Funny Events, the monthly comedy column here at Riverfront Times is now two years old. In that short time, the number of weekly stand-up open mics increased from four to, well, we're still counting. While some are still going strong, others came and went with a select few just getting off the ground. Comics are independently producing their own shows and, in my five years of being involved, I'm seeing many venues seek out comedy nights for the first time.
St. Louis made more than its mark on Midwest tour routes for not just the big names in comedy, but also the biggest. Over Halloween weekend, Dave Chappelle did more shows alone at the Pageant than every comic combined in all of 2013. Both the Firebird and Foam stepped up their games. From 60-seaters to the Scottrade, there were well-deserved sold-out crowds, as well as gut-wrenching sets performed to more chairs than people.
I speak only from my experience as a fan, journalist and a comedian. Please note this list is strictly standup comedy: I can count the number of improv and sketch shows I saw in 2014 on two hands, and I don't think arbitrarily lumping them in would do the genres justice.
So, with no more to-do, The Best Standup Comedy Shows of 2014 are:
Kyle Kinane once said he'll never be funnier than a fart, but I don't recall a fart ever making a room full of people laugh for an entire hour. Dave Ross and Kevin White had a similar effect.
Some comedians make it look effortless. Christopher Titus did not. Every punch line, callback and pause was as meticulously prepared as the spikes in his hair. Anyone can make a joke -- only Christopher Titus can write a special called "Arm the Children" and leave you in tears of laughter and a whole new perspective on how far gone we truly are.
Rather than hand the mic off and leave the stage after introducing, comedians Mack and Harmston simply took a few steps back and sat down -- directly behind the featured acts. There were interruptions, do-overs and the one-of-a-kind moments of hilarity that are only possible by embracing the spirit of improv.
This show was special because 90% of the audience were friends, family or friends of family of Zach Noe Towers. At most shows the crowd thins out after the person they came to see leaves the stage. This time, nobody left -- and it wasn't on account of politeness. They stayed because they were laughing -- despite not knowing who the other guys were.
Tig Notaro at the Ready Room.
Tig's appearance in St. Louis was a long time coming. The crowd was eager and ready to sit down and listen up. She gave us what we wanted -- a reason to laugh in the face of cancer, androgyny and how a little misplaced inflection can really mix things up.
We Still Like You! at Jon & Leetah's Apartment.
We Still Like You! is a house show created by Tyler Snodgrass and Dan Sheehan. They travel from town to town, take over a living room and, with the help of local comics, a cartoonist puts on a show that could be the most fun (and drinks) you've ever had at an intervention. A comic takes to the corner of the living room and shares a shameful story while an artist draws their interpretation. At the story's close, everyone raises their glass and chants, "We still like you!"
Dave Chappelle at the Pageant.
Featuring Bobby Jaycox on Night One & Kenny Kinds on Night Two Eight shows in four nights and each was different than the last, but no less funny. And when the punch lines came the crowd erupted. He more than proved he is a master of the trade, but it's not like anyone doubted that.
Follow through for a look back at the year in comedy. Best Feature Show of 2014: Stupid Brain at the Improv Shop.
Stupid Brain is a standup/improv hybrid that features the kind of tomfoolery that only a pair of adolescent boys trapped in adult bodies could imagine. Enter Bobby Jaycox and Steve Raines. One show, sponsored by hot sauce and the humane society, had an intermission when you could pay a dollar to slap the hosts in the face or go to the back and pet a puppy free of charge.
Hosted by Stryker Spurlock, Martin Kulash A standup comedy show in a sex-positive coffee shop. What could go wrong?
Hosted by JC Sibala & Christopher Cyr Now that there are so many open-mic nights, a select few are being bold and shaking things up with material restrictions or, in the case of Wild Card, challenges. Comics draw from an oversize deck of cards and, should they chose to accept the challenge, are given extra time to switch up their set. It's a much needed break from the norm.
Best Long-Running Open Mic of 2014: Late Nick's at Nick's Pub.
Monday was going to suck anyway, but it's not like most comics have nine-to-fives either. Unless there's a sports game or a Monday holiday, there will be jokes -- guaranteed.
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