Oddball Comedy Festival Brings Laughs and Surprises [Review]

Oddball Comedy FestivalAudiences at the Oddball Festival certainly expected many laughs throughout the evening when the tour stopped in Irvine, CA, but the event also brought plenty of surprises. The festival has been touring the country since early August and has featured a merry-go-round of today’s best comics with anchor headliner Louis C.K. The festival was the brainchild of comedy super-site, FunnyorDie.com, and was thus able to bring today’s comedy heavy-hitters such as Whitney Cummings, Bill Burr, Aziz Ansari and Hannibal Burress to the stage.

Any one of the comedians on the Oddball Comedy Festival’s lineup is capable of bringing huge crowds on their own, but the back-to-back laughs promised by this novel and surprising festival concept meant fans could potentially see all their favorite acts in one evening. There have been many smaller local comedy festivals in recent years, and those in the know are aware of Bonaroo, which combines music and comedy in one big annual festival. Oddball is the first of its kind however, where comedy takes the main focus.

The Oddball Comedy Festival tour stopped in Irvine at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre for two dates in mid-September. The Sunday show’s lineup was star-studded.  Hosted by Brody Stevens who most recently has appeared on Comedy Central’s new show At Midnight, the rest of the stellar lineup included Marc Maron, Chris D’Elia, Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, Aziz Ansari and of course Louis C.K.

Oddball Comedy FestivalMarc Maron is best known for his podcast, WTF With Marc Maron and his new TV show on IFC, simply called Maron.  Many may not know that he is been doing stand-up for at least twenty years. Marc did about 15 minutes at Oddball, warming up the crowd for Undateable and Whitney’s Chris D’Elia.  Chris opened his set with a simple message, “Ladies…just chill.” After that potentially divisive statement, the rest of D’Elia’s set was very supportive of women, as he hilariously empathized with the slings and arrows of being female.

Bill Burr’s set actually was divisive, as he criticized Michelle Obama and all first ladies in general, alienating his female fans for a few minutes. He brought the audience back, however, with his quirky irreverence and the thick Massachusetts accent for which he is known in shows like Opie & Anthony, Breaking Bad and the popular Grand Theft Auto video game series. The first surprise of the night came after Burr’s set with the appearance of “Roastmaster General,” Jeffrey Ross.  Ross is known for being able to roast anyone, so he pulled some fans out of the audience and tried to give them a proper roasting, but found the tables turned on him when a young lady from the audience grabbed the microphone and began riffing on Ross. The surprised comic took the reverse roast like a pro, however, claiming he had fallen in love with the witty audience member. Whether it was planned or not, Ross’s appearance and his subsequent roasting by an audience member were certainly an unplanned bit of fun for the audience.

Jim Gaffigan has also been a stand-up comedian for over two decades, with a number of  specials on Comedy Central and a recurring guest spot on the hipster sketch comedy Portlandia. Gaffigan made fun of the stereotypes of men in trucks, his own unhealthy obsession with steak, and, uncomfortably for some, Jesus. It was all part of his act, however, and the crowd was happy to come with him on the uncomfortable topics.

Aziz Ansari’s act gave a great prelude for Louis C.K. The Parks & Recreation star has also had multiple specials on Comedy Central, and used his special odd sense of humor to describe relationships and political issues. He was able to compare being in a relationship versus playing the field with salad versus skittles in a surreal and drawn-out analogy. He also posited rapper Jah Rule as a potential animal rights advocate. This brand of quirky comedy is a signature of Ansari’s, and makes him a favorite spokesperson for the new generation of comedy.

Oddball Comedy FestivalThe headliner and the main event as many fans saw it was, of course, top comic and “voice of his generation,” Louis C.K. Louis is known for his raunchy comedy, with a style, which seems to be little more than following an exasperated middle-aged man through the trials of life. Through this prism, he is able to talk about difficult topics, which normally make audiences uncomfortable. In his FX show Louie he’s single-handedly taken on the conventions of society, both in the subject matter and in the way the show is produced, uncompromisingly changing the climate of comedy TV for the future. In his set in Irvine alone, C.K. compared the conflict between Israel and Gaza with two fighting children who will not stop, and talked about the problems of getting older in gross detail. His set completely brought the house down, but there was one more huge surprise in store.

After Louis C.K.’s set, the presiding DJ Trauma announced that the crowd should stay in their seats as some began to get up to beat the traffic rush. They were not disappointed as the surprise headliner turned out to be beloved yet recently reclusive Dave Chapelle, who was also the anchor headliner at 2013’s festival. As Chapelle strode out to the stage, the crowd was instantly on its feet to cheer the newly muscular Chapelle and welcome him back to stand-up. Chapelle only did a few minutes, insisting that his appearance was impromptu and he had not created any new material for the show. If this was true, he was great off-the-cuff, riffing with the security guards and pointing out the lack of ethnic diversity in Orange County. Chapelle was a sight for sore eyes, as audiences hadn’t been treated to his uniquely sweet yet politically charged brand of humor for quite some time. Here’s hoping he continues to make appearances both at the Oddball Comedy Festival and in his own tours and specials.

The Oddball Comedy Festival’s Sunday, September 15 show had fans in stitches for a full five hours, bringing laughs aplenty and amazing surprise guests. Each comedian had a different style and a very different act, keeping the audience on its toes throughout the night. The tour moves on to Texas for its final weekend September 19-21 so comedy fans in Dallas and Austin should get their tickets or be forced to wait until next year.

Opinion by Layla Klamt

Oddball Comedy Festival Talent Page
Bonaroo Festival Talent Page