Between roasting the city’s sacred (and not-so-sacred) cows, reveling in terrible music transgressions, and skewering established religion, D.C.’s comedians gave the city a lot to laugh about in 2014. This year, they pushed the envelope by expanding on preconceived notions of what good comedy can be and what public spaces can give it a good home.
Arts Desk asked some of the city’s funniest comedians (and for good measure, me) what made them laugh this year. Here’s what cracked up the people that cracked you up in 2014.
Natalie McGill: This spring I was at a Tuesday night Nats game with some friends, and we see a rather inebriated white man bound up the steps, presumably to use the restroom or get a beer. He then stops midway, points at a black male friend next to me and says, “Have fun running the free world, and don’t fuck it up.” I couldn’t tell if the man was a run-of-the-mill racist or if he really thought my friend was President Obama. At any rate, I was so glad I didn’t decide to take a pee break—-I would’ve been so mad if I missed that.
Reggie Melbrough: I was riding from Sacramento to Reno for a gig. Sean Peabody and I drive by Donner’s Pass near Truckee, Calif., where we see a giant statue commemorating the point and the deaths of those in the Donner Party. Across the highway was an All You Can Eat Buffet sign.
Matty Litwack: I watched a grown man slip on a banana peel. An actual human being slipped on a discarded banana peel in real life. Do you know what that looks like? It looks like the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
Elahe Izadi: I was at an open mic this spring where a non-comic signed up, telling the host ahead of time that he was going to propose to his girlfriend. Um, okay, proposing at an open mic? I wouldn’t even bring a date to some of these, but sure! Anyway, it happens (you can watch the video here). Two months later we came across this Onion headline: “Area Man Nervously Asks Girlfriend If She’ll Settle,” and it features THE VERY SAME COUPLE. I like to think that the Onion is secretly behind one-fourth of all public romantic gestures.
David Tveite: In November, I was doing a show as part of this comedy competition out in Seattle; it was me and 16 other comics at this arts center on an island in the Puget Sound. We had to take a ferry to get out there and ended up getting to the venue super-early. There was nothing within miles of the place, so for lack of anything better to do, a lot of us got pretty drunk before and during the show. One or more of the comics had snuck in wine, and the venue had a bar set up in a side room that was totally unattended during the show, so we were pilfering beer all night. One guy, a comic from Vancouver, got caught pouring his own beer from the tap and had to give a 200 percent tip to avoid an awkward situation. After the show, we were all in the green room and someone kind of casually said “Hey guys, I think the last ferry leaves in a half hour.” Everyone bolted like the building was on fire. Like paratroopers in a movie: “GO! GO! GO!” That scene was really funny to me. Bunch of drunk comics bolting like roaches when you turn on the lights. The ferry terminal was maybe 10 minutes away, so we had plenty of time, but nobody wanted to stay on that godforsaken rock for a minute longer than we had to.
Alyssa Cowan: This year, the wrestler Dean Ambrose has been particularly hilarious. I’ve listened to interviews with him, and he has this amazing self-awareness, so his character is really funny. I remember seeing him do a funny backstage moment during the ALS ice bucket challenge. Also, a couple times, he answered epic questions with one-word answers, and that made me laugh out loud. Everything about that guy in general cracks me up, in a good way. He’s a great performer, and he’s nailed down his character.
Jamel Johnson: Funniest thing I saw this year was Wham City at Lincoln Theatre for Bentzen Ball. I’ve been hearing/seeing nothing but good things about this group for years now, and I am very ashamed to say it was my first time watching them. I know I’m very late to the party, but whatever. Don’t ask me how to describe it. All I remember is tears.
Valerie Paschall: I grew up in Virginia, but as I’m not from the northern corner of the state, I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of the Washington football team. Instead, I have the misfortune of being a Chicago Bears fan (for life!) which means that I got to experience Sexy Rexy in all his turnover glory before the rest of you. Lucky me. Now, the Bears are doing better than the Washington football team this year, but not by much, and I watched one of the few games we actually won this year with my grandmother in Sarasota, Fla. It was a Monday Night Football game against the New York Jets, and we really tried hard to give that one away. After yelling at the rookie defense and cursing Jay Cutler for three quarters, my 87-year-old grandmother looked at me and said, “Valerie, before this game, you and I should have gotten really drunk!”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery