Go Ahead Punk, Make Me Laugh
Date rape haikus, anal tattoos, the Boy Scouts, high school reunions, proctologists, homages to breasts, porn, booze and the “n” word, and enough homophobia to wave a frat boy’s dick at… yep, just another night out in the world of alternative comedy, as evidenced at Keegan Ales in Kingston on Tuesday night when the Punk Standup Tour came to town.
What was so punk rock about the five comedians who graced the Keegan’s stage? Well, though none of them sported Mohawks or came on stage waving guitars, they all shared a certain punk, DIY sensibility. Tour organizer and former Kingston resident JT Habersaat (who now, like a couple of others on the tour, lives in Austin) edits a punk magazine called Altercation; he and Richie Stratton have each played the Warped tour; Duncan Wilder Johnson, who delivers monologues and stories rather than conventional stand-up jokes, was previously in a band called Destruct-a-Thon that listed Black Flag and Slayer as its main influences; and, along with fellow travelers Ruby Collins and Chris Cubas, they travel together in a van, sharing rooms, and generally drinking together and goofing off together like they’re in a rock’n’roll band rather than vying for a sport on comedy Central.
Most important of all, though, they’re funny; very funny. Ruby Collins, in particular, is a star in the making. Her schtick is that of the recovering alcoholic, which allows all kinds of jokes about the rehab talent contest (she lost out last year to a recovering heroin addict who plays the spoons…) and even an observation on what she swears is a genuine European trend among girls to soak their… you know what, I can’t even go there! Perhaps because (rather than despite the fact that) she was the only woman on stage, Collins broke more taboos than just about all the other comedians put together, yet managed to do so without resorting, as per most of the men, to using the f-word as a catch-all adjective, adverb, pronoun and general stand-in for pregnant pauses. You can get a good grasp of her routine via this MySpace/YouTube clip.
Habersaat worked hard as MC and read a couple of short stories; Cubas, another local boy, played up his ethnicity to full effect; Johnson had something of the Henry Rollins shouted word cathartic performance about him, which I loved. But Richie Stratton was the star. You could tell he’s done this stuff hundreds of times – including on previous Warped tours – and has it down to a tee. He looks like a chipmunk and makes the most of it, endearing himself to everyone in the room with a dark, sharp, self-deprecating wit and a pronounced fondness for female mammaries. Sipping contentedly from his pint, he harked back to his meetings with the guidance counselor at school and his determination to find a job at which he’d only have to work fifteen minutes a day and could drink while doing so. That, I guess, is what makes it punk rock – that these people have found a way to avoid the nine to five and maybe even make a living by doing what they enjoy naturally: making the rest of us laugh.
The Punk Stand Up Tour is traveling up and down the east coast for the next two weeks, playing beer joints, rock clubs and other small venues. A couple of the performers then go off on this year’s Warped Tour. Full schedules and links to the various comics’ MySpace pages from here.