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Review: Fred Armisen, John Mulaney and More at Whiplash

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

UCB’s Monday night standup showcase featured plenty of big names last night.

Review: Fred Armisen, John Mulaney and More at Whiplash

After the Margaret Glaspy show wrapped up last night, I got a taste of another great aspect of NYC: free comedy. The venue was the UCB Theatre out in Chelsea, and the show was Whiplash. 

The weekly standup showcase, held Monday night at 11 p.m., is a real test of will. For starters, it's Monday night. The week has just started, and going to a show that starts that late is a tall order with the rest of the week ahead. And next, it starts at 11 p.m. With multiple standups performing, you know you're invested for over an hour, not to mention however long it's going to take to get back home.

But with a show like Whiplash, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. Free show, some of the best established and rising comics around (including very famous drop-ins), and a hip comedy crowd that really knows its stuff all make Whiplash one of the finest comedy shows in the city. Last night's installment was no different.

Luke Cunningham served as host, filling in for Leo Allen, and the giant 6'6" comic from Philadelphia (who works on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) started the evening off on a strong note. He told jokes about the Philly accent, his experience playing against Kobe Bryant in high school, and the difficulty of meeting women online. The last joke was complete with a great line about a woman explaining that the last guy she met worked as a producer of films and ran a hedge fund for films, which Cunningham called completely unfair. He went on to say that would be like saying your job was "astronaut Spider-Man."

Next up was Mike Drucker, another comic that works as a writer on Fallon . Drucker's comedy was self-deprecating at times, but his forward nature about it only made it funnier. Whether it was discussing how much better his girlfriend is at "the sex stuff" than he is, talking about his body issues, or even bringing up his depression, he was still able to craft really funny and honest jokes that had the crowd rolling. His rapid-fire style really played well, too, and Drucker is definitely a comic to keep an eye on in NYC. 

A special guest was next on the bill, and it was none other than SNL and Portlandia star Fred Armisen. His act started off very much like his "Weekend Update" character Nicholas Fehn, with incredibly observational humor that didn't necessarily have a punchline, but unlike Fehn, these observations and his acting out of them served as the punchlines. 

He quickly transitioned, though, into the true reason why he was there. Armisen fashioned himself as a world-class accent impersonator, someone who could do any accent from anywhere in the world. People from the audience got up and gave him accents to try and stump him: Ghana; Reykjavik, Iceland; Staten Island; a lovesick Israeli taxi driver from Tel Aviv; Hamburg, Germany; 1940s Mussolini-controlled Italy; Huntington Beach, California (which gave him an excuse to do his character from his SNL skit "The Californians"); Singapore. Armisen nailed them all. It was an incredible display of improv, crowd work, and impressions, and I wouldn't expect anything less from such a pro like Armisen.

Going into last night, I had no idea who was on the bill (even though they tweeted out the lineup sans-Armisen at around 7:30). So I was thrilled when they called out John Mulaney next. Mulaney is one of my favorite standups right now. His jokes are whip-smart, and Mulaney adds so much detail and vigor to his performance that you just can't help but be captivated. 

I hadn't seen any new Mulaney material since his last special "New In Town," and he gave between 15-20 minutes of material that I hadn't heard before. He touched on the absurdity of the Back to the Future plot and how it must have been a tough sell to the studio, his awkward interactions with babies and children, and his fascination with shows about paranormal activities. He's always shocked when people tell the ghost stories but then share that they have never told anyone else. "Really?" he said. "If I were at like a wedding, that shit would get brought up in the first five minutes of conversations." He then simulated a boring wedding reception conversation before screaming about getting haunted while naked in the bathtub and brought the place down.

The last performer of the night was Hannibal Buress, who I had just seen last week in Brooklyn at Big Terrific. After the quick, talkative nature of the previous acts, it took a little while for the audience to get used to Buress' slow delivery, but when they did, his material about naming his farts like they named Nemo (to help make memories), jokes about hazing in sororities and fraternities, and jokes about trying to get healthy. His big thing now is expensive juices. If he finds a 16 oz. juice that costs $5, he'll drink it. A Naked juice will help cleanse two weeks of bourbon. It has to, it's got 99 blueberries in a bottle!

I don't think I have the energy to make Whiplash a part of my weekly routine, but if they could promise me lineups as good as last night's, I would suck it up and show up for work tired every Tuesday.

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