Review: Funny or Die Presents: Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival 2013

Oh, hey there lawn at the New World Music Theater, almost didn’t recognize you there. It’s been awhile. Since the last time we were together over 10 years ago, you’ve changed your name a couple times, gotten a sod job, incorporated some sort of chair rental service, become part of Chicago somehow, but we meet up again and you’re still the same old friend. That’s much appreciated. You’re still as inviting as ever, as diverse and comfortable as we remember you. And this weekend you welcomed a first to your sacred ground: comedy. For the first time ever at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, a comedy show took place. And not just any comedy. This was an oddball brand and a curious, legendary lineup for the ages: Kristen Schaal, Al Madrigal, Hannibal Buress, Demetri Martin, Flight of the Conchords, and the man/myth/legend, the one and only Mr. Dave Chappelle.

Marketed by Brody Stevens to those who actually live under the proverbial rock, the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival rolled into town and kicked off the holiday weekend with a historical night down in Tinley Park that has never before been seen. And it probably won’t ever be seen again. Honestly, this was that show that people should be talking about for years to come. We’ll tell the younger generation about it until they’re sick of hearing about it. Rosie (my 12 week old daughter) and her friends will be into some whack youngster comedian, and I’ll be all, “Back in my day, we had real comedians like Dave Chappelle.” And they’ll be all, “Who?” And I’ll be all, oh you get the point.

So, let’s start the show:

Opener Kristen Schaal might’ve actually been better as Jeff Ross’s nephew who she was initially introduced as, but she killed a little with her over the top taint, yes taint material and general likeability. She’s always playing that sort of off the wall, kooky character, and that translated into her authentic and original performance to warm up the stage.

Latino correspondent for The Daily Show, Al Madrigal, continued the stagewarming with some really funny fatherhood material and plenty of good stuff on piñatas, partying and parenting with the neighbors, knockoff superheroes/cartoon characters, and an upbeat attitude that sort of epitomized the night’s vibe.

Hannibal Buress gave us the generous gift of his Norwegian mega-hit Gibberish Rap, something that sticks in your head with both catchiness and thought provocation. His references to the crowd as “sort of” Chicago were spot on and something that you could only expect from a hometown hero. Respect. Without giving away too much material, Hannibal has some thoughtful bits on rappers Young Jeezy, 2 Chainz, and Gucci Mane mixed with jokes involving fellow comedians Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan that killed for sure. Bottom line: Hannibal represented Chicago well.

Demetri Martin was unexpectedly funny. Not seeing him for quite some time, he’s had a chance to really hone his craft and come into his own as a performer over the years. He may be taking notes from some of the best in the business, because some of his best observational humor came through his really funny Zach Galifianakis-esque, guitar and harmonica-spliced monologue. He came on stage and killed on all levels from the get go, from the hairless cat being created by a procrastinator, to not being allowed to say yep during sex, Demetri Martin has found his niche.

Flight of the Conchords could have benefited from some more theatrics to go along with their cult-followed songs, but New Zealand’s finest still possess the type of humor that loyal fans laughed aloud to. They opened and laced their set with new music, but some attendees who obviously had never seen their award-winning show and thus have had no opportunity to appreciate what FOTC is going for, ended up booing and calling for Dave early. To them I say, “If you’ve never seen or heard of them before, of course their shit doesn’t make any sense. And what are you doing at a comedy show with all that negativity?”

“And what can we say about (Dave Chappelle) that hasn’t already been said about Afghanistan…”

Chicago showed Dave Chappelle exactly how comedy royalty deserves to be treated on the main stage, and Dave delivered exactly the type of amazing performance we were all looking forward to since this tour was announced. His opening sentiments of, “Man, fuck Hartford” summed up just how many knuckleheads are attending his shows and patronizing Dave for all the wrong reasons. Dave’s comedy goes beyond the stage, beyond Chappelle’s Show. Dave Chappelle represents what this world could be if we just see it through the proper lenses. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliantly hilarious.
He peppered in the relation of his “walking away” from the industry to the Pope relinquishing his papal duties. He “still wants that $50 million” that he was accused of walking away from back then. He revealed the secret to life and how he applied it to the starving children on the streets of Africa. He weaved in his family dynamics and his parenting tactics. He absolutely beasted on all levels, incorporating Lil Wayne, Kanye West, 50 Cent, and Paula Deen with the ease and relevance we all fell in love with in the early aughts. Dave Chappelle is the iconic, comedic mastermind that will come to define my generation. And I’m more than ok with that.

I just hope my daughter and her friends get it when they’re old enough to understand.