours. After about 45 minutes of seemingly inane (yet still funny) rambling and crowd teasing, he finally got around to some rehearsed bits. It started to drag a little towards the end of the night, but Davidson was able to hit a few more high notes before taking off for the evening.
Opener Ken Thorne had some decent stuff, but spent a little too much time on his “I’m a Lakers fan” routine; the emcee for the night, Keith Lewis, seemed to be more comfortable than a couple of the other emcees I’ve seen. He was solid, but still a long ways away from Davidson.
Now if there had just been a heckler in the audience that night, I could have had a comedy hat-trick, and my list would be complete.