Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stay Far, Far Away From This Wonderland

So Friday night I went down to the Comedy Cellar, in my opinion the best stand up joint in New York. I go to the Cellar probably four or five times a year, and it's pretty much always a good show. I recognize a lot of the jokes by this point, but you can 100% count on a fun night. Plus sometimes the Cellar has surprise unannounced guest comedians, like a few years ago when Chris Rock showed up and did a terrific set.

Anyway, Friday's lineup looked pretty good. Sherrod Small, Dave Attell (one of my personal favorites), Jim Norton, and Kevin Brennan were scheduled. We settle in. Sherrod Small does a good set, as expected, and gets the crowd nice and rowdy. The next guy bombs on his first two jokes, so we're all anticipating an awkwardly quiet set, but he completely recovers and ends up being one of the highlights of the night. Another comedian or two, and then the M.C., Keith Robinson, announces a surprise guest. Immediately the audience perks up, and we can feel the electricity of anticipation.

Who could it be? we all wonder. Chris Rock? Adam Sandler? Jerry Seinfeld? Some other famous comedian?

So Keith Robinson continues. "Ladies and gentleman, you'll recognize our special guest from his mutli-platinum records, give it up for John Mayer!"

And everyone's reaction is the same. Uh...isn't he a singer?

But then there he is. John Mayer. Yes, that John Mayer. "Your Body is a Wonderland" John Mayer. And he's going to do stand up comedy for us. Um...what???

Mayer gets on stage. He's wearing a unibomber sweatshirt, and has long, scraggly hair. He's pretty tall and skinny. He's pacing around stage, leaning on the walls, slurring his words. It's pretty obvious the guy's drunk or stoned, maybe both. And he proceeds to give the most awkward, offensive, unfunny 15 minute comedy act I've ever seen. And I've been to amateur night. This was way worse. Mayer must have been the lucky recipient of some sort of Comedy Affirmative Action program.

Anyway, here's what we learned during John Mayer's rambling, disjointed "stand up":

1) Women are sluts (If you're expecting a punchline were we. Didn't come.)
2) Lots of sluts have "unlocked their Masterlock" for him. Ew.
3) New Yorkers aren't really bothered much by terrorism. Cause there's like "Missiles and shit" constantly being launched at us and we're used to it. Um...right. Might want to quit while you're behind, John.
4) He lives up on a hill "away from the black people." (Danger, Will Robinson, danger)
5) If white people were allowed to use the 'N' word, he would use it about 1,000 times a day. And yes, Mayer did use the 'N' word during his act.

It was so bad, that the comedians following Mayer made fun of him. Not just "tee hee" kind of ribbing, but, "Can you believe that guy can hold a job" kind of ribbing. Now comedians are always ripping on each other in jest (one night I actually ended up drinking with Dave Attell at about 4 a.m., and learned that comedians are about the tightest group of people you could ever meet). But these guys were letting Mayer have it for imposing on their stage. Kevin Brennan, who had the good fortune of following Mayer (with the laugh-starved audience thankful to once again hear funny material), said, "Man, this is the best reception I've ever had. I want John Mayer to open for me every night."

When his set ended, John Mayer left by saying, "Ok, I'm off to write more songs."

Good idea, John. Don't quit your day job.

Update (1/23/07)
I was just interviewed by Entertainment Weekly regarding Mayer's performance, so I just wanted to clarify something. In my original post, I stated that Mayer used the 'N' word "several times" during his act. Thinking back I know he used it at least once, but I am not 100% certain that he did more than once, so I removed that phrase. I don't want it to be misinterpreted that he pulled a Michael Richards. It was merely a case of using an unfortunate word which, in my view, was an ugly exclamation point to a subpar set.


Blogger Dave White said...

And how was Li'l Jimmy Norton?

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

Pretty good, though it got a little weird when he started talking about how important fecal matter is to relationships.

2:13 PM  
Blogger JT Ellison said...

Oh, you've been out drinking with Dave Attel? You are my hero!

8:25 PM  
Blogger Bob Mann said...

Dave Attel drinks? That blows my image of him as an upright, sober guy! I wonder what got into the heads of management to have Mayer take the stage at all?

Maybe do ONE song and then sit the hell down. Maybe.

7:58 AM  
Blogger PaulineyM said...

The best part about this being picked up by Gawker is that all the little tweenie fans will freak out on the assorted fan sites and on his My Space. That's where the true comedy lies.

2:38 PM  
Blogger M said...

oh! if only there were such a world in which we could freely use the "N" word, call women sluts, and avoid the "blacks" through self-segregation...oh wait, isn't that place called the south? hmmm i thought john mayer was from connecticut??

2:43 PM  
Blogger Tracy Kaufman said...

Wowza! I always heard John Mayer was a complete douchebag. So apparently a sordid tale like this one was bound to appear sooner or later.

4:02 PM  
Blogger ACG said...

I was at the same show on Friday night.
I have a slightly different take on the Mayer set.
The show as a whole was great. The energy was thru the roof.
I had seen Jim Norton a few times before there (I hit the city and the cellar at least every other month). Friday night he had an energy that I had never seen before, and he was on point.
Yes, John Mayer is not up to the standers of pro comics he performed with that evening, but first thing is... stang up is one the hardest things a perform can do. You write it yourself, you direct it yourself, and you perform it alone... no one to lean on... no band, no support... you live and die hanging by your own balls. He has a lot... A LOT... to learn and a lot of hard work ahead of him if he chooses to keep at it, but everyone else we saw that night had to struggle thru the same.
He has to work on focus and editing, but it's not out of the relm of possiblities.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

I agree the show as a whole was great. Jim Norton was funny, Kevin Brennan was funny, Sherrod Small was funny. But these are professional comedians who've honed their craft over years and years of hard work. I'm not saying John Mayer doesn't have balls for doing it, I'm saying he had the wrong kind of balls.

There are "smart balls," where you take a risk doing something you believe you're prepared for, in a situation where you have a chance at succeeding.

And there are "stupid balls," like performing untested, unfunny material live on stage while (likely) inebriated in front of a crowd of rowdy, intoxicated New Yorkers at 12:30 am on a Friday night, who probably resent you in the first place because they know the only reason you're allowed on stage is because you're famous for doing something completely unrelated to comedy.

If he wants to hone his material on a Tuesday night, or in front of his friends or peers, go right ahead. But he stuck out worse at the Comedy Cellar than he could have if he played "Your Body is a Wonderland" at OzzFest.

5:09 PM  
Blogger ACG said...

He's John Mayer.
He does not have the luxury of being am unknown and perform at an open mic.
What do you think would happen?
I'll tell you.
He might get thru 2 weeks of actually performing for a "comedy crowd". After that, word would get out and that comedy club would be decended upon every open mic by herd of teenage girls screaming for him inside and outside the club.
The only way he can work at is in that way he did Friday night "surprise" appearances.
Sherrod had no problem with sharing the stage with him ... and any comedian that does, is just insercure.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

I don't care if he has the luxury of being an unknown or not, in my opinion he just wasn't funny. If I enjoyed his act, I could care less if he's a celebrity or a guy they found combing the trash cans.

When I go to a comedy club on a Friday night, I pay my cover and 2 drink minimum to watch professional comedians who know what they're doing. I hate celebrities who "moonlight" in professions they're completely unprepared for and suck at.

If he wasn't John Mayer, he wouldn't have been allowed on stage on a Friday night, period. He would have had to prove himself with some tryout acts in smaller venues, on a less-crowded night. But since he's a "celebrity," he gets carte blanche. I think Sherrod is a terrific comedian, period. But you can't tell me with a straight face that the audience thought he was good.

6:26 PM  
Blogger ACG said...

From where I was sitting, I heard laughing.
And come on, you didn't even chuckly at...
"Instead of smoking pot, I'm just going to have a friend come over, press on my chest, and tell me all my ideas are great."
Yeah, his delivery was awkward and need editing. But you only go to the Cellar 4 times a year... I have been there when Norton is bombing, when Attell is off, when Quinn looks like he's 3 seconds away from napping on the stage. I love all those guys, but you NEVER know what is going to happen on that stage, even when it's a "professional".

6:45 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

True, every comedian bombs sometimes, but when you already have the stigma of, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't sell 8 million records," you'd better be pretty darn impressive. But most of his jokes didn't have punchlines, they were just weird observations that didn't go anywhere.

Mayer had one joke I honestly laughed at, the one about how everyone has that weird friend who gets strange enjoyment out of watching other people watch "Lost."

I have no problem with John Mayer wanting to be a comedian. Honest. If he dedicates himself to it, hones his material and delivery, and performs well. But showing up unannounced and sucking just to prove you can takes mighty hubris.

7:01 PM  
Blogger ACG said...

I doubt he showed up outta the blue. I'd bet the club had it arranged, but kept it under their hat to avoid people show up to hear him sing.
As with The Cellar and any club that operates like they do, even with "line -ups" posted, you never know who or what will change. Places like The Cellar do not have "headliners", you gotta take what they throw at you. Its the nature of the beast and thats the appeal.
The other option is to not attend clubs that operate like that and buy tickets to solo shows or tours, so you'll always know exactly what you are getting for your money.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

But there's a big difference between a guest comedian and a guest celebrity-trying-to-be-a-comedian-and-sucking-at-it.

The same way you expect guest musicians at a concert, but you'd still be pretty miffed if Tom Cruise showed up at a Springsteen show and butchered the lyrics to "Born in the USA."

8:14 PM  
Blogger ACG said...

but in this case, you paid $15 and got every comedian on the orginial line-up (which is not a given at clubs like The Cellar) plus one extra person performing comedy you didn't like.

Thats a little different than buying a ticket to see one specific person perform.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said... make an interesting case, with many valid, well-reasoned points. I cannot debate an argument containing such rich erudition. Are you a college professor?

Something tells me you would have enjoyed his performance Friday night. And since when is "Your Body is a Wonderland" kick ass music? Close the Banana Republic catalogue and stay in school, son. Please.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Chance said...

What you're forgetting here is the fact that John's been doing comedy for a while now- just not stand up. Watch any interview with him and it's filled with random jokes. I consider appearing on shows like The Panel (an Australian show involving a bunch of comedians picking apart current affairs) a training ground for comedy, as much as any sit-com or open mic night. I also know, after watching him on shows like that, that he does have comedic talent. here's how I see it- you've got tall poppy syndrome. You're jealous of the fact that Mayer has the position (hard earnt through honest talent) to branch out, while you're stuck being a nobody in the crowd. Hence you're lashing out. It has nothing to do with his talent (regardless on whether you believe he has any or not) and all to do with trying to hide your own deficencys. So how about you either lay off John, or wait for him to have the chance to watch you perform and give you as brutal a review?

4:14 AM  
Blogger new to nyc said...

I was at the same show and honestly had the same reaction that Jason had. I thought he was god-awful. I was sitting right in front and only really laughed because it was awkward being that close while someone was pretty much bombing.

There were a couple of laughs in there, but most jokes either didn't have much of a point or were tough to relate to as a non-celebrity. For example, the "Don't you hate it when you go out to a really expensive and exclusive sushi restaurant and one of your friends tells you about another, more expensive, more exclusive sushi restaurant" bit. Yeah, who hasn't been there?

That said, even though it wasn't very good and was awkward at the moment, I thought it was a cool thing to see. Its certainly been a great story to tell friends. It certainly didn't take anything away from my night out at the club.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Regina said...

Wow, folks sure have their undies all bunched up in a wad over what you had to say. That’s just ridiculous. Just because he's good at music doesn't mean everyone is going to love everything he does.

Plus, it's your damn blog and your opinion. I'm glad to hear various takes on this performance. Mayer has his own blog and he can give another perspective if he so chooses.

He is hilariously funny in his interviews, so you'd think he wouldn't have performed so badly. Based on those interviews and other funny TV appearances, just go, you can see why they were more than willing to give him a crack at the Friday audience.

I’m African-American. He’s done some scream out laughing stuff with Dave Chappelle. He probably thinks he’s down with “us”, and he can get away with the racial jokes. I know in my mixed and matched group of friends and beaus jokes like that are common. However, he should remember what you say with your friends can might not go over well in a crowd that just knows you as a pop ballad crooner. For what it’s worth, as I wasn’t there, I won’t be putting a “kill whitey” contract out on him. ;-)

He’s not going to have to bus tables over this, so no harm, no foul.

Sorry you felt it was a waste of time for you. But look on the bright side, you have all these great comments to slog through!

2:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Actually if you listened Mayer's cover of "Bold as love", you'd see he's a ridiculously talented musician. But I suppose the fact some of his music can get your girlfriend wetter than you ever could is reason enough to dislike him

2:31 AM  
Blogger ThePundit said...

John Mayer is such a hack and poser. Check out this hilarious blog on why he lost all cred after dating Jessica Simpson

It will make you laugh out loud

2:39 PM  
Anonymous dissertations help said...

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8:21 AM  

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