I trudge into the Tonic Bar at Erewhon on a recent Friday in a terrible mood. I’ve just gotten off the phone with a vibrational doctor who informed me that aside from liver weakness and heavy-metal toxicity, I had no less than six curses swirling around my light body, which he couldn’t clear because he was booked solid.
“Who does that?” I whine to Andy Dick, my new Tonic Bar friend, who himself is battling a chest infection and pre-?performance jitters.
“Wanna come to my show tonight?” offers Andy, trying to cheer me up.
The show, Write Aid, is a benefit at UCLA’s Royce Hall to provide “crisis assistance for entertainment-industry workers during the strike.” Always ready to believe that laughter is the best medicine, I figure the show, hosted by Eddie Izzard, and featuring performances by Sarah Silverman and Tenacious D, is just what I need.
Andy is in a state when I arrive.
“Sarah Silverman yelled at me,” he explains, slouching in a chair in his dressing room.
Apparently, the potty-mouth hottie took issue with a comment Andy made to the press, suggesting her shtick was racist. As if having Silverman pissed at you isn’t bad enough, turns out the Tonic Bar has run out of Andy’s usual brand of Holy Basil — the liquid capsules that render you instantly anxiety-free and euphoric.
“I don’t think this crap even is Holy Basil,” Andy says, handing me a bottle of powdered capsules to inspect.
Andy and his colleague, Marshall, are still composing a last-minute ballad, “Sorry, Sarah Silverman,” when the show starts. I run backstage and nab a chair in the wings while Eddie Izzard welcomes the audience.
Izzard — supersexy, even out of drag — opens the show with his usual historically anchored, literate, improvisational brand of comic brilliance. But I’m surprised to see the otherwise stylish performer (in brown corduroy blazer, straight-leg jeans and carefully trimmed face fuzz) wearing one of those ridiculous rubber bracelets on his wrist — the ones that say, “Look at me. I’m noble! I care!” It was stupid enough when they were just yellow cancer bracelets, but now it seems like there’s a color-coded band of petroleum for every cause under the sun.
Later, I notice the blue bracelets on the wrists of other performers, as well as audience members. Turns out the blue bracelet means you support the writers, but without the hassle of making a sign or walking in circles all day.
Sarah Silverman bounds backstage during Patton Oswalt’s act, holding a can of Coke in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. She parks herself cross-legged on the floor between the legs of the guy next to me — a hefty sort in a brown satin Wilco jacket, who graciously lets me lean all over him while I try to get a better view of the stage.
Oswalt struts offstage, beaming, and tells Silverman, “This audience is great!”
Silverman takes the stage with a silly walk and a million-dollar smile, playing the wide-eyed innocent while delivering her usual dose of tongue-in-cheek minority bashing and shock talk. Silverman seems at ease, riffing on breeding and filthy Mexicans and the word “pussy.” An old man in the front row tries to stifle his laughter, but by the end of her set, he’s guffawing along with the rest of us.
A portly guy with bleached-blond hair and an air of entitlement places himself between my vantage point and Silverman. It’s Jack Black, lobbying satin-jacket guy to switch places with Andy Dick.
“Andy should go next,” whines Black. “It’s feeling a little top-heavy. Andy should go after Sarah, and then The D goes on after intermission.”
But it’s too late. “The D” take the stage as scheduled to an uproarious round of applause. Silverman sings along to every tune.
“This is the prettiest song ever,” she gushes, whooing and aahing as Tenacious D launch into their slow-jam classic, “Fuck Her Gently.”
During intermission, I run into a couple of jovial realtors who are inexplicably thrilled that I freelance for the L.A. Weekly.
“So, how long is this thing gonna drag out?” one of them asks, referring to the strike.
“I’m not Nikki Finke,” I say. “I have no idea.”
John Bowman, chief negotiator for the WGA, speaks after the intermission, explaining the plight of the writers and their fight “to maintain their standard of living.” He isn’t funny, per se, but he is well-spoken and charismatic.
Andy Dick and his guitar player, Tim, take the stage. Dick wonders aloud why he’s been included in such a talented lineup — as though his time on The Ben Stiller Show and NewsRadio, and the billions of laughs he’s spawned in between and since, were irrelevant. Kyle “KG” Gass of Tenacious D sits to my left, laughing his way through Dick’s exploration of his unique bisexual appeal in his song “Good Luck With That.”
After a rollicking version of “Dip Your Cock in Vodka,” Andy introduces Eddie Izzard, who finishes the show with a long (long, long), energetic and hilarious set taking on intelligent design, the Bible and the animal kingdom. Backstage, Andy and Sarah are making nice in the greenroom. I throw back a handful of cashews and realize that I feel energized. Maybe some of those curses have been lifted, after all.