Q: What has a hundred thumbs and loves dead moms?
A: Fifty comedians crammed on a stage at the Downtown Independent Theater, that's who.
For the third year in a row, 50 of L.A.'s favorite weird and edgy and off-beat comedians told their first jokes of the new year in rapid two-minute succession last night (it was actually 25 of them split into two different groups). The brainchild of New York comedians John F. O'Donnell, Claudia Cogan and Jiwon Lee, 50 First Jokes has been selling out their hometown for seven years. Now under the tutelage of Loud Village's Jeremy Burke (Mr. Taco Comedy himself), the show's L.A. incarnation sold out in presale this year — bringing in the finest of dick jokes, new year's resolutions, 2013 dating goals, and jabs at racial harmony, among others to a packed theater.
But, yes, overall, dead mom jokes ruled the evening.
“Can we make having a dead mom the coolest thing in the world? It's like they will never sell having a dead mom at Urban Outfitters,” D.C. Pierson of the group Derrick Comedy admits after matricide floodgates were opened earlier by Whitmer Thomas. “Eventually, my mom partied to death, which is a cool way of saying that she overdosed,” Thomas quipped. From there, it was all downhill for moms.
Fine, it wasn't all moms — that might have been boring. For one, host Matt McCarthy's perfect Leonard Cohen impression will live in infamy. Who, indeed, let the dogs out?
In a fierce two minutes, Kumail Nanjiani regaled the audience with an impromptu oratory on a his New Year's experience managing a giant mess of human feces while the ball dropped. “This is the last job this plunger will ever have to do. It's like the J.D. Salinger of plungers,” he explained, as he pantomimed cleaning a mountain of shit left behind by an ignorant partygoer. Surely something we can all relate to.
Typical of a Loud Village event, 50 First Jokes drew in the coveted “young, hip, and with-it” demographic. This is another major win for Burke, whose Best Fish Taco Comedy event exploded in 2012 and who will now run the venerable Holy Fuck free comedy institution. Fortunately for all of us, Burke and his cohorts know funny kids, and these kids know funny. Not content to hear how black people are different from white people, or what shit food airlines are serving up, they've shown that they can appreciate new levels of absurdity and artful deconstruction in bodily humor.
Among classic observationals and joked-up story-telling were totally absurd nods to physical ridiculousness. At one point, we waited for Josh Fadim, who ran out of nowhere to fiddle with a broken lectern and a mess of papers and eventually belt out one operatic note. On a more amusing note, Johnny Pemberton pulled out a quick, free-form dance cycle set to a remix of Zero Dark Thirty quotes and discordant tunes. Obviously, sides were split and guts were busted.
In that vein, 50 First Jokes is a perfect example of L.A. comedy's present and future — a giant punk rock United Colors of Benetton ad on acid, a smattering of men, women, gay, straight, and, y'know, not-white folks chipping away at an old guard of rigid club systems, pays to play, and silly two-drink minimums with new twists and edgy yuks.
So yeah, basically if these are the fifty first jokes of 2013, we're off to a pretty amazing start. Moms beware.