The Santa Barbara LOL Comedy Festival was new last year, but quickly ingratiated itself into Santa Barbara’s increasingly crowded arts fest scene with six nights of stand-up comedy, most of them filmed for cable TV. One of those specials was for Brad Williams, the “little person” comedian – though he’ll gladly call himself a dwarf or a midget, and more about that nomenclature later – who got his big chance to have a full-hour set recorded last year at the Lobero Theatre for Showtime.
Mr. Williams loved it so much that not only is he coming back this year, but he’s the “Ringmaster” of his own show next Friday, bringing on his own favorite – yet still unknown – fellow comedians.
By the time you read this, you’ll know that Ian Bagg, one of the finalists in the popular NBC show “Last Comic Standing,” did not win . . . a fact that he’s been sharing on his Twitter feed for some time now. But it doesn’t matter, because along with Michael Palascak, Dominique, Andy Erikson and Clayton English, Mr. Bagg has made it onto the Last Comic Standing tour that pulls into Chumash Casino Resort on Thursday.
It’s part of a whopping 78-date, 90-day tour that ends just before New Years, and will introduce these already seasoned comics to a much wider audience.
Comedian Craig Robinson was a guest on Ebro’s Morning Show on Hot 97 earlier this year and the DJ introduced him thus: “You were always the black guy I never saw before. I was like yo, where did this guy come from? And why is he getting all the big white comedies?” It wasn’t that eloquent a statement, but it does describe the sideways trip Mr. Robinson – who plays Thursday night at the Chumash Casino – took into popular culture.
TV viewers best know him as Darryl Philbin on “The Office,” and that successful role led him into the Judd Apatow repertory company, starting with “Knocked Up.” From there he got roles in “Walk Hard,” “Pineapple Express,” “Zach and Mimi Make a Porno,” “This Is The End” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” and its sequel. But he also did a solid turn as James Brown’s put-upon partner Maceo Parker in “Get on Up” from last year and ran from CGI dragons in the South Korean action film “D-Wars.”
America has a thing for schlubby male comedians ‘ it’s how we like them served up. They are our everymen, creaking under the weight of kids, wives, obligations, and using observational humor of the mundane details of life as an escape valve. There’s a thread that runs from Jackie Gleason to our current heroes: Louis C.K., Marc Maron, and now ‘ pulling into town tonight for a concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl ‘ Jim Gaffigan. He arrives just after the premiere of “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” a single-camera sitcom that features Mr. Gaffigan playing himself. And it’s on the TV Land channel, the go-to nostalgia station where one can check in the domesticated males of old. This is the year of Jim.
Mr. Gaffigan’s career started as a friendly bet to take a stand-up seminar, one that ended with a small set in front of a crowd. His friend dropped out, but Mr. Gaffigan, who had moved to New York City from a small town in Indiana, suddenly found his calling. He kept his day job in advertising and worked open mic nights, honing his material.
When Eddie Izzard first came to town in 2012, he was working material out for his tour. Three years later, he’s still on that tour, called “Force Majeure,” which has taken him “from Moscow to St. Petersburg to Cape Town, 27 countries, and the show is in a very good space,” as the comedian puts it.
He returns to Santa Barbara tonight at the Granada.
Everybody in my family is kind of funny,” says stand-up comedian Brian Regan, who comes to the Arlington on Sunday. Growing up as one of eight siblings, there was a lot of competition to crack each other up.
“I used to love making my dad laugh. He was a very smart guy, so if you put something together that had some ideas to it, he would laugh like it was nobody’s business. There was something very powerful about that experience. My older brother Mike is one of the funniest people I know. Offstage he’s funnier than I am.”
What would happen if Jim Carrey and Eckhart Tolle had a child?”
The answer, according to the man himself, is Kyle Cease, who brings an evening of comedy and motivational speaking to the Unity of Santa Barbara for two separate events this weekend. Tonight’s 90-minute event is the stand-up part; tomorrow is a mini-version of his “Evolving Out Loud” seminar from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For the motivational side, however, he adds that unlike many other speakers, he is not convincing audiences to be like him. He has no get-rich-quick scheme to sell, though he will tell you how he turned his life around. The only person he can talk about is himself, but you just might learn something along the way.
Maria Bamford’s story is one of keeping at it until it works, no matter what comes in the way — anxiety, depression, attempted suicide and what has been dubbed “unwanted thoughts syndrome” (examples of which might be too disturbing for the average reader). But she has emerged as a stand-up comic who mirrors our own dysfunctional times, her stage persona a stunned version of herself that dives in and out of multiple characters and voices. Yet her jokes do not exist to invoke pity, they are just brutally honest.
When I talk to her over the phone two weeks before her trip to Santa Barbara to play the Lobero on Sunday, she’s “in the back room of a bookstore,” one of the places where she feels comfortable, surrounded by reading material.
Comedian John Cleese opens his autobiography “So, Anyway” with a memory of his first “public appearance,” running a gauntlet of taunting schoolboys as he made his way to the nurse’s office. Standing five-foot-three at the age of 8, his height made him stand out, which, coupled with a weedy physique and an “ineffectual” disposition, led to teasing. Like many a good comic, Mr. Cleese would go on to turn his weakness into a strength, and that gangly physique would get a workout with his Minister for Silly Walks on the groundbreaking “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and the manic Basil Fawlty on “Fawlty Towers.”
Mr. Cleese stops by Santa Barbara, one of his former homes during the ’90s, for a Wednesday evening at the Granada, through UCSB’s Arts & Lectures. He’s got a solo show and the book to promote and, as he has been reminding fans for many years now, alimony payments to make.
This has been a rollercoaster year for comedian George Lopez. He’s already been humbled and made much late-night fun over his drunken fall at a Canadian Casino. And then his latest sitcom “Saint George” on FX got the axe after only 10 episodes (more on that later). All that has turned him back to the one thing that he can do with absolute confidence, with no interference, and that’s stand-up. This Saturday he returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl for an evening of hilarity and soul-baring. While his stand-up has often been about family and culture and the effects of an abusive upbringing — told with devastating humor and honesty of course — Mr. Lopez says that he’s going to get even more personal for this new tour.
“We’re going to deal with the private George, not the public George,” he says. “Which I think is more compelling . . . The thing with the next special is to get more personal and dig deeper.”