Sarah's Pro-Choice at 2012 Just for Laughs | Comedy review
Here's something you rarely hear over the loudspeaker at the historic Chicago Theatre. "It's 7:42. Sit the fuck down. We're waiting on you assholes." The unmistakable nasal voice belonged to an irked Sarah Silverman, who was in town hosting Sarah's Pro-Choice, a night of stand-up comedy at the TBS Just for Laughs festival. Several minutes later Silverman encouraged the people with the cheap sits to fill the vacant spots in the front rows. This created a stampede toward the front of the stage (and caused a few problems later in the show).
"Please put your hands together for me," said Silverman as she sauntered on stage to the tune of Aerosmith and Run-DMC's Walk This Way. "I was brutally raped to that song," she quipped so subtly you could've missed it. Silverman was in a feisty mood. When a young couple finally arrived around 8pm, she heckled them for their tardiness. "You decided to come," she said. "Does daddy run a company?" Otherwise, it was vintage Silverman. On the miracle of life, Silverman noted how awe-inspiring it is to consider that we all began inside a man's sperm. "There was a time when I was choking on his jism, living inside his balls in his pants," she marveled. "I can't believe I was ever that thin."
But this was a night of guest appearances and first up was former Chicagoan and 30 Rock writer Hannibal Buress. "My real name is Hannibal the Entertainer," he said before launching into a short set that took on flip phones, dirty talking in bed and shitting on a plane. If you haven't heard it yet, check out his new Comedy Central CD Hannibal Buress: Animal Furnace. He's incredible.
Natasha Leggero was next up. The Rockford native began with a superficial comment about the one unintended consequence from all the recent natural disasters. "We're running out of diamonds," she said. "The only way I know how to make a diamond is to jerk off an old man." Leggero tackled lyrics to Usher songs, Playboy bunnies and the reality show My Strange Addiction. She did solid crowd work and was among the few voices of the show to steer her jokes into political territory. "I will never be pregnant," said Leggero, "for very long."
A hilarious Kyle Dunnigan was introduced by Silverman as her relative Craig Pullin (a character he portrayed on Reno 911!), who she warned was trying out material for the first time. Dunnigan killed as his alter ego Pullin, a guy with no comic timing who screws up even the most basic knock-knock joke. After shedding his alter ego, Dunnigan entertained the audience with solid Bill Maher and Paul McCartney impressions and banged out a couple songs on his keyboard.
Comedian Marc Maron killed it by trading punchlines for a single narrative about developing a fear of flying after an unfortunate flight to Cleveland. I first became aware of Maron in 1996 when I served him a shake at a 24-hour diner in San Francisco called Sparky's. Sixteen years later, I'm finally coming around to Maron, who runs a ballyhooed podcast called WTF with Marc Maron. He punctuated his story with funny asides, including how he needs to create a death playlist on his iPod in case he has a heart attack on his treadmill and how his harrowing experience landing in Cleveland ended with a life-affirming jerk-off in his hotel room.
Reggie Watts (pictured) finished up the evening with a short but sweet set in which he bolted out two songs using his trademark improvised style which incoporates elements of hip-hop, spoken word, reggae and comedy using a loop pedal. "You've got small bladders," he sang in his first number, wryly noting people in the crowd who were getting out of their seats to use the bathroom. That he based an entire song around people exiting the theater during his set clearly delighted the crowd. He disappeared faster than I would've liked. I could've said that about most of the comedians who performed. If I can make a single criticism it's that the show was great at whetting our appetites. Now I'm hungry for more.