A lot can be said about Dana Gould. As a fan and follower of his work, the thing that comes to mind first is just how thought out his comedy is. It’s incredibly introspective and humble and most times outright self-deprecating, but when it all comes together it’s some of the best comedy out there. I would almost venture to say that Gould was one of the founding fathers of Alt. Comedy, but I don’t know if that would offend him. But Gould isn’t just a comedian. He’s an actor, an Emmy award winning writer/producer (for the Simpsons) and most importantly, a Planet of the Apes aficionado. Either way, I was excited to attend what the Sketchfest schedule was labeling as The Dana Gould Hour.
I figured it would be an hour of stand up, maybe a few comics and then a headliner. The schedule also listed popular character actor Stephen Tobolowsky and comedian/author Sara Benincasa so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Upon arrival at the very welcoming Eureka theatre in San Francisco, everything made sense when it was revealed that the Dana Gould Hour is his bi-weekly produced podcast and Tobolowsky and Benincasa were his guests. (Guess I need to dust off my Dana Gould follower card.)
Gould didn’t disappoint his stand up fans though, as the show began he did about ten minutes or so of material covering such topics as, the Kennedy assassination, his emotionless family back in Massachusetts and a great, yet disturbing bit about the attack protocol of chimpanzees. After warming up the crowd Gould took his seat at a very tiny table with three microphones on it behind him and then welcomed Tobolowsky and Benincasa to join him.
Tobolowsky is probably first known to the world as Ned Ryerson in “Groundhog Day” but fans of “Californication” probably know him as Stu. Benincasa is a comedian who’s book “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom” which is being optioned for TV.
One of the biggest problems with most podcasts out there today is that some people think they can just turn on a mic and talk about nothing and call it a show. They often forget that they’re putting on a show, one way or another, and that they could benefit with a little editing and some structure. One of the great things about The Dana Gould Hour is that it is in fact produced, meaning edited, and he usually has a theme for every show. The Theme for the night was fear. And what better guests for a panic stricken comic to have than a recovering agoraphobic and death cheating character actor?
The three shared stories about near death experiences and moments of discomfort. Gould shared stories of family’s reactions or non-reactions to his recent divorce and a pretty revealing story about a panic attack he suffered at Cobb’s Comedy Club. Benincasa listed the many drugs she has been helped by and the struggles an agoraphobic faces when trying to go to college. Tobolowsky told a story about how he almost died in an abandoned lead mine but stole the show with his story of being held at gunpoint in a Texas grocery store. It’s at the same time hilarious and horrifying.
Things you probably won’t hear on the finished edit, is Gould absolutely shrinking a drunk patron in the second row who couldn’t control his outbursts. Dana’s a pro and he just demolished this guy for interrupting. It would have been unpleasant if it wasn’t just so brilliant and simple. The drunk fan eventually showed himself out minutes afterwards.
I could talk more about the content of the show but you should just try and catch it on Gould’s website in a week or so and pretend like you were there with the rest of us. Because that’s how Dana Gould usually holds courts at all of his shows. He just makes you feel like you’re not at a show but part of a larger conversation. For all intents and purposes, The Dana Gould Hour could have been spent in the kitchen at a house party with Gould being your friend near the sink with the interesting story. All in all the Dana Gould Hour was pleasant and funny and pretty much all that I’d want in spending an hour with a comedy great.
Opening Act: Aunty Donna
There’s only one word that comes to mind when describing Australian sketch comedy group, Aunty Donna – Energy. The Trio (Broden Kelly, Mark Samual Bonanno and Zachary Ruane) hit the stage dancing and the energy level never came down. With a vibe of Mr. Show meets young Monty Python, Aunty Donna just pumped pure adrenaline into their quick set which featured bits about men fighting like Kangaroos, a hilarious mockery of the Xbox voice recognition feature and a brilliant and creative recreation of the Ellen Dengeneres show.
Aunty Donna used the entirety of the whole stage and just really took it back to basics with what makes sketch comedy good: imagination. The sketches they performed were smart and creative but at the same time they were physical and animated. Making their U.S. comedy debut at Sketchfest 2014, Aunty Donna didn’t disappoint and I look forward to hearing more from this great sketch group.