Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

Comics get down to bare essentials to flesh out jokes at ImprovBoston

It was a full -- and fully clothed -- house Tuesday night for Andy Ofiesh's first public ''Naked Comedy Show" at ImprovBoston in Inman Square. All the performers on the bill were to perform nude, which is probably what helped sell out ImprovBoston's intimate 75-seat theater with little advance notice and only word-of-mouth publicity.

The audience crackled with nervous laughter as Ofiesh read a disclaimer from ImprovBoston denying any association with or responsibility for the content of the show and defending the honor of improv comedy in general. He also claimed the city of Cambridge was fine with nude comedians, as long as it wasn't a strip show. ''They're fine with [us] being naked onstage, as long as we don't make you wait," said Ofeish, who says he's hosted private comedy shows in the buff for three years.

Some performers seemed more comfortable than others. Performance artist Happy the Sad Clown had no problem pantomiming onstage in only her red nose and a visor. Randy Winn and Josh Gondelman got over their nerves after a few minutes, and Donna Tori admitted she had never actually done comedy clothed.

The one clothed comedian, Dave Walsh, might've had the line of the night, standing next to brother Chris who was hopping around in the buff trying to spook the front row. ''I'm gonna leave now," said Dave, clad in jeans, T-shirt, hunting vest, and work gloves. ''I'm just making everyone uncomfortable."

The dynamic of nude comedian and clothed audience added an extra dimension to self-deprecating material, and, at times, the comedians seemed to be assessing their usual material to see if it was appropriate in the nude. But after taking a few minutes to address the obvious, most comedians fell back into their routines, albeit with a bit more self-awareness.

Headliner Reverend Tim McIntire wondered aloud how Ofiesh had talked him into coming back after having done some of the private shows. ''If I liked how I looked naked I wouldn't be doing [expletive] comedy in the first place," he says.

'Alternative' stand-up tour
The headlining acts of the Comedians of Comedy Tour tend to get labeled ''alternative" comedians. But what exactly does that mean? Tour organizer and headliner Patton Oswalt's best guess is that an audience has no expectations about the comedians -- and the comedians have no expectations about the audience.

The comedy that Oswalt and co-headliners Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis perform certainly stands apart from the setup and punchline crowd. Oswalt is brutally funny, conversational, and combative, whether he's talking about politics, movie legend Robert Evans, or Stella D'oro breadstick commercials. Posehn is a giant of a man with a laid-back delivery that belies his often sarcastic observations.

Bamford is an uncanny mimic who slips from her little girl voice to a husky socialite or an overly cheery clerk and back again in a short sketch.

And Galifianakis, perhaps the strangest of the four, spouts absurdist one-liners over his soothing piano playing -- he's Magritte in a cheesy lounge.

Oswalt and Posehn have had success on the club circuit in Los Angeles and on the road and have appeared regularly on TV sitcoms. Oswalt has been a regular on ''The King of Queens" for the past eight seasons, and Posehn is sometimes recognized on the street for his recurring mail room clerk role on ''Just Shoot Me."

Oswalt's motivation for putting together the Comedians of Comedy Tour -- which comes to the Paradise Wednesday -- was simple. After an otherwise enjoyable club gig, he got e-mails from fans who couldn't afford the high cover and two-drink minimum. Oswalt looked at that as an opportunity to reach a new set of fans and tour with like-minded comics and friends.

''I realized that a lot of my younger fans, the kinds of fans I'm trying to cultivate, can't afford to go to a comedy club," he says. ''And just like there's this new wave of comedians coming up, there's this new wave of comedy fans coming up that I really want to try to appeal to."

Posehn says he's more comfortable on this tour than he is in comedy clubs. He believes the audiences are more appreciative because they're coming to see them instead of going to a club to see whoever happens to be there.

Oswalt realizes not everyone who's seen him on ''The King of Queens" will enjoy his live show -- and that will only get worse the more mainstream exposure he gets. He put out his CD, ''Feelin' Kind of Patton," last year and made the documentary ''The Comedians of Comedy" in part to try to define both aspects of his comedy. He'd like to work in the mainstream and alternative worlds without misrepresenting himself to either audience.

''You've got to make your own opportunity," Oswalt says. ''It depends on what you do with the exposure you get."

The Comedians of Comedy Tour, featuring Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, Zach Galifianakis, at the Paradise on Wednesday. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. Call 617-562-8800.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives