Posted by: Necci – Mar 02, 2011
When you see that a comic that you really like is performing out in the suburbs, you sigh loudly and say to yourself, “Well, guess I better start preparing myself now.” The process begins a few weeks in advance when you discovere that Matt Braunger, whom you know as a cast member on MadTV and all sorts of Comedy Central and Late Night appearances, was performing at the Richmond Funny Bone Feb 17th- 20th.
The trip to Short Pump from downtown Richmond is always an interesting journey. In addition to the fifteen miles that you travel, you also have to slowly prepare yourself for the culture shock that you’ll face when you enter a room where you have the skinniest jeans in the place and everyone turns to judge you. What better way to begin your journey to Short Pump and ease into the awkwardness than by perusing the Whole Foods Buffet by yourself? You prepare yourself by eating a slice of veggie pizza while sitting in your car in the parking lot of Whole Foods, so as to avoid any potential conversations with "suburbanites."
After swallowing your pizza in one bite, you wipe the grease on your slim jeans and guide your car to the comedy club located in the shopping mall. Your ego takes a blow when you confidently approach the box office and say, “I’m on the list, press." After the third time repeating parts of that statement “list”, “press”, “h-u-g-e-l” and checking your email on your phone, they grow tired of your antics and wave you inside with the receipt that constitutes a ticket. You give a head nod and call out to the bartender that you used to work with years ago. He gives you a friendly response, but then waits for your order, and you aren’t quite sure if he recognized you or was just being nice. When you push the issue, he says “Yeah, we worked together. What can I get you?” Oh, I just thought we’d catch up on everything we don’t have in common, but I’m good on drinks, thanks.
You get ushered to your table for one, which you realize, in times like these, really is the loneliest number. It’s interesting how far from the stage those rolling solo are forced to sit. Probably too many cases of singles sobbing uncontrollably in the front row and interrupting the act. So you are seated by yourself, in the back, until a party of five comes along. They don’t look your way once and everyone does their best to avoid addressing the fact that you’re now sharing the same elbow space. Being the loner magnet that you are, you spot the only other solo person in the bar, a comic that you know who’s on the show. You make small talk for a moment, but then he cuts it off to mentally prepare for the show--or he just fears that your sadness will rub off on him. Either way, you return to your table of strangers and “bottomless” soda water.
Suddenly “We Will Rock You” interrupts the Lady Gaga on the PA, which must signify the start of the show. A series of movie samples play, and the MC for the evening takes the stage. You’ve seen the MC, a Richmonder named Jesse Thomas, at various open-mics around town. He does a good job with the difficult task of warming up a still relatively sober Thursday evening crowd. When his mission is complete, he passes the mic off to Corey Marshall, your friend, who is now in a good head space and in the Guest Spot for the evening. Even though you’ve seen him work out his bits before, it’s a delight to see an audience witness them for the first time, and watch with glee as they discover his punchlines.
By the time the Feature, Gary Menke, a traveling comedian from Tampa, FL, takes the stage, you need a bathroom break. That bottomless glass of soda water, combined with your separation anxiety from the city, finds you spending a few extra minutes making sure you hadn’t missed anything on the Internet in the past hour, and checking out what your friends are up to. When you come back, people are still laughing hard, but you realize that his jokes are not exactly your thing. You give in to a few of the more absurd jokes, but for the most part enjoy the humor from afar.
Finally it’s time for Matt Braunger to take the stage, and it’s immediately clear why you made the trek all the way out there. He has the audience roaring within seconds, and keeps the momentum going throughout his set. Sure, a few of his more off the wall premises miss with the West End crowd, but for the most part he animatedly tells story after story about growing up in Portland, living in Chicago, strippers and Burger King, and keeps the crowd laughing uncontrollably. You’re taken out of the moment temporarily when you realize the definition of “bottomless soda water” translates to $8.40 soda water, but when you get a souvenir glass you feel slightly less cheated.
Suddenly it’s all over, and you find yourself outside in the parking lot, thanking Matt for coming and buying a criminally cheap LP of his album, Soak Up The Night, for $10. You apologize for uncontrollably @-mentioning him on twitter, and he unnecessarily apologizes for being sick. When you get home you check yourself to confirm that you really did survive a solo expedition to surburbia, and it was actually pretty fun. Then you discover that Matt’s followed you on twitter, and realize that staying at the hotel in the mall in the West End must really be boring.
By Johnny Hugel