Sarah Silverman, you're such a scold. At the Chicago Theatre late Saturday night, the unfiltered comedian was confronted with so many tweeters, texters and compulsive amateur photographers as she hosted her marquee show at the
Well, some of them, yes. But you could sense the still-lithe and seductive but less perky satirist, who now is 41, on the cusp of crossing that line from familiar to authority figure for her young demographic. That's a dangerous and oft-irrevocable business for a hip comedian, especially in a huge venue where such antics tend not to read well from the back. Hopefully Silverman will manage her, ahem, transition and just get angrier in a bigger way. The signs are good, as she raged Saturday about "deranged" people "documenting garbage" instead of providing the live energy that might raise up her show, and she took down an only modestly invasive heckler as if she were firing off cruise missiles. "You know what's like a Facebook page?" she asked her front-row losers, rhetorically and maybe even maternally, "your memory."
Silverman chilled as she introduced her guests, who included the hugely talented
Between their acts, Silverman stood up and, by her own admission, judged.
If the night had a rambling quality to it, so be it. Offerman has the right kind of low-key charisma that makes for marvelous company. His unabashed adoration for his wife and fellow comedic actor
Aziz Ansari at the Chicago Theatre: Watching a stand-up comic perform is almost never aspirational. Unless you are so well-adjusted that a curdled outlook on life seems exotic, the pain behind a comedian's microphone is usually all too relatable. Then there's the joy in watching Ansari, 29, his career ascendant, glide through stories about nightclubs, charity auctions and married friends with real responsibilities.
He has no apparent angst; during a bit about repressed childhood trauma, he fished around his head for some bottled-up agony only to decide, nope, not harboring any. Describing himself watching
— Christopher Borrelli
John Oliver at The Vic: Oliver is that rarity in stand-up comedy, a performer who gives the impression of being well-adjusted, of trying to make people laugh not to fill some gnawing void in his soul but because he rather enjoys the game. And his art doesn't suffer for it in the least. Oliver, 35, the "Senior British Correspondent" on "The Daily Show," lit up the Vic on Friday night in a fast, 80-minute set that was, essentially, his shorthand version of de Tocqueville. He explained America to Americans, gave us lessons on how to lose an empire and told us we were Elvis Presley, but "in your Vegas years." Of what's happening in the presidential election, he said, "The longer you have democracy, the less you care about it. It's like goldfish."
Yet he repeatedly assured the crowd that everything is going to be all right, not because of the facts stacked against us, but because we believe it will be. Which led to the set's sustaining mantra about our absurd "overconfidence" finding a way to carry us through. When audience members shouted a couple of comments, Oliver didn't bristle or attack but built them deftly into the act. In the end, his act mostly worked because it was about something bigger than himself. A bit about witnessing a pigeon wandering through an airport, uniting the patrons in delight, led him to wonder: "Have we always been that tantalizingly close to everything being OK?"
Kelly Carlin at UP Comedy Club: History shows that being the child of a celebrity is generally no fun, but "A Carlin Home Companion," Kelly Carlin's strikingly serious (for a comedy festival, anyway) one-woman show Friday night at The Second City's UP venue was still dark and raw enough to surprise many in the audience expecting a nostalgic look at life with her legendary comic father, George. Not what they got. Clearly, the younger Carlin loved her parents, but her childhood, in her telling, was spent seeking the approval of a mostly absent father and negotiating peace treaties (she literally drew one up) between her alcoholic mother and drug-fueled dad. Kelly Carlin is not, for sure, a natural performer like her dad, and, for some on Friday, this show was oversharing. But the gutsy piece (not least because Carlin makes clear her late dad did not like personal revelation) not only analyzes her father's life and work with clear-eyed perspicacity, but it's remarkably full and very moving in its picture of a young life lived in the shadow of a genius. Carlin should bring it back.
Chris D'Elia at Laugh Factory:
"The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour" at the Hideout: Spoiler alert: Despite a rousing effort, cult comedian W. Kamau Bell did not end racism Saturday. He offered instead something less like a provocative, squirmy dispatch from a supposedly post-racial America than a sweetly bewildered survey of racism and cultural blind spots in the age of Obama. He worked websites and video clips and photos into his stand-up routine, admitting them like evidence into an argument that felt oddly shapeless and unsurprising — but that's OK for now.
Bell, who grew up in Hyde Park and is about a month away from debuting in his own