Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bedtime Stories: The Rhythm of the Night

Last night was the monthly BEDTIME STORIES, the show I started up about 2.5 years ago.

Out of the shows we've done, this may have been the weirdest. And what I mean by that is not with the material (although we, naturally, had some great, weird stuff), but with the audience reactions.

My stuff didn't seem to get over well at all. As is the case a lot of times w/ Bedtime Stories, I couldn't prepare my material until close to deadline. Usually, I at least have a good idea of what I want to do pretty early on. But then w/ work, real life, booking acts, PR, etc., my own stuff gets pushed off until later.

Thankfully, I think I have about a 75% rate w/ my stuff at Bedtime Stories. I usually like to keep my stuff as brief as possible. And, if I have a second bit I really like, then I can bust that out as well. But my theory is that, while I host/produce BS, it's not about me. People don't pay $10 to see me act a fool. They pay to see the ensemble.

But hosting means I perform first. And that puts a lot of pressure on me -- I'm starting the show off, and if I do really well, the show almost always kicks ass. But if I don't do so well, then it's already at a handicap.

Thankfully, I've developed a bit of a formula for organizing the show. I always have Jon Goff "bat second." This is because he's awesome and, quite probably, the funniest act in Philly. (Hope I don't step on any toes, but a lot of people say the same thing.) He's the PowerPoint Comedian Master. He's also super high energy and extremely likable. Then after him, I'll have a live act -- a lot of times, I like to use this space for someone fairly new to the show, since I always try to book one act who has never done the show before. (Which is hard.) Then I try to alternate between videos and live bits -- can't have two videos back to back logistically.

Another bit I've learned is that the show could always use a "breather." By that, I mean I like to have a low-key act that breaks up the more manic-y things that usually go on. For that, I usually count on the assistance of "Little Miss" Jaime Fountaine, who performs a wonderful Catholic School Girl act. She usually reads a letter/diary entry to the crowd. It's really adorable and charming -- it doesn't get the robust laughter that a lot of other things get, but it always wins the crowd over. And, almost always, I've discovered, what goes on after her has about a 100% success rate of killing. I attribute this to Jaimie's likability and understated act; right after, something more outlandish happens and it's an awesome transition for the end of the show.

I've also had really great luck in getting a great concluding act. A few times, we've been able to pull off a "SNL Ending" where the entire cast emerges on stage, which I absolutely love doing. But you always want the last act to be one of, if not the, strongest bit of the night. Somehow, just by lucky guesses, this usually happens. Case in point: Secret Pants' "Three Minute Prom" for The Prom show; they came together with it at the last minute, were worried about it, but did what might be my favorite sketch they've ever done. It left on such a high note, it was awesome.

But back to last night's show -- I certainly didn't win the crowd over to start. Jon tried to do "AV Mad Libs" last night. It's an awesome idea and I hope he does it again -- the regulars who go to the show really enjoyed it. One stand-out video that I loved was by The Feeko Brothers, who did an act that was something that really challenged the crowd, which is my favorite style of performing. I have no idea how their video didn't kill; it was incredibly well done, spot-on and hilarious.

Charles Rosen also nearly stole the show with his performance as "Ballsack," the ex-lead singer of a punk band he grew up listening to. During the week, he asked if he could literally set himself on fire on stage. I didn't think this was the best idea safety-wise, but I'm kicking myself now about that. If he did that, and we made sure that it was safe, it would have been absolutely brilliant. But I don't want Bedtime Stories to go down as "The Great White of Alternative Comedy" either. But I think I should have let him.

But still, it was just a weird crowd. Also, there were more videos than live last night, which is logistically a pain. But the last third of the show was one of my favorite stretches we've ever done. Meg and Rob kicked things off with a video that was brilliant; lately, anytime I've seen them do videos or perform, I walk away saying, "that's the best thing they've ever done." The crowd was blown away by it.

Then afterwards was a new group called Camp Woods making their second public appearance. They had a really elaborate set that I thought might take some time to set-up, so I figured they should go next-to-last. As with any new group, it's always interesting to see how they'll perform -- first sketches tend to go over wonderfully and have a great energy to them. And they followed suit with a completely unique piece. I really loved them -- their sketch had a bit of a "twee" feel to it that juxtaposed incredibly well w/ the darkness of the bit. Also, they're completely committed and two dudes made out on stage. Just an A+ debut.

Finally, the show wrapped up w/ music guest Jose El Rey. He's a friend of mine who lives in Miami who has become pretty popular in S. Florida. I knew he was going to absolutely rule. He's a complete professional and knew how to read the crowd perfectly. He hit a home run and it was quite possibly the best single act we've ever had at the show.

Overall, I'd give the show a good B+. It wasn't going so well at first, for reasons I'll never be able to figure out. But it really clicked at the end and people left on a super high note.

If I could go back and change it, I'd do the following:

A) Have a briefer personal act, or at least rehearse the shit out of what I ended up doing.

B) Have Camp Woods go right after Jon.

C) Have Meg and Rob go right after that.

Then I think everyone else would have gone on superbly well from there. And I would have loved to have the next-to-last act be Charles setting his genitalia on fire, followed by Jose El Rey.

I'm pretty convinced if all of those changes were made, it would have come off as one of the two or three best shows yet.


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