Friday, August 13, 2010

The Podiwan Review 16 - David Feldman's Comedy Podcast

On the surface of things, this article is the review of David Feldman's Comedy Podcast, but for this particular review I'm going to vary the routine a bit by also revisiting an artist that I said not such great things about previously.  And here's why.

I was at the airport picking up a friend the other day and while I waited I was listening to David Feldman's Comedy Podcast.  I was listening to the 7/13 episode titled Comedia Del'Farte.  It was good, not the best he's done but pretty much OK and his cast of supporting funny people always make the show better than the sum of its parts... more than just a stand up podcast.  I dig their effort and the "Let's Put on a Show!" style of performance and the "let's smear boogers on the Mona Lisa" mentality.  I have a couple favorite episodes and I'll get to them in a few minutes.

Anyway, Del'Farte ran its course and since I have several Feldmans in the queue, the next one started:  the 7/12 episode with Todd Glass.  Many of you will recognize that I didn't review Todd favorably the one and only time I included him in this blog.  That was when I reviewed Jimmy Dore's show "Comedy and Everything Else".   I mostly liked Jimmy's show but I didn't dig Todd.  In fact, if you read that review, you'll kinda see that I never really have dug Todd.  I felt like Todd was a conversational bully using noise, bluster, machine gun chatter and backhanded slights to control every single moment of any show that involved him.  It was a giant "look at me" fit in the middle of somebody else's birthday party like you might expect to see in a 12- or 13-year-old ADD who skipped the Ritalin for a few days.  Granted, that last bit, or the need to exhibit that particular part of their inner beast, describes 95% of all stand ups.  But Todd just gets under my skin in a way that no other comic seems to.  Worse than that, he breaks the cardinal rule of comedy. He isn't funny.  Or at the very least, not very often.

You can pretty much do anything you want as a stand up.  You can be a racist dwarf-tossing transgender Nazi who likes to mow down bunny heads using an old John Deere 325 riding mower with a satanic goat skull as a hood ornament... as long as it's funny.
Everything else is crap.

So, I'm at the airport, waiting for my friend at the wrong baggage carousel because he's coming in from Houston instead of his usual Chicago, and David Feldman introduces Todd Glass.

I admit it.  I rolled my eyes a little and sighed just a little out of reflex.  I'm human,  I have a preconceived notion of what I can expect from Todd Glass.  I understand that a lot of people find him funny, but for me, Todd pushes all the wrong buttons. And yeah, that feeling probably affects the way I perceive his humor.  I come to the table with an idea that I don't like broccoli.  It doesn't matter that somebody poured cheese over it or dipped it in ranch dressing or gold or the filtered pee of 15 virgins, I'm not gonna like it and I know that before I taste it and even if it is well done by everybody else's standard, I'm still going to say no thanks. 

So yeah, I feel this way.  I hate like hell that I have prejudices that color my opinions, but I do.  I'm human, shoot me.

The show starts, Feldman does his written material.  There's some yuks and twitters in the crowds.  He introduces the folks who are normally there and then he brings on Glass.  And for the next 10 minutes, Glass steps on every joke anybody else tries to make.  He verbally bullied his way into nearly every second of the segment and he essentially hijacked the show.  I should mention here that Feldman's show is mostly scripted like an old time radio show but there are times when they depart from that,... (those times seems like they are when Feldman and company know that a guest won't or can't follow the script.)  At those times they just try to have a conversation.  With Glass, good luck having a conversation.  It's just him, rambling, throwing jokes that don't work, explaining why we're not smart enough to get the jokes and how nobody understands lighting in restaurants but him. (yes, lighting.  It seems to be a recurring theme with Glass.)

I felt bad the first time I said that Todd Glass rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe I was being unfair saying that he's irritating, pompous, overbearing and just flat out unfunny.  But after listening to him screw up 10 minutes of somebody else's podcast, I think I was right.  Todd Glass rubs me the wrong way.  He's pompous, overbearing and just flat out unfunny.  I've learned my lesson.  If I don't want to come away from a podcast grinding my molars and thinking up new ways to say I don't enjoy Todd Glass as an entertainer I should avoid listening to anything with his name in the title or credits.

OK, there.  Done.  I've said all I will say about Todd Glass and I'm hopeful that I've actually typed the name Todd Glass for the last time.  Now I'd like to tell you about David Feldman's Comedy Podcast and my favorite one or two episodes.

First, the show is an ensemble.  Feldman is the lead; it's his name on the marquee, but David is helped quite a lot by his merrymaking minions, Alan Chapman (musical director and comedy songwriter/singer), Eddie Pepitone (sidekick/flunky/resident punching bag), Stefanae (yes, stef uh nay) Zamarano and Jim Earl.  Others who also contribute regularly (as part of the Clutter Family) are Rick Overton, Jimmy Dore, Jane Edith Wilson and Ron Babcock.  Each week, one or two guests add their voices to the scripted portion of the show as well as a possible interview segment.

As far as the written part of the show goes (and this is for both the cold open by Feldman and the scripted multi-character segment for the cast) the jokes contained therein aren't usually the kind that if you read them on paper you'd laugh out loud.  You might say to yourself, "That's funny."  You might smile a bit or let out a small heh heh.  What makes this show laugh-out-loud funny for me, and what brings me back every week, isn't the "ripped from the very old headlines" stories that are stuffed to overflowing with double entendres and homocentric potty humor.  It's the voices.  The often deadpan sound of a cold reading from the guests who laugh in their lines, the voice of reason and calm that comes from Feldman reading meta jokes he isn't completely convinced about, the whiny snagglepuss of Alan Chapman as David's "wife" in their crossover (home life/podlife) relationship and finally, and most importantly, the completely manic histrionics of Eddie Pepitone.

Ah, Pepitone.  In this show, used in this way, he is genius.  I'm convinced (but just barely) that he should not carry his own show.  30 minutes of straight Eddie would border on too much Eddie,  but in this show, he is the topping that turns soft serve into a sundae.  Without Eddie, you've got ice cream.  Everybody likes ice cream, but I really love a good sundae.

My two favorite shows so far were almost 100% scripted plays.  The first was when guest Patton Oswalt appeared.  The show was a send-up of 70's sitcoms.  The gag was that Patton, as a kid, had starred in a show called "Patton Pending".  This show was "blow Pepsi out your nose" funny in multiple places and Peppitone played the part of a wizened, forest-dwelling uncle dispensing advice and odd suggestions to the young Patton ( but I swear that for at least a week I thought the part had been played by Richard Kind).  I nearly peed my pants at one point and I hadn't done that since I saw the mime telling the eponymous joke in Paul Provenza's movie "The Aristocrats" start to work over the small imaginary dog in the act.

My second most fav was the Changeling episode with Paul Provenza as the Chief of Police.  Rather than a child being abducted, it was Eddie the sidekick.  The super effective, talented and well loved replacement Eddie (following the plot of the movie) was nearly as funny as the real  moronic, oafish and odorous Eddie. It wasn't pee-my-pants funny, but it was well-written, mostly well-performed and had those moments during the play when the actors crack each other up that I've always thought allows the audience into the joke as conspirators rather than as mere spectators and makes the entire experience more than just watching a funny skit.

I wish more podcasts were like David Feldman's Comedy podcast.  I think episodic, podcast teleplays (podiplays? pladipods?)  are liked by people who look for podcasts to listen to.  Such shows could potentially do that thing that advertisers sooooo slobber for, namely, bring receptive listeners back to the same place over and over again and make them great targets for commercials.  The first show that I want that to happen for: "Patton Pending".  I know it's a send up "one-off" show, but I want to hear as many episodes of that show as they can write.  But next time I'll pee before I listen.

My rating scale
Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes, oh yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – I do every week
Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – Without reservation

1 comment:

  1. David Feldman can be a little preachy is an understatement like the Romans had a few spears. If he can get off the stump he is very funny.