So it’s a random Sunday evening, the Pens are done, the Bucs, while flirting with .500, are still not the team of the future, and the Steelers are working through OTA’s; what is there for the average Pittsburgher to do? I’ll tell you what – you should go and see Bill Gardell (ooops you missed him) and his merry band of misfits.
Gardell was the headliner at the Pittsburgh Improv on Sunday night, on a bill featuring Mike Wysocki ( I guess you spell his name that way), Gene “I’ve been a writer since you were born” Collier and the MC, Buzz “I look like Bill Engval” Nutley.
It’s a little known fact that Snack thinks he’s a standup – he’s funny, but in a “I’ve drank a few too many jagerbombs” kinda way, whereas Collier, Gardell and their cronies are funny in a “I’m from Pittsburgh therefore you better laugh” kinda way.
The evening started off with Nutley opening things up on time (a rarity at the Improv), and Snack and his crew (Diego, Bobinkle, and some lovely ladies)guzzling down the local brew. He was a wonderful MC, being funny and short-winded at the same time.
The first comic to hit the stage was Wysocki, a local comic who has been on DVE more times then Barry Bonds has been accused of taking steroids. He was a more then capable opening act, although if it were up to me he would have had more then 20 minutes of stage time – but who knows, he looked like he was about the same age as Snack and Diego, so he may only have 20 minutes of material. He also looked like a mix of Carrot-Top and Eddie Vedder, except paler then both if you can imagine that. Either way he was funny as hell and obviously has a bright future in this business.
After another Nutley set, next up was Gene Collier, of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fame. I heard him on the Jim Krenn and Friends Roast (check your On-Demand for it), and to be honest, I thought he kinda sucked. His jokes were a little slow, and the white hair didn’t help his cause. But seeing him in person changed my mind completely.
His jokes were exactly what you expected; long, drawn-out and a little dry, but surprisingly enough, they were funny as can be. His quips about Detroit (suck it Motown) and how he is 54, looks 74 and acts 14 were definitely some highlights. The only thing that disappointed me was how he didn’t really bring his (I would hope) vast knowledge of Pittsburgh sports into his set as often as he could. Let’s get honest, there’s plenty of fodder out there in the local sports community, and I expected it to be a pretty harsh (and hilarious) criticism of our Buccos’, instead of an actual stand up comedy set.
Either way, he was a lot better then people of my generation would think, and his after the show beer chugging (yea, I saw you at Rock Bottom) was very impressive. Well played old man, well played.
After one more Nutley set, it was time for the headliner, Mr. Yes Dear himself, Billy Gardell. Before I talk about his set, however, I’d like to mention how jealous I am (and we all actually are) of Big Bill, for his lucky, LUCKY break as a handyman (I’m guessing) on Desperate Housewives, where he gets to kiss Mrs. Tony Parker, Eva Longoria-Parker. My Lord, it gives fat men like me inspiration knowing that a fellow local large man can one day fake make out with one of the best looking women on the planet. Sorry, just had to throw that in; I’ll get back to the set…
Gardell is Pittsburgh – he’s loud, brash, and big and he swears like a sailor. And his show did not disappoint. His jokes included his take on fat guys seeing an open middle seat on an airplane and how he reacted to someone trying to move his luggage in the overhead (let’s just say there was lots of cursing and threatening in that one).
A lot of what he talked about had to do with the Burgh’, so I’m sure his national act would be much different, however after seeing him, I wouldn’t want to see anything other then his Pittsburgh set. My personal favorite was what he referred to as “The Pittsburgh Closer”, which is when someone says, in a thick Pittsburgh accent, “Alls I know is this.” Whenever someone drops that, conversation over.
He was also very good at getting the crowd into it, as he showed about halfway through the gig. He was asking a younger looking (18-21 yrs old or so) kid what he was going to college for and what he wanted to be, and, as you could’ve guessed, the punk said he wanted to be a stand up. Gardell let him get on stage to tell three or four jokes (at one point Gardell tried to get the mic back and the kid asked him if he could do one more joke) and surprisingly enough, the kid was good. It was a good crowd down there; more people in their 30’s and 40’s then there would’ve been on a Friday or Saturday night, but loud (and drunk) nonetheless.
After Gardell ended his almost hour long set, they mentioned Rock Bottom Brewery in the Waterfront as a sponsor, so not wanting to incur the rage of the Improv, we went over there for post comedy drinks. Low and behold, who walks in 15 minutes after us but the whole comedy team (except Nutley, we think – no one saw him so we’re guessin’ he was a no show) to down their after work brews. Oh yea, except for the fact that Gardell can’t drink do to a medical condition (another funny part of his set), and now just guzzles iced tea like it’s his job.
I got a chance to chat for a little bit with Gardell, Wysocki and Collier, and I have to tell you, they were some of the more gracious and kind local celebs I’ve ever met. Even the lone national act, Gardell, took time out to ask about the website and to BS about everything under the sun.
And it’s that approachability and local flare that made this one of, if not the best comedy show I’ve ever seen.
If any of yinz know any other Pittsburgh comics who can get your funny bone hurtin’, feel free to post it in the comment section here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.