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John Oliver And Seth Meyers At Beacon Theatre, Saturday, August 19th, 2023, Reviewed

Two of the funniest men on television, John of “Last Week Tonight” and Seth with “Late Night” taking over the Letterman birthed franchise, are not two of the funniest stand-ups. Without a desk between them and us they are exposed as nothing special funny funnies, and not for the first time. I caught John at the Beacon nine years ago and again last night where he returned for the first time for a three night stand and Seth, who has a very funny stand up special to his name, “Lobby Baby” and whose good will doesn’t withstand the test of 60 minutes. Neither one was quite up to it.

John and Seth are two sides of New York liberalism, John is lower middle class English from industrial city Birmingham, who hates the Royal family and UK Imperialism, and immigrated to the States after Ricky Gervais recommend him to “Last Week Tonight”; he stayed till he got his current gig on HBO’s weekly satire “Last Week Tonight”. Except now his writers are on strike and with production stopped he went on tour. Seth is about the same, from the midwest where he headed a comedy troop to Saturday Night Live in one giant leap. He left it for another Lorne Michaels production, a late night talk show. where he remains when not on strike.

With all that, surely this should have been the goods. To quote evening MC Brooks Wheelan- a former SNL writer who got cancelled, and was John’s opening act the last time Oliver was here, the two funniest men on television. Brooks was alright; he did a round-a-lay about success and failure on the stand-up trail, culminating in a punchline I won’t ruin though it finds him crying on the subway.

Let’s talk about something great for a moment. NO FUCKING POUCHES. Thank you, boys. It started at seven in the evening, no intermission, over by 915. That’s the way to do it. Three acts in two hours or so, not that political but it is all just there below the surface. John opens with a very funny bit about billionaires fucking up -come down, Elon Musk (“Nothing has made me happier in the past few months than watching Elon Musk set fire to Twitter”) but with this audience it is ripe fruit for picking. Naturally, we soon find ourselves with ripest of low hanging fruit: Camilla Parker Bowles. Once Oliver got to English history, if we didn’t know about the UK’s past before (and I did after a decade at English schools), you certainly did after Last Week Tonight. Must we hear it all again? If anybody doesn’t know about the redrawing of the world’s borders after WWII they certainly won’t be in this theatre. Personal best? Why the rest of the world is terrified of USA -it personifies Oliver at his best: research, POV, take down.

Seth starts with some pandemic stuff, and is somewhat amusing nailing his daily life, but there is so little to see, no close circuit and as we hit the 90 minute mark this the Seth Meyers figure somewhere down there got boring. “Nothing like doing a show in New York City on a Saturday night…” before ripping Tampa Bay Casino another one. Seth is excellent at politics (his “A Closer Look” is a must see) but do we have to have ten minutes of covid 19 vaccines? What else you got? Another child, Seth? Congrats.

Comedy is like rap in that timing is EVERYTHING. and both comedians have great timing, they walk a similar beat (older statesmen in their 40s), but Stand-up is really tough. A coupla years ago I saw John Mulaney straight out of rehab and a year later I saw the same show on Netflix and simply put, it takes time to work out your performance from terrible to great. These guys are not stand up anymore, but I bet given enough time they would be. This was coasting.

Grade: B-

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