When I saw the great line-up that Tig Notaro had organized for the Bentzen Ball, I was blown away that something so massive was coming to the area, and started trying to figure out how I could help out and get involved. Originally the idea of having a kickoff event in Richmond was floated, but it would have taken a bit of time to get organized, and the ball already had gotten a late start with it’s announcement and line-up, so instead I just wrote some interviews for RVAMag. Im still grateful to all those who helped out, especially Svetlana at BYT for getting me a pass.
Unfortunately I got a late start Thursday evening and had to postpone my trip to DC until Friday, but tried to hit the road early enough on Friday to catch at least one show. After an uneventful trip up I arrived in DC and headed to the Milton Theater to pickup my pass. I had planned on walking up to the Black Cat to catch Steve Agee, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nick Thune, Dave Hill, et al. on the Back Stage, but feared that the club would be packed and decided to catch a show on the Milton stage at Studio Theater instead. It was a theater in the round, which threw all the comics off when they first came on stage. The lineup was: Reggie Watts, Todd Barry, Duncan Trussell, Aparna Nancherla, Seth Herzog, Matt Braunger, Morgan Murphy, Andy Wood, Jen Kirkman, Rory Scovel. Everyone on the show was great and played off of one another, even if they cut Todd Barry off a bit early, and it was a great introduction to the chaotic weekend.
Rory Scovel who apparently spent some time in DC for a while, was one of less known comics I was most excited to see.
At the end of the night I met my friend Jason at his restaurant, navigated the wasted youth post-bar crowd, grabbed a greasy veggie burger and headed to his house in Arlington.
The thing about Jason’s house in Arlington, is that for almost any kid who grew up listening to punk, it’s sacred ground, and the destination of many teenage pilgrimages (I never made one). The Dischord house is the pinnacle of Do It Yourself and positive living. Inside the place is like a punk house museum. The house is tidy and well cared for, but priceless punk rock artifacts are randomly strewn around that may one day find they’ll find themselves in a museum.
After brunch, taking Jason to work and killing time in Georgetown, I arrived at the Renaissance Washington to catch Jesse Thorn taping The Sound Of Young America Live. I’ve talked about it before, but it is one of the most amazing sources of learning and inspiration these days. In Jesse’s theme of interviewing people who are awesome he profiled Andrew Noz of Cocaine Blunts & Hip Hop Tapes and Ian MacKaye. Hugh Moore, Matt Braunger and Chelsea Peretti also did sets in between guests.
As expected the event was an interesting and inspiring success. The people that Jesse talks to always live up to his bar of awesomeness, and his in-depth questions lead to great discussions. Not being much of a hip-hop fan, I still found his interview with Andrew interesting and informative. The real thrill was getting to see Ian MacKaye’s interview. The impact that he has had for so many different people is truly immeasurable. I never owned a Minor Threat album, and never really aligned with the Straight-Edge “movement”, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I had no interest in labeling myself, but can certainly appreciate the difference those beliefs played in people’s lives. To also be responsible for one of the most successful and well known independent record-labels, spurning the Do It Yourself movement, and a highly influential indie-rock band that all conformed to a strict moral set of guidelines is mind-blowing.
When you meet someone for whom you have such respect, what’s the coolest thing they can say to you? How about “You didn’t shit the bed, did you?”
While riding that high I approached Seaton Smith, who I recognized from doing my RVAMag Interview. This proved to be the best decision I made all weekend, as he instantly introduced me to Hillary and a bunch of local comics, with whom we all headed up to the “presidential suite” for a “champagne & cupcake party” (parenthesis used to highlight how far out of my element I was). Instantly greeted with Champagne (which I passed on) and a cupcake from Cakelove, we made our way into the party, where I met a bunch of local and visiting comics. Everyone was really nice and relaxed and I had some good conversations. At one point Morgan Murphy snapped a photo of me talking to Adam Cayton-Holland. Hopefully I’ll be able to track that down sometime, and I don’t end up having cupcake all over my face.
Photo via Brightest Young Things
Full from cupcakes and finger sandwiches I headed back over to the Black Cat Backstage and caught the early show. MCed by Andy Wood of the Bridgetown Comedy Fest, the show was underattended and the sparse crowd made things worse by sitting on the floor in the backroom, setting an undoubtedly awkward scene for the comics. Nonetheless former DCer whom I met earlier John McBride led things off and was followed by Jen Kirkman and my biggest surprise of the event, Kyle Kinane. I then went upstairs and missed the rest of the awesome lineup.
I started feeling sick at some point in the evening, so spent much of the early show crouched in a corner trying to fight off a headache and trying to make the most of the show. Hampton Young, Morgan Murphy, Hugh Moore, Lizz Winstead, Chelsea Peretti, Nick Thune, Todd Barry & Jimmy Dore were all great, as expected, but directly afterwards I went outside and threw up, so I can’t say I devoted my full attention to the sets.
I walked over to Bens Chili Bowl with Tim, someone I met at the party, and we caught Vish Bhatt and Justin Cousson hosting the open mic. Seth Herzog decided to tell a few stories, which we caught before heading back for the late show. This really was worth waiting for, and the perfect end to the festival for me. Brandon Walsh, Seaton Smith and Matt Braunger were all great, but AD Miles was the real thrill. Reggie Watts closed out the show, and once again confused and then thrilled the crowd with his music (the song A Fuck/Shit Stack sounds like a hot new dance hit to me). The event had all appearances of a success, and I’m hoping that the event will return bigger and better next year. Over the next 11 months I’m going to do what I can to promote comedy in the area and perhaps bring some of the Bentzen comics through Richmond and try to strengthen the relationship between Richmond and DC. Get in touch if you wanna be a part of it.