Unfortunately the “No Cameras” policy is strictly enforced even during the most jocular of birthday celebrations, thus the friends-heavy (Andy Richter and Jon Reep were among those spotted milling about beforehand) audience attending “40 Years of Steve Agee” Monday at Largo have only their memories. Mary Lynn Rajskub's fleeting crotch shot shall remain un-Flickered. Not a single image of Tig Notaro relocating the mic stand into the aisles and onto a patron's lap shall circulate. Nary a photo of the sniffly birthday boy — who only hours before noted his attempt to “build a dam in his nose to stop whatever it is from running out” via Facebook update — recalling the time he lovingly placed his testicles atop a bathroom scale. Nor of the ensuing leg cramp that nearly felled him during the onstage reenactment. And certainly only those watching in rapt attention will forever have the hilarious horror of the Sarah Silverman Program player's ample buttocks mooning Notaro from between rear stage curtains seared onto their numbed, violated retinas.
The show began traditionally enough, with Comic's Comic and go-to audience warm-up workhorse Brody Stevens shouldering hosting duties. From stream-of-conscious storytelling to mining humor from the subtlest variations in tone and rhythm, Stevens alternated in-your-face and enlightened effacing, self-regulating his act in a form of meta-comedy that continues to defy comparison.
All six feet and seven inches of Agee appeared early on, sipping water and bemoaning the effects of aging: hemorrhoids, night sweats, memory loss, “tits at 40.” After sustaining his afore-mentioned injury, he took to watching unseen from stage left as 24's Rajskub endeared herself with a highly visual, personally deprecating set that ended abruptly but left 'em wanting more (of both the performer and her naughty navy tights). Jimmy Dore's animated takes on gay marriage and marijuana smokage, complete with popping eyes and scaling eyebrows, juxtaposed well as a lead-in to Notaro's low-key nonchalance. A twist on the ancient emergency-exit-row premise – “I'm wondering if we could just wait and see what kind of shape I'm in after the plane plummets…I don't even know if I'm gonna be sitting here anymore. There's a pretty good chance I'll be lodged in an overhead compartment, missing my head…” – killed, but her willingness to play with the boundaries of both stage and audience proved a highly successful experiment. The fact that she retained control even after Agee's ass-cheeks incident spoke volumes, even if she characteristically didn't.
Agee joined Sarah Silverman for shared reminisces of playing Golden Eye, smoking pot and peeing into various containers together, but the flagging comic soon retreated, leaving his Comedy Central co-star to fumble a bit, offer a few apologies and run slightly long. Silverman remained convinced her set didn't go well, though reactions to a bit of masturbation mimicry and the revival of a long-dead comedic horse seemed to prove otherwise (On OJ: “You know that 'Fuck, Marry, Kill' game? He did all three to the one lady!”).
Surprise guest Doug Benson opted to forgo his usual Stoner Personer for two semi-dramatic readings, the first being recent dialogue exchanges held with VH-1's legal department over use of the words “penis,” “vagina,” “boobage,” “cock” and, to a far less extent, “Mickey Rourke.” The second, Benson reviewing his context-free Oscar-night Twitterings aloud, didn't fare as well (though Stevens' earlier Slumdog Millionaire quip, “Did Aziz [Ansari] do punch up on that?” went over most heads as well). Closer Todd “He Could Be the Next Lisa Lampanelli” Glass then went out big, lovingly/scathingly Roasting Agee before launching into slightly rambling, ADD-afflicted, character-driven musings on religion, rape and leftovers. Again, no pictures will live on of the Last Comic Standing vet's Andrew Dice Clay-like comedy lug who ripped open, downed and drooled out the better part of nine Miller Lite cans, nor of the scrawled rendition of a penis he raised aloft to illustrate a point about the relationship between an artist, their creations and the fans' misinterpretation of both.
But back out into the courtyard the cameras flashed anew. Agee had already been sang to once, given a partial standing ovation and encouraged to make a speech. He'd stood onstage, frowning and with arms folded, and his expression hadn't much changed minutes later as he bore three additional “Happy Birthday” outdoor singalongs. He may have been uncomfortable and ill, but at least he was surrounded by friends and peers who appreciated both as core components of the overall Agee package.