Dana Gould / Chris James / Dino Archie Comedy MIX, Vancouver BC, February 14
Published Feb 16, 2015While most of the bill for this sold-out Northwest Comedy Fest showcase for former Simpsons writer Dana Gould was the same as for comic's comic Andy Kindler the night before, the experience was much different. Off the bat, jovial host Kevin Banner noticed someone in the front row was in the same spot they had been for Kindler, and apologized that he would hear some repeats, but none of the performers phoned it in. Banner, Dino Archie, and Chris James all reworked their material and tossed in different bits for the night. Up first, Archie came out a great deal mellower, sliding straight into his ruminations on erotic asphyxiation and beating off at the beach in timely celebration of Valentine's Day.
Thankfully, Chris James was not heckled as he was the night before, and thus able to tell the joke about his sweet grandmother's driving without interference. Locked in, he maintained his bewildering yet relatable presence with ease, an unforgettable personality reflective of the generation who can't afford to move away from home channeled through a burly beard that enhanced the unhinged smile he'd shoot askance throughout his set.
Dana Gould had the sold-out crowd eating out of his hand as he delivered a set heavily drawn from his 2013 album I Know It's Wrong, including a Carlin-esque section proving that anything can be funny, from AIDS and rape to 9/11 and Bruce Jenner, and bits on the KKK's design flaws and the sexual proclivity of Stephen Hawkins and John Lennon. Contrasting the surreal self-consciousness of Kindler, Gould's style is definitely more in the traditional comedy mould, delivering a balanced mix of relationship, religion, plastic surgery, pop culture and occasional ribald humor with some of the mannerisms (and little of the politics) of Lewis Black.
There were a few kinks in his otherwise solid set, though. His audience repartee, namely when he became distracted by the shoes of a woman in the front row and described them as beautiful donkey skulls, didn't really work out. Furthermore, while James performed with the mic pressed to his bearded chin, Gould held it far enough away that his raspy voice was occasionally hard to hear. And, while Archie tastefully chose to end his set after only six minutes specifically so that he could end on a high note, Gould wandered past two red lights from the house to tap out at about an hour and 20 minutes, at which point people start to get laughed out, a notion underscored by the fact he had to end his set by saying, "The end." He didn't attempt to Canadian up his references either, testing the waters for his stuff on MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, which he aborted after few in the crowd recognized the name.
Yet, by the same token, Gould clearly gave the crowd their money's worth, with a long and constant assault of well-informed and well-written jokes that had the Comedy MIX glued to their seats throughout, and it never felt like he was pandering. He did his set, his way, and sent people away with something to think about without bludgeoning them with messages. To reframe one of his jokes, Gould is not the Beatles of comedy, but he might be the Rolling Stones.