Where Cosplay Meets...Stand-up Comedy?
TJ Chambers as Rocket Raccoon and Chris Gore as Star-Lord at Super Bar.
Every now and then, comedian Chris Gore hosts a cosplay event called Super Bar at Complex in Glendale. The parties always have a theme; on Sunday night, it was Guardians of the Galaxy. People dress in costume, most of which aren't too fancy or cumbersome. The costumes don't have to fit with the night's theme either. The bar serves drinks inspired by the movie, TV show or comic that's being celebrated that evening. On this night, the bartenders concoct an "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" potion with Ketel One, Jarritos lime soda, sugar, raspberries and lime.
Gore is wandering through the venue in a Star-Lord costume. It's something that he made in a pinch with a few salvaged items. He took an old, ratty Boba Fett mask and glued on some travel-sized alcohol bottles, added Willy Wonka goggles and a print-out of part of Star-Lord's own face-piece. Duct tape lines the top of the accessory. Gore is big on duct tape. He says that he has made entire costumes from it.
"I like to go to conventions and dress up," says Gore. He's also pretty big on Halloween. Super Bar is, essentially, an excuse to wear a costume when there is no convention and Halloween is still a while down the calendar. It's also a venue for Gore's group, the Kings of Cosplay Comedy, to work out new material.
Comedy is at the center of Super Bar and the stand-up performances are usually pretty niche. Gore and fellow comedians Tommy Bechtold (The Middle), Leah Knauer, TJ Chambers and others perform as the icons of the nerdy side of pop culture. They perform at conventions — Gore says they drew a pretty big crowd at Dragoncon in Atlanta earlier this month — and here at Super Bar. A lot of the jokes are based on things that might come up in a regular stand-up routines. "How would She-Hulk approach jokes about trying to date?" asks Gore, referencing the Marvel character. "You're taking traditional arenas for stand-up comedy, but taking the twist that they're characters." The longterm goal is to turn the show into a comedy special that Gore would produce.
The parties have earned some buzz over the past few months, but, tonight, it's not going smoothly. Gore takes himself off the stand-up schedule; he accidentally overbooked the event. Plus, he decides to try something different by mixing regular comics with the cosplay comics. That doesn't bode well with the small crowd. It's not so much that the crowd didn't accept performers not in costume. Rather, it's that some of the guests were on a groaner streak. "Edgy" is a word bandied around after the show, although I think crass might be a better description for the comic who got the ball rolling with sound-effect-heavy jokes about fisting.
The cosplay comedians fare better but, even then, I have to admit that most of the jokes went over my head. I haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet, so Drax the Destroyer's back story is lost on me. The one comic who stands out is TJ Chambers. He performs as Rocket Raccoon and has a knack for telling jokes in a way that make sense even if you don't know much about the character he's playing.
"I hate when people blame the audience for something that they didn't get, because it's not the audience's fault. It's up to the comedian to make it good," he says after the show. Chambers, who has worked on all three seasons of Betty White's Off Their Rockers, as well as various pilots, makes sure you get it. He explains the reference in a way where it doesn't feel like he's trying to justify a bad joke to you. As Rocket Raccoon, he switches subjects from online dating to Morse code. He commends those who get the Morse code joke — "We can all hang out and not get laid," he says — turning it into a self-effacing moment that is, perhaps, nerdier than the Rocket Raccoon costume.
That's the fine line with cosplay comedy. Can you really assume that everyone in the room will know what you're talking about? Even if you could, should you?
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