John Oliver’s NY Stand Up Show Returns To Comedy Central

John Oliver

John Oliver’s NY Stand Up Show began its third season on Comedy Central last night. John Oliver hosts this show, which features short sets from both established and up-and-coming comedians.  It once again succeeded in showcasing one of the barest forms of entertainment. There is something very enjoyable in watching one person share his or her observations in an attempt to make strangers laugh. This is the ultimate form of creative control.

John Oliver is a British comic and is well-known as a correspondent on The Daily Show. As host of this show, it almost seems he wants to be portrayed simply as the opening act.  The truth is, he deserves more credit than that. Not only is he funny, but his show gives comedians a chance to gain a larger audience.

The acts:

John Oliver
John Oliver has a habit of seamlessly transitioning into his material directly after saying “Before we get started…” He may be the host, but he does more than simply introduce the other acts; he sets the tone for the whole hour. Oliver’s perfectly articulate tone combined with his notably absurd material is something that should be widely praised. He takes some of the most ridiculous topics and somehow presents them in a way that makes perfect sense within the context of the set. It is a unique take, but the crowd may not think about it. The humor comes from the fact that while it is ridiculous, it’s also oddly logical. At one point during his set, he is commenting that video technology leaves too much evidence for our descendants to discover “what we are really like.” This is quite a profound comment. It becomes hilarious when he  asserts that our ancestors did not have this problem. He cites that the ancient Egyptians were never uploaded to the internet and shown “Walking Like an Egyptian.” His version of the dance was hilarious. Oliver takes serious issues and applies them to something so superficial that it ends up being extremely funny.

Hari Kondabolu
Hari Kondbolu is not well-known, but hopefully this show will provide him with more exposure. At only 27, he has a lot of potential to become more notable and a mainstream comedian. Kondbolu uses his Indian heritage to subtlety remark on political issues. He sites an incident when he was told by a heckler in Denmark to “go back to America”. He finds this amusing, given that he has never been told to “go back to” his own country before. In another part of his set, Kondbolu talks about a weird experience at a Weezer concert when he felt like ” the creepy old dude.” He then contends that Weezer are the “creepy old dudes” given that their demographic hasn’t changed in 15 years. Kondabolu is very smart and witty. Unfortunately, he sometimes analyzed his material too much. The audience does not need a lesson on joke structure. They want to laugh. The things he said that were funny made up for it. However, it’s something he needs to learn as he gains more experience as a comedian.

Ben Kronberg
The one big problem of the show last night was Ben Kronberg, yet the crowd loved him for some reason. He walked onstage, got out a notebook from his pocket, and flipped through it. Nothing may have actually been written in the notebook, but it is incredibly irritating that someone wants to look so unprofessional on purpose. Yes, Kronberg was playing a character, but that’s not the point. It was still as if he simply wrote down some one-liners and said them word for word with no refinement. It seems the crowd needed things to be as simple as possible. His act required no thought at all.

Mark Normand
Mark Normand has excellent comic timing and slick material that should make anyone laugh, whether a comedy enthusiast or a curious viewer. His set demonstrated that being politically correct is not overly important as long as its funny. He has an unapologetic attitude that the audience should appreciate. One highlight of his routine was his explanation of why he goes to gay bars as a straight man. It’s basically because  he likes being complimented by the other customers, mostly gay men. It sounds strange, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the entire set. Norman deserves to get invited back to the show.

Wyatt Cenac 
Wyatt Cenac closed the show last night with a longer set and at first he started off a bit slow, but he was able to turn it around. Cenac segues to new topics brilliantly. He connected innocuous subjects to pressing issues and it made sense. At one point in the set, Cenac describes an incident on an airplane when the passenger next to him called a book he was reading “left wing propaganda”. Trying to avoid a political debate, the conversation turns to baseball’s All Star Game. The guy then goes into how it is a problem that Major League Baseball  “let[s] the fans decide.” Naturally, the conversation delves back into politics, specifically the “issues” with democracy. Cenac finds it absurd that anyone could have an issue with letting people voice their opinion. He also says that it’s also a problem that not enough people vote politically. Cenac says the main cause is that Americans are lazy. Instead of getting up early on a cold day in November to go to a post office and vote for a politician, they can stay at home and dial their phone to vote for an American Idol contestant. Cenac does a great job making light of the situation.

Overall, the season premiere of John Oliver’s NY Stand Up Show was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, that’s just a happy coincidence. A stand up comedy show is only as good as the people performing in it. This group of comedians happened to have been very funny. However, one episode could be great, the next could be horrible. We’ll see what John Oliver has in store for this season. Hopefully, the rest of the season will be as good as last night’s episode.

Posted on July 21, 2012, in Comedy, Comedy Central and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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