Review and photographs by Jason Spiro
Everyone, well, most everyone has something that they’d consider the breath of life: a hobby, avocation or leisure activity that provides literal or virtual sustenance. Foodies have their new restaurants. Aesthetes have jazz, classical and dance. But I need the comedy. I crave it. Until recently I’d absented myself from any live stand-up comedy experiences. I’m finding, lately, that I’m getting pulled back in, that I’ve got the bug.
It’s a little surprising and very heartening to know that there’s a dedicated group of comics who book local shows in smaller rooms, who bring talent from Western Mass, the mid-Hudson Valley and, more to the point, New York City or even Boston. When a New York comic of note is coming to town, I certainly make note. When two or more NYC comedians and a bevy regional talent is advertised, I have to make a point to attend. If it’s downtown and I don’t have to worry about drink minimums, that’s a huge bonus.
It was a kind of DIY comedy show, but in an environment styled after “big room” comedy. The dinner crowd looked well fed, sated and ready for more when the show began. Emcee and Schenectady resident Russell Davignon delivered his jokes, introduced the acts and provided a firm hand (yes, apparently even pros need “the light” to know their set is over) to keep the show tightly paced.
It felt, in essence, like a night of headliners, with an early set delivered by Angela Cobb from Queens, that was a highlight. Cobb has something going for her besides innate charm, great material and chops – it’s the intangible element, helped of course since she “killed,” that makes it likely she’ll become a big name in short order.
Regional acts Tony Rogers and Christine Boudreau, along with New Yorker Wilson McDermut, kept the night alive with the requisite amount of personal material while wowing the audience. Rob Shapiro burned a swath through the room with his impressive, highly confessional mix of stand-up chops and alt-comedy stylings. Frank Vignola, a 20-plus year veteran of comedy, commanded the attention of the crowd with polished gems and crowd work. The second, or third, or fourth headliner, Michael Raive of Clifton Park, finished out the night after a successful set with a New Year’s Eve toast and a grateful thanks to the satisfied crowd.
Raive was good in his role, and he co-organized the event. I’m on the lookout for more shows produced by him and his friends.