Afternoon Tea Recap from Ian Brill

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Our friend Ian Brill, proprietor of the Brill Building blog, attended our big show yesterday, and here's his rundown of the events...

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For Afternoon Tea with Patton Oswalt and Friends, a comedy show benefiting Anarchist publisher AK Press, headliner Oswalt wanted to see if he could bring in a healthy crowd only through blog, podcast and other internet publicity. Oswalt did mention the show when he appeared on Alice 97.3 but other than that it was solely net coverage that brought a good hundred or so people to one of the less glamorous parts of Oakland for some of the Bay Area’s finest comedians.

Oswalt started off the show thanking the crowd for coming out and had a little fun with AK Press’s books, doing a reading of Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. manifesto as Kick Nolte. Oswalt also gave a shot out to TSOYA, where you can hear “celebrities calling in a favor.” Rusty Mahakian started his hosting duties with some well received jokes about his appearance as “Fat Fonzy” and stories of living in China, where women would have no problem with coming up and informing him of his girth. Mahakian also apologized for the lack of seats although the crowd didn’t seem to mind sitting cross-legged or leaning against the wall. Mahakian did a great job as host, never slowing down the momentum of the show.

Mary Van Note, the youngest comedian on the show, was introduced. Her set was devoted to sex. If comedy is all about being relatable than Van Note proved herself well skilled at the craft on Sunday. There was plenty of exaggerations for comedic effect but underneath it all the character she played reminded me of a lot of my female friends when they discuss sex and relationships. Van Note took things to a higher level when her last bit involved a male audience member, leashes, plenty of spanking and Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. I can’t recall seeing a comedian doing such an elaborate bit that worked out as well as Van Note’s did. A true crowd pleaser.

Brent Weinbach has been getting a lot of good buzz in the Bay Area and he lived up to expectations on Sunday. Weinbach’s real power is presenting such a thorough and compelling character. Little moves like the quick profile turn, making him look like something from Peanuts, are so effective at making Weinbach’s absurd and simple humor enjoyable. Like Van Note Weinbach ended his set with an extensive piece of audience participation, this time with Weinbach as an orchestra conductor using the audience to play a symphony of bodily functions. Again it was Weinbach’s disposition that made it all work, all his hand movements and feigning of exhaustion were just so much fun to watch.

Arj Barker was a real treat to see. The Bay Area rarely has too few inexpensive comedy shows, let alone ones featuring two acts so successful as Barker and Oswalt. Barker got the most out of the AK Press connection, taking on the role as a proselytizing political speaker. A call was made to unite all men and women across the planet Earth so we can fight the real enemy: the planet Earth and its nefarious natural disasters. Barker’s deft at “going big” without ever being grating, only very funny.

With only a short introduction Oswalt came to the stage triumphantly. At this point seeing an Oswalt show is watching a man who has the whole idea of stand-up comedy down, from bits to crowd work and everything else. Oswalt has been trying a lot of new material with his latest shows and even though I saw him last month at L.A.’s Comedy Death Ray I still saw some new stuff. Oswalt’s description of the lobotomy-calm world inside airplane safety films was a great example of his ability to take one absurd situation and just destroy it. Oswalt was sure to bring out his latest audience pleaser Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People and it worked as usual. Oswalt was sure to thank the volunteers at AK Press for their hard work and indeed they were great hosts for the entire show. Far from a typical Sunday afternoon AK Press’s bookstore saw great entertainment with some of the funniest people in local and national comedy. That’s better than your typical author speaking night.