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John Oliver At Beacon Theatre, Friday, January 30th, 2015, Reviewed

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Sells Out

 

Here are the grades for some of the comedians I’ve seen over the past coupla years…

Louis CK – MSG – B

Dave Chapelle – Radio City – B

Jerry Seinfeld – Beacon Theatre – B

Eddie izzard – Radio City Music Hall – B

Chris Rock – Theatre At Madison Square Garden – B

and just last night…

John Oliver – Beacon Theatre – (wait for it) B

As my friend Mike Holcomb recently said: “Arena comedy doesn’t really work for me. The only guy I saw kill in an arena was Eddie Murphy. And I think it was because he was such an incredible rock star-like phenomenon at the time that it was only natural 15,000 people would show up to see him.” Mike Long added: “Stand-up in big venues, like the Garden, are less than ideal. Definitely, for the audience; sometimes for the comedian.”

Next rock nyc writer Margaret Mullen noted how difficult it is to laugh for 90 minutes straight no matter how funny the comedian is. I agree, even 60 minutes can stretch it to the breaking point.

Next: sometimes people get the job they are absolutely perfect for and John Oliver, the former “Daily Show” writer who subbed for Jon Stewart for a month and became a superstar, and hired for HBO where he does an hysterical fake news that was the week that was news round up ” Last Week Tonight” is that sort of man. He is perfect for it, he can do 15 minutes on a subject and truly get it right and have all the righteous indignation known to man at the same time and be beyond funny and right and sharp. At the bottom of this review I am gonna post a minute something from Oliver on Letterman and you can see how good he is.

But doing an hour or so of stand up? Yeah, no, not really, not quite. At Beacon Theatre on Friday Oliver began with a very funny take on the blizzard that wasn’t, “you don’t get Godzilla and those people in Tokyo saying, but this was supposed to destroy everything”, and continued with his new puppy peeing itself with joy at seeing John again after a trip, and wondering why we the audience don’t do the same thing. But a bit about space kittens doesn’t really happen and suddenly, shockingly, Oliver became the comedian who fell to earth. He wasn’t infallible. And after a little while longer he got a little boring.

Yeah the size of the venue, yeah, he didn’t really go political, his forte, instead he kept on the US versus the UK, a subject that matters a lot more if you are from the UK than the US. He wasn’t bad, he was just a little whatever. A long bit about the UK sending their prisoners to Australia was remarkably irrelevant for just about everyone. Certainly, compared to Eddie Izzard on colonialism, John had little to add to the conversation. Indeed, for an up against the wall political truthsayer, this was very weak gruel. As often as not the humor came back on himself and when Louis CK does humiliation he does anger and when Oliver does humiliation he does humility. It isn’t fun laughing at Oliver’s self emasculation. It gets draggy and good natured.

The entire show is so  good natured it feels like he could say anything and get away with it although he doesn’t and there is a lack of aggressiveness about Oliver, he seems to have neither US textual rage nor UK subtextual rage. He doesn’t seethe underneath it all, he just seems to mutter mustn’t grumble. he leaves his outrage for political forces and not the forces against him.

While I’ve heard maybe a quarter of the material elsewhere, that makes most of it fresh. I left maybe 15 minutes early but I did see an hour and it was sensationally chuckle filled, a little toothless but still… Two pieces of heart warm, a pigeon walks in Newark airport and a nonagenarian couple, were pleasant in a happiness is a warm puppy sort of way but neither had big laughs. Funnier was a true story of John and two black friends in DC laughing about them opening the door for him, “you should have been born a century ago” one of his friends cracks, ” when you think about it, sixty years would have done” and all three are laughing hysterically when they walk right into the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who had heard it all.

Funny stuff, he is a funny guy, not half as funny as he is on “Last week Tonight” but a sweet fella. next time I’ll wet myself. .

Grade: B

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