“They said it was comedy,” New York-based comedian Dina Seiden repeated into the microphone as she took the stage Sunday night at the HA! Comedy Club. The first night of Performa Ha!, curated by Mark Beasley featuring Reggie Watts, Dina Seiden, Bedwyr Williams and Lumberob, proved to be a night of incest, beatboxing, fake British accents, miming, Donald Sutherland and lasagna – conceptually-oriented stand-up, both funny and weird.
As Seiden continued her act, it become clear that she had latched onto the audience’s attention and refused to let go. Half of the intrigue of her euphemism-riddled sexual performance was simply following her train of thought as she weaved in and out, repositioning herself around a background of pornography and a bizarre mother-daughter narrative.
Welsh visual artist Bedwyr Williams delighted the funny bone of everyone in the club with his witty deadpan “sermon” (complete with clerical collar) offering an enchanting and poignant take on his experience as an artist. To his congregation, he says, “Maybe you don’t like performance, but you keep coming – like a bored moth to a weird flame.”
Unfortunately, not every flame garnered a laugh. The sound loop mixings characteristic of NY-based writer, performer, musician and teacher Lumberob, aka Robert Erickson, were inventive and electric, but his recitation of Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman? fell flat. While I appreciate the nod to civil rights and woman’s rights, no matter how the cookie crumbles, the speech didn’t work coming out of the mouth of a middle-class white man. He gained back a bit of his clout, however, during a clever word-play about using the problematic Pandora in high school computer class.
The final comedic musings of the evening were the improvised loop-based mixings, dancing, sensual vocals and imitation FM radio of Seattle-based musician and comedian Reggie Watts, which managed to seamlessly merge into one continuous laugh track. Thank you Reggie for bringing us home and tucking us in real nice.
Comedy, conceptual or otherwise, still aims for a laugh, and as long as the audience is laughing more than crying (tragically) it’s a pretty good night.
Performa Ha! features Houseband: Title TK, Michael Smith, Hennessey Youngman, and Club Nutz.